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It's that time of year again. Grammys, Oscars, Golden Globes, Daytime Emmys. Is it just a coincidence that the awards season occurs at the end of the college basketball season? Maybe, maybe not. Whatever, we've chosen to take advantage of this fortuitous concurrence to present our awards. The envelopes, please.
Men's Player of the Year—Calbert Cheaney, Indiana. When Cheaney scored 34 points in a win over Florida State in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT, Hoosier coach Bob Knight said that despite his point total, Cheaney had not had a strong overall game. Two nights later he poured in 36 points against Seton Hall to lead Indiana to the tournament championship in a performance that pleased even Knight.
Those two games speak volumes about Cheaney, a 6'7" senior forward. Faced with criticism, he neither pouted nor doubted himself; he simply played better and elevated Indiana in the process. That approach is undoubtedly responsible for his remarkable consistency.
Choosing between Cheaney, who at week's end was averaging 22.1 points and 6.3 rebounds, and Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway, Memphis State's multitalented junior guard, almost required us to flip the copper-colored circular press release with Hardaway's face on it that was sent out by the Tigers' sports-information department. It's true that Hardaway, who is among the Great Midwest Conference leaders in nearly every statistical category, has carried Memphis State. But without Cheaney, the Big Ten's alltime leading scorer, the Hoosiers wouldn't be one of the favorites for the Final Four.
Women's Player of the Year—Sheryl Swoopes, Texas Tech. As of Sunday, Swoopes, a 6-foot senior forward whose drives to the basket fit her surname, was the second-leading scorer in the country, with a 26.3 average, and was 17th in steals, with 3.6 per game. She also led the Red Raiders to a No. 6 ranking and a share of the Southwest Conference regular-season crown. "We can compete on a national scale because of her," says Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp.
The crowds' chants of "Swoooopes!" at Municipal Coliseum in Lubbock make it clear that Swoopes has caught the fancy of Texas Tech fans. She had originally signed with Texas but left Austin after three days on campus because she was homesick for her native Brownfield, which is 32 miles from Lubbock, where she was the Texas high school player of the year as a junior in 1987-88. Three years later Swoopes was the junior college player of the year at South Plains College, in Levelland, Texas. But perhaps her greatest honor was bestowed upon her by a girls' team in nearby Shallowater that plays in the Little Dribblers League for eight-and nine-year-olds. The team is called the Swoopesters.
Most-Improved Player—Bryant Reeves, Oklahoma State. A 7-foot sophomore center, Reeves went from stiff to stud in one year, turning 285 pounds of flab into muscle. Cowboy weight coach Leroy Youster says that when Reeves reported as a freshman, "he popped off his shirt, and I thought, This kid needs a bra. He definitely doesn't need that anymore." Reeves has a chance to become the first player to lead the Big Eight in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage since Wilt Chamberlain did so for Kansas in 1957-58.
Least-Improved Player—Chris Webber, Michigan. Although he's still a lottery pick, Webber, a 6'9" sophomore forward who combined quickness and power as a freshman, was a slower version of himself this season. He was also strangely ineffective at times; witness his six points against Iowa on March 2.
Men's Coach of the Year—Eddie Fogler (page 18), Vanderbilt. He smoothly worked three transfers into the lineup and beat Kentucky for the SEC regular-season championship, which surprised everyone, especially us, because we picked the Wildcats to win the NCAA title.
Men's Coach of the Last Month—Todd Bozeman, Cal. At week's end Bozeman had guided the Bears to a 7-1 record and a probable berth in the NCAA tournament since taking over the team after the firing of Lou Campanelli on Feb. 8.