Afflalo is player of year

Times Staff Writer

Arron Afflalo appreciates basketball history and said he was "honored" Monday when it was announced he had become the fifth UCLA player chosen as the Pacific 10 Conference player of the year since the inception of the award in 1975-76.

The 6-foot-5 junior from Compton joined Marques Johnson (1977), David Greenwood (1978 and 1979), Kenny Fields (1983) and Ed O'Bannon (1995) as Bruins who have won the award.

Joining Afflalo on the first team were teammate Darren Collison, a sophomore point guard; USC junior swingman Nick Young; Washington State guards Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver; Oregon guard Aaron Brooks; and forwards Jon Brockman of Washington, Lawrence Hill of Stanford and Marcus Williams of Arizona.

UCLA sophomores Josh Shipp and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and USC senior Lodrick Stewart and junior Gabe Pruitt, received honorable mention.

Trojans freshman forward Taj Gibson was selected to the all-freshman team. Arizona's Chase Budinger was chosen freshman of the year and Washington State Coach Tony Bennett was coach of the year.

Afflalo said it pleased him to know that the league coaches understood that his game was about more than scoring -- his 17.2 average was second in the league to Oregon's Brooks -- or other statistics.

"I like to be defined as a player who, when put in any situation, can flourish," Afflalo said. "I like to be called upon for any of my abilities -- passing, scoring, rebounding, defense. It is good that contributions on both ends of the floor are recognized."

UCLA Coach Ben Howland said he was, "happy, happy for and proud of Arron." "He's had an unbelievable year. To me, the No. 1 thing a player of the year does is he makes his team win."

Because Washington's Brandon Roy was player of the year last year even though UCLA won the title and Arizona State's Ike Diogu won two years ago even though Arizona won the title, Afflalo said he wouldn't have been surprised if the Pac-10's leading scorer, Brooks, had been chosen.

"A lot of players were well-deserving, including Aaron Brooks and Nick Young," Afflalo said. "This was predicated on my team winning."

He added, "I love to be an example of everything. My character, my work ethic. I have a love for the game. I love everything about the game on both ends of the floor.

"If you truly have a love and passion for the game, then you should work at every aspect of it, not just the part that gives you [attention], that being scoring. That's what separates teams and players."


The Big West Conference announced that Aaron Nixon of Long Beach State had been selected player of the year and 49ers Coach Larry Reynolds chosen coach of the year in voting by the league's eight head coaches.

Nixon averaged 20.4 points and 4.9 rebounds during conference games. Reynolds guided Long Beach to a 22-7 record and the Big West's regular-season title. Rounding out the all-conference first team were guard Kejuan Johnson of Long Beach, guard Bobby Brown of Cal State Fullerton, forward Derek Stockalper of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, forward Scott Cutley of Fullerton and guard Alex Harris of UC Santa Barbara.

The women's awards went to UC Riverside Coach John Margaritis and Highlanders forward Kemie Nkele.


Times staff writer Peter Yoon contributed to this report.

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