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Durant, Bennett named player, coach of the year

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Freshman Kevin Durant of Texas and first-year coach Tony Bennett of Washington State were named player and coach of the year Friday by the Associated Press.

Durant, the 6-foot-9 swingman who finished fourth in the country in scoring (25.8) and rebounding (11.1), is the first freshman to win the award since it was created in 1961.

Bennett, who succeeded his father at Washington State for his first head coaching job, led the Cougars to a 26-8 record, matching the most wins in school history, and to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1994.

Durant was a unanimous pick for the AP All-American team, and he and Ohio State center Greg Oden were only the third and fourth freshmen to be selected to the first team.

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Durant received all but two votes for player of the year from a 72-member national media panel. Senior forward Alando Tucker of Wisconsin got the other two votes.

Durant also was awarded the Oscar Robertson Trophy as the U.S. Basketball Writers’ Assn. player of the year Friday.

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Texas A&M;'s Billy Gillispie has agreed to terms on a new contract that makes him one of the highest-paid coaches in the Big 12 Conference.

Gillispie, who was courted by Arkansas and has been mentioned as a candidate for the Kentucky opening, would get a $500,000 raise to $1.75 million. Big 12 leader Rick Barnes of Texas makes $1.8 million. Kansas’ Bill Self makes $1.6 million.

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USC has received an oral commitment from Mamadou Diarra, a 6-foot-11, 235-pound center from Simi Valley Stoneridge Prep, said Mike Mahoney, managing director of Stoneridge Prep.

-- Ben Bolch

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