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Court stars will get a rise from this award occasion

There won't be a red carpet. Not even shag. No trophies yet, either. Lack of money, you know. The economy, the war. Times are tough.

Fellas, keep your clip-on ties in the drawer. Ladies, go ahead and stay in something more comfortable. And no need to thank the Tribune for really, really liking you.

Without further ado, we present the Tribune's 2002-03 College Basketball Awards.

Best player: Hope you enjoyed Oregon's Luke Ridnour, because he soon could jump to the NBA and attempt to join the very exclusive players' club that includes Utah's John Stockton, Memphis' Jason Williams and Atlanta's Dan Dickau.

Best big men in the state: 1. Philip Ricci, OSU; 2. Kristofer Speier, Lewis & Clark; 3. Keith Childs, Concordia; 4. Matt Evers, Cascade; 5. Brian Jackson, OSU; 6. Matt Segrin, Warner Pacific; 7. Colin Oriard, Lewis & Clark; 8. Randy Kelly, Cascade; 9. Seth Scott, Portland State; 10. Ian Crosswhite, Oregon. É The Ducks barely crack the top 10.

Career achievement: Asked by the Corvallis Gazette-Times to reminisce about his four-year Oregon State career, Mike Cokley, the guy who came from Knappa High as Brian Jackson's recruiting sidekick, a player who could have been pretty good at the NAIA Division II level, said he had nothing to say. Huh?

Just for kicks and giggles: Based on a $60,000 education, Cokley earned $983 per game, $114 per minute and $750 per point.

Comeback player: Brian Jackson demonstrated warrior mentality in starting every OSU game, despite an abdominal strain. Yours truly rescinds his statement of last year that Jackson wasn't tough enough to play in the Pac-10 after he quit the team. Still, the question is: What took him so long?

Under the radar: Willamette's Marques Johnson and Western Oregon's Robert Day, both from Portland, both all-stars at their levels. Johnson averaged 15.6 points and 7.5 rebounds, Day 21.9 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Top scorer: Cascade's Nicole Brown led NAIA Division II women in scoring at 25.3 points per game, and she and teammates Silver Pierce and Marquetta Pruitt helped the T-Birds make huge strides. Her coach asked Brown to shoot, and she obliged, although not always very well: .398 on 24 shots per game, including 59 in two playoff games.

Most sobering story: Little did Heidi Gilbert know when she took one bite of her grandmother's canned soup last Sept. 25 that for months she would barely be able to speak, see or move. Gilbert, a Cascade player, nearly died from botulism. She spent five months in intensive care in a Portland hospital before returning to her Eugene home, where she still needs help with everyday activities. Brown, her former junior college teammate and Portland roommate, scored 30 points in the first game Gilbert watched after the illness.

Most electric: It's hard to ignore Portland freshman Donald Wilson, but Cascade junior Randy Kelly, a 6-6, bony-legged, dreadlocked Bahamian, has 'NBA hops,' as teammate Clifford White calls them. He can come within inches of touching the top of the backboard.

Best player in wrong sport: Colin Oriard, a 6-7, 230-pounder with great strength and athleticism. His pop played in the NFL. The young Oriard says his calling was always basketball, but one wonders how he would have fared at tight end.

Star in the making: Brandi Davis, Oregon sophomore guard. She'll be all-Pac-10 and drafted by the WNBA someday.

Most devoted team: Oregon coach Ernie Kent says religion is the foundation of his program. His son, team manager Marcus, carries a Bible much of the time, the Ducks have chapel before every game and gather for prayer after every game, and Ridnour gives praise to the Lord openly and often. Good for them.

Most unfortunate story: Oregon coach Bev Smith ended Shaquala Williams' collegiate career by kicking her off the team. Williams later said her expulsion was because of an accumulation of bad conduct. Headstrong and bright, Williams will be fine. She plans to finish her studies, which could lead to her pursuing law, and then attend the WNBA combine in April.

Thought for the year: No matter how poorly your season went (e.g., Heath Schroyer at Portland State), no matter how high you flew (e.g., Oregon players and coaches), no matter how tempted you might be to cheat (everybody out there), just remember four things: Fresno State, Georgia, St. Bonaventure and Villanova.