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USA Basketball’s Male Athlete of the Year Award was established in 1980 to recognize a USA Basketball athlete who, during the year of the award, made a significant impact on the success of his team’s performance. The USA Basketball Board of Directors is responsible for selecting USA Basketball’s annual awards.
Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller already has plenty of recruiting momentum, but the award won by freshman Aaron Gordon today helps put the Wildcats into full throttle.
The message: “The elite of today’s class of athletes plays at Arizona and trusts in Miller’s coaching style. You can too.”
Gordon earning the USA Basketball Male Player of the Year award should not be something of passing interest for Arizona Wildcats basketball followers.
Gordon, although only a freshman, has enough trophies and awards to fill a living room, but this honor is unlike any other. Past winners include LeBron James (last year), Tim Duncan (2003), Shaquille O’Neal (1994), Michael Jordan (1983 and 1984) and Isaiah Thomas (1980, in the first year of the award).
Although Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are not among the award winners, it is one of the most significant awards a player can earn matched against all other players in the sport from high school to the pros.
Duke freshman Jabari Parker won the award following his junior year in high school in 2011.
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The USA Basketball Board of Directors includes a who’s who of basketball dignitaries, chief among them former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo, who serves as chairman of the board. Colangelo plays a significant role in the development of the U.S. Olympic team.
Other members of the board include Chauncey Billups of the Detroit Pistons, Dan Gavitt (NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships) and Billy Hunter (executive director of the National Basketball Players Association).
James won it last year after leading the U.S. to a gold medal in the London Olympics.
“It’s always an honor to represent my country,” James said when he won the award last year. “I never do it to be recognized or to receive an award, I do it because I love my country and the game of basketball. It is an honor to be recognized with this award. It’s humbling.”
Gordon helped the USA to a gold medal at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship and played for USA Basketball in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit.
Coming off the bench in all nine games at the FIBA U19 World Championship, Gordon averaged team-highs of 12.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game to go along with 2.0 steals in 18.8 minutes per game, and he was named MVP of the 16-team tournament.