Awards time, folks. You know, that one awkward Banquet, or whatever, at the end of the year for the big-money boosters. Yeah, it's kinda like that, but way better in every way, because no Banquet is involved. Only the internet.
Of course, Sherron won't be coming on to accept his award(s), so I suppose that kind of makes it worse. You can just get over it, though, yes?
In this edition, the final player-related RCT award of 2009, we hand out the big one. And, to no surprise to anyone, this one was painfully easy...
Player fof the Year -- G Sherron Collins (Jr.)
It's a funny exercise, to imagine this season without Sherron Collins. It seems silly, and trivial, and pointless. But, it gives you true meaning just how much he meant to this team. Just from a statistical, offense-and-defense point-of-view, we lose more games. Maybe a lot more, maybe just a handful. But, a substantial amount more. That's without question.
More importantly, though, Sherron was the flag bearer for this team. He would go out there and guard the opposing team's point guard, keeping him out of the lane. He would lead the team with 19 points and dish out 5 assists. All while playing 38 minutes and taking the team on his back. And then he'd proceed to get heavily criticized in the media, by message board lifers, even by me. He took too many shots, didnt pass the ball enough, sat on the bench for too long, committed too many turnovers, didn't play good enough defense. It's ridiculous, really. But, mostly it was the first one: his shot selection.
Really, you could tell the season's story through the eye of Sherron Collins' shot selection. At the beginning of the year, Bill Self made it a big deal to let everyone in the media know that he wanted Sherron to shoot 20 times a game. However, this quickly proved to be a fautly strategy, as our offense would become far too much one-dimensional late in the game, when we "needed" a bucket so badly. He felt all of that pressure, the task of defending a National Championship resting solely on his shoulders.
He was perfect for this situation, though. If you could have picked one player of of last year's team to come back, eligibility and NBA futures be damned, I would have chosen Sherron. Put simply, he has the attitude for it. The Chicago swagger this team needed so bad.
As a whole, this team lacked confidence. It's a common element of youth: uncertainty. We needed someone to step up and take on a me-against-the-world mentality. We were the defending National Champions, with a Target-sized bullseye on our backs, with a bunch of wide-eyed, inexperienced underclassmen tasked with keeping it that way.
All except their leader. And that was really his most impressive accomplishment. Sure, think about how we would have fared in any number of games without #4, and we might not even make the NCAA Tournament. Statistics-wise, he was as integral to our success as any player in the country. But he provided so much more.
He was everything we needed. No, he wasn't perfect. He did, quite often, shoot too much and pulled up from 18-feet too often. His turnovers against Michigan State played a big role in doing us in. And yet, that made it all the better. He fell victim to the same pratfalls that killed our team all year long (in some order, three-point shooting, defensive lapses and turnovers), and still alway beyond them.
If he comes back, as it looks like he will, he should have his jersey hanging proudly in the rafters. As maligned as he was this past season, it's only because of what we needed from him. We, as a fanbase, required more from Sherron than any player in a long, long while. Since Danny Manning graduated, I can't think of a single player that we so depended on to do everything right, and all of the time.
Better than anyone else in the country, really, Sherron filled that void.
Honorable Mention -- C Cole Aldrich (Soph.)
Duh, right? Cole is the man, and we badly needed his umpteen rebounds a game and double-figures in the scoring tally. When Sherron wasn't on, it's always nice to have the security blanket a 6'11" center provides. He will almost certainly be the better pro, and is almost assuredly more athletic than any other player on our team. He could be so incredible, it isn't even funny. But, statistically, Sherron was the better player. And that isn't even getting into the whole pyschological aspect.
Next Up: Game of the Year (Sunday Noonish), Moment of the Year (Sunday PM)