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How good to you have to be to make an All-America basketball team?
Really, really, really good.
Associated Press’ 65 voters didn’t have a place for Iowa State’s Monte Morris on its three honor squads, covering 15 players. Or Iowa’s Peter Jok, who led the Big Ten in scoring over the entire season.
It wasn’t as if Morris played in a vacuum. He had commentators like Fran Fraschilla pounding the drum for him on his many appearances on ESPN. There are just a lot of good players.
Here is where it’s easy to get parochial and say the voters messed up. I saw Morris play quite a bit in person, and you’ll never convince me he wasn’t one of the top 15 players in the nation this season. Iowa State without Morris this season would have been like Oakland without the Raiders.
But I only saw four of the 15 honorees in person. Also, there isn’t a name among the 15 that makes you go “What the what?”
Hey, it’s hard for me to think Jok wasn’t in the top 15, too, given some of the sensational performances I saw him give. I start with Jan. 12, when he poured in 29 points and had eight assists to lead the Hawkeyes to a home win over eventual league-champion Purdue.
His 35 points in a home win over Indiana in February was none too shabby, and we could go on and on. But he missed two conference games to health reasons, and the Hawkeyes weren’t an NCAA tournament team.
The margin of difference can be thin.
Last year, Iowa State’s Georges Niang was a second-team AP All-America and Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff was a third-teamer. How good is the NBA? Niang is at the end of the Indiana Pacers’ bench, and Uthoff is trying to hang on the rest of the season with the Dallas Mavericks as he completes his second 10-day contract with them after spending the previous part of the season in the D-League.
Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle was a 2015 AP second-team All-America. Tuttle is playing professionally in Belgium, and averaging 15.2 points per game. That he could go from Sheffield, Iowa to UNI to second-team All-America will always be one of the state’s great sports stories.
Iowa hasn’t had a first-team AP All-America since Chuck Darling in 1952. Maybe Tyler Cook can break that streak.
But how well would Cook have to play to have a chance? Baylor’s Johnathan Motley averaged 17.2 points and 9.9 rebounds this season. He is on AP’s second team.
Washington’s Markelle Fultz — who could be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft — averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks. He is a third-team All-America.
Morris averaged 16.4 points, 6.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and easily paced the nation in assists-to-turnovers ratio for a team that went 12-6 in the Big 12. That, somehow, only gets you honorable mention.
They say living well is the best revenge, so if Morris and Jok could make it onto NBA rosters ... easier said than done.
Both players were honorable mention, which means they got at least one vote. John Bohnenkamp of the Burlington Hawk Eye had Iowa’s vote (The Gazette is not an AP member), and said he voted for both. So don’t blame John.