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Wednesday, Dec. 1

Powell among candidates for Senior CLASS Award

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[DEC. 1, 2004]  KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The top 30 male and female college basketball players entering their senior season have been nominated for the fourth annual Bayer Advantage Senior CLASS Award. The award is presented annually to the nation's senior player of the year for NCAA Division I men's and women's basketball. Roger Powell Jr. of the University of Illinois has made the list of candidates.

The award's organizing committee announced the list of candidates Monday. From that list, a national media committee will select 10 finalists for the award next February. When the season reaches the NCAA Tournament in March, nationwide fan balloting will be coupled with results from voting by coaches and media to determine the male and female winner.

Legendary sportscaster Dick Enberg, who initiated the idea for the award and now serves as honorary chairman, announces the winner during the CBS telecast of the NCAA men's Final Four.

The male candidates include two first-team all-Americans from last season who returned for their senior year, Lawrence Roberts of Mississippi State and Ryan Gomes of Providence. The list has representatives from 13 different conferences, led by the Atlantic Coast Conference with six nominees. Four universities have multiple players on the list. Kansas, the nation's top-ranked preseason team, has three seniors among the 30 candidates. Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Arizona each have two players.

The Senior CLASS Award -- with the acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School -- was launched in the 2001-02 college basketball season. It is designed to honor the attributes of seniors who remain committed to their university and elect to pursue the many rewards that a senior season can bring.

"The award is designed to return the prestige and dignity of being a senior college basketball player," Enberg said. "It's not intended to say that leaving early for pro basketball is wrong, rather to celebrate those who do decide to return for a senior season."

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The remarkable story of Shane Battier returning to lead Duke to the national championship in 2002 inspired the inception of the award. The inaugural men's award winner was Juan Dixon of Maryland, followed by David West of Xavier in 2003 and Jameer Nelson of St. Joseph's in 2004.

A women's award was also established to encourage a continued emphasis on senior leadership. Sue Bird of Connecticut was the first women's winner, followed by LaToya Thomas of Mississippi State and Duke's Alana Beard.

"Bayer is committed to supporting the educational process of our nation's young people," said Jeff Gaidos, vice president for marketing, Bayer HealthCare LLC, Animal Health Division. "College basketball provides many life lessons for student athletes. We are thrilled to honor those players who capitalize on the full opportunities available as a collegian."

The Bayer Advantage Senior CLASS Award winners will receive their awards at the fourth annual Tribute Gala, scheduled for April 30, 2005, in Kansas City. The event is hosted by the Pride of Kansas City Foundation.

[News release provided by Kent Brown, assistant athletics director, sports information director,
University of Illinois]

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