Junior Randle on Wooden watch list

Junior Randle on Wooden watch list

Illinois basketball junior Brian Randle is a candidate for the John R. Wooden Award, an award given annually to the nation’s top college basketball player based on performance on the court and in the classroom.

The Wooden Award Committee announced its list of 50 candidates Wednesday. Players were chosen based on their individual performance and team success during the 2005-06 season.

“First thing I said, ‘That’s pretty cool,'” Randle said. “That’s a huge honor. To be one of the top 50 so to speak players in the country, that’s neat. I was pretty honored by it.”

Randle is the only Illini and one of four Big Ten players to make the watch list. Other candidates from the conference are Adam Haluska (Iowa), Kammron Taylor (Wisconsin) and Alando Tucker (Wisconsin).

Randle started all but one game for the Illini last season, averaging 8.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He was a Big Ten All-Defensive team selection and earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.

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“I hope it’s a big confidence builder for him,” head coach Bruce Weber said.

Weber also said Randle has the potential to be named to the first-team All-Big Ten list at the end of the season.

“In the scrimmage (Wednesday) he had a three-minute stretch where he just dominated; that’s how he should play all the time,” Weber said. “I think he’s used to watching some other guys, watching Dee (Brown), watching James (Augustine), watching Deron (Williams). He’d just float around and get his dunk (last year), now he’s got to be more than just highlights; he’s got to have continuous, consistent play and be productive.”

Randle follows former Illini teammate Dee Brown as a Wooden Award candidate. Brown made the preseason watch list as a junior and senior.

Fellow former Illini Deron Williams was also a Wooden Award candidate in 2005, and Frank Williams was on the list in 2001.

“I think somebody told me six out of the last seven years we’ve had somebody in there,” Randle said of the committee in its honoring of Illinois players. “To be one of those six out of seven, given Illinois’ history, it’s even more of an honor. I’m happy to be named it, but I think it’s a tribute big time to these guys and my coaches, because I came in here pretty rough.”

Previous winners include Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Andrew Bogut. Last year former Duke Blue Devil J.J. Redick won the award.

The watch list will be narrowed to 30 candidates in January 2007, and a 10-player Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced in March.