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Rush AP freshman of year

Texas’ Tucker player of year; OU’s Neal top newbie

March 10, 2006

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— Brandon Rush, who leads Kansas University's basketball team in scoring and rebounding, on Thursday was tapped the Associated Press Big 12 Conference freshman of the year.

The honor capped a spectacular regular season for the 6-foot-6 Kansas Citian, who was named first-team all-league by the coaches and second-team by the writers and was tapped the coaches' freshman of the year earlier in the week.

"This season has been fun for me the whole time, even early when we were losing tough games. We learned from those," said Rush, who takes a 14.9 points-per-game scoring average and 6.0 rebound mark into postseason play.

Rush received 23 votes from a 24-person media panel. KU's Mario Chalmers netted the other vote.

"I'm sure every freshman (in the country) would like this job I've got. I'm loving it right now," added Rush, who has emerged as KU's go-to guy as a mere freshman.

Rush, who has hit 49.5 percent of his shots and an amazing 51.1 percent of his threes (45 of 88), has scored 408 points. He's just 88 shy of tying Danny Manning's freshman scoring mark of 496.

"It would be great if he could get Danny's record. Danny would be the first to agree with that," KU coach Bill Self said. "We'd have to play a few more games for him to get it. If we play, six, seven or more games, it'd enhance his chances. Who knows how many more games we can play?" Self added.

No matter what happens in the postseason, it's undeniable Rush has had a heck of a rookie year.

"He's been the premier young guy through the course of the season," Self said. "I think he's just scratching the surface of how good he can be. You look at how much he's improved just the last five months - ball-handling, passing, shot selection, defense. Everything has improved so much. He could be a great, great player."

Rush joins several other esteemed Jayhawks who won conference freshman of the year. They are: Raef LaFrentz (1995), Paul Pierce (1996) and Jeff Boschee (1999).

"I still have a lot to accomplish, a lot to work on, to improve on," Rush said, relishing the role of team leader. "I think they are looking to me more and more, especially lately."

Also Thursday, Texas' P.J. Tucker was named AP's player of the year. Tucker received 20 votes; his teammate LaMarcus Aldridge got the other four.

Tucker led the Longhorns in scoring (16.1) and the league in rebounding (9.0). Texas (25-5) set a school record for most victories in a regular season.

Oklahoma's Michael Neal was voted newcomer of the year with 23 votes. A transfer from Lon Morris College, Neal averaged 13 points per game, and his .431 percentage on three-pointers was No. 2 in the league.

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