For the first time in the history of Pitt men's basketball, two players were named to The Associated Press All-America team yesterday.
Sophomore center DeJuan Blair became the first Pitt player since 1958 to earn first-team All-American honors from the AP. He joins former Pitt great Don Hennon as the only other player in school history to be so honored. In addition to Blair, senior forward Sam Young was named third-team All-America. Senior point guard Levance Fields earned honorable mention.
Putting the dual achievements in perspective, only three other Pitt players before yesterday had been named AP All-America. Hennon was named second team in 1959; Jerome Lane made the third team in 1987 and the second team in '88; Brandin Knight was third team in 2002; and Aaron Gray was third team in '07.
The AP honor is the fourth first-team All-American honor for Blair, who also was recognized by Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and the United States Basketball Writers Association earlier this month.
"It's cool; it's a beautiful honor," Blair said last night, two days after the Panthers were knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Villanova. "I don't think anyone thought this was possible at the beginning of the season. I wasn't even named [honorable mention] all-Big East."
Blair finished third in the AP voting with 294 votes behind Oklahoma's Blake Griffin (335) and North Carolina's (304). Arizona State's James Harden and Davidson's Stephen Curry also were named to the first team.
"That group is an excellent group," Blair said. "It could have been a lot of people on that list, too. Fortunately, I got that spot. It's an honor to be on there with them. All of those guys lived up to the hype. I sneaked up there on a lot of people."
It's been a whirlwind few weeks for Blair, who also was named Big East Conference co-player of the year. He also is finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year Award, and was invited to Detroit this weekend for that presentation. He also is a finalist for the Wooden Award as well as the USBWA Oscar Robertson Player of the Year Award.
Blair, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining at Pitt, will go through the NBA predraft process before deciding whether he declares for the draft or returns to the Panthers for his junior season.
Griffin and Hansbrough spent a lot of time together on the court Sunday in the South Region final, won by the Tar Heels.
Griffin, a sophomore forward from Oklahoma who led Division I in rebounding, was the only unanimous selection for the team. Hansbrough, the consensus player of the year last season as a junior, repeated as a first-teamer.
Griffin averaged 21 points and 14.3 rebounds while shooting 63.5 percent from the field. He received 71 first-team votes from the same national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Balloting was done before the tournament.
Hansbrough, a unanimous pick last season, got 50 first-team votes. This is the fourth consecutive he received All-American recognition. He was a third-team pick as a freshman and was on the second team after his sophomore season.
Curry, who led Division I in scoring, is Davidson's second All-American. Fred Hetzel was Davidson's first first-teamer in 1965. Harden is Arizona State's first AP All-America.
Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230. The AP also contributed to this report. First Published March 31, 2009 4:00 AM