Blue Ribbon releases 35th anniversary cover, All-America team
Over the course of 35 years, from humble beginnings in the basement of founder Chris Wallace’s parents’ home to respect as the “bible” of college basketball to now, when the book is used as a season-long textbook for coaches, NBA scouts, broadcasters from every major network including CBS and ESPN, even the NCAA tournament selection committee, Blue Ribbon has prided itself on changing with the times—adding teams, improving its look, and updating its editorial philosophy.
The 35th edition’s cover reflects that latter change.
There was a time that Blue Ribbon would never have placed unproven freshmen on its All-America team. But after consulting coaches, NBA scouts and respected media members, the decision was made to include not just one but two this year Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere and LSU’s Ben Simmons—along with Virginia senior Malcolm Brogdon, Iowa State senior Georges Niang, and Providence junior Kris Dunn.
“For a long time, the criteria we primarily used to select our All-America teams was past accomplishment in college basketball,” said Blue Ribbon editor Chris Dortch, who has been in charge of the book’s direction for the last 18 editions and was a Blue Ribbon writer and co-editor for years before that. “But in recent years I’ve been fortunate to assist NBA.com and NBA TV with their coverage of and preparation for the NBA Draft, and I’ve realized that NBA potential, especially when you’re talking about lottery picks, has to be used as a criteria if you’re choosing a team of the five best college players in the country.
“Kentucky has proven many times over in the John Calipari era, with players such as John Wall, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, etc., that freshmen can impact the college game to a first-team All-America level, and then move on to become the first pick in the NBA Draft.”
By all accounts, Labissiere and Simmons are special players.
Calipari experienced a bit of déjà vu when he first saw Labissiere play.
“He can shoot it, he can handle it,” Cal said. “When I saw him the first time, I think he was in ninth grade, going into 10th, and when I watched him I said, ‘He used to be a guard.’ Because I saw it in Anthony [Davis], I saw it in Marcus Camby. I’ve seen it before. And they said he was. So he was, again, a young man that played guard and then all the sudden he grew.”
Likewise, Simmons has a multi-faceted game. In LSU’s recent tour of Australia, Simmons led the Tigers in scoring (20.0 ppg), rebounding (9.0 rpg), field-goal percentage (.522), 3-point percentage (.444), assists (27), blocked shots (11) and steals (18).
During a press conference earlier this summer, LSU coach Johnny Jones was asked about Simmons’ readiness for high-level Division I basketball.
“I think [he’ll be ready] because of his experience coming over here [to the United States] the two or three years ago [from Australia] and what he has had to face during his time playing here at the elite camps that he’s participated in,” Jones said. “I think of how quick that he was at the top of the chain in terms of being one of the top players in the country and through the interviews he’s been through.”
The 35th anniversary edition of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook is available here.
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