First-year standouts have become the face of men's college basketball, and the nation's top freshman now will be honored with an award named after former Oklahoma great Wayman Tisdale.
Organizers of the Wayman Tisdale Award already have an alliance with the United States Basketball Writers Association, which will serve as the election body and present the honor annually at the Final Four site.
The USBWA's endorsement and Tisdale's name give the honor instant credibility.
Also lending notoriety is the propensity of notable freshmen who play just one season at the collegiate level before entering the NBA Draft — past standouts such as Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall.
“This could quickly be considered the nation's most valuable player award,” said former OU coach Billy Tubbs, who led the Sooners to national prominence after recruiting Tisdale out of Tulsa Washington High School.
The 6-foot-9 Tisdale averaged 24.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and shot 58.0 percent from the field as a freshman in 1982-83. He was a three-time All-American at OU before leaving after his junior season, became a member of the gold medal 1984 Olympic team and played 12 seasons in the NBA and averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 rebounds in his pro career.
Tisdale also was an accomplished jazz musician. He died from complications of cancer on May 15, 2009, at age 44.
In 1973, freshmen became eligible to compete at the NCAA varsity level. Despite the recent impressive run of standout first-year players, “I don't think anybody had a better freshman year than Wayman, let's put it that way,” Tubbs said. “I think it's a very appropriate honor, considering Wayman was the first freshman to ever make All-American.”
Former Oklahoma football player and assistant coach Scott Hill, who is general manager of Performance Sports, will serve as executive director of the Tisdale Award.
Hill said the idea was first broached while having Thanksgiving dinner last year with brother-in-law Bill Webb, who is the founder of Legacy Foundation and Event Management, which provides strategic and operational management for charitable endeavors.
Webb said it was Gary Vick who initially suggested naming the award after Tisdale. Vick is basketball operations manager at Performance, longtime executive director of the Athlete's First AAU basketball program and director of the charitable organization Access Sports Inc.
The first order of business was to seek the approval of Tisdale's widow, Regina.
“Regina was very receptive,” Vick said. “She is very protective of Wayman, his life and what he stood for. Everything we do, she's aware of. She's a nice lady and we would never do anything without her knowledge.”
The Tisdale Award will raise money to support local charities. The Wayman Tisdale Charitable Foundation will be a direct beneficiary.
“There's been a lot of thought process to this and the people in charge are doing an outstanding job,” said Tubbs, who recently stepped down as Lamar athletic director and is in the process of moving back to Norman.
The Tisdale Award winner will receive a bronze statuette designed by sculptor Chan Gray. The award also will be presented at the annual Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame gala each May in Oklahoma City, where the winner and his coach will attend.
The Tisdale Award is in the spread-the-word stage and hopes to lure a national sponsor. The committee will hold fundraising projects that include a celebrity golf tournament and the gala.
“It's just kind of taken off,” Hill said. “So far, we haven't found anything that holds this back at all.”
Webb is business partners with former Oklahoma State golfing great Trip Kuehne, who will serve as director of the Tisdale Award advisory board. Invitations to join that board will commence Wednesday.
“Wayman's name, obviously, is pretty precious, and that's very helpful to us,” Hill said. “It was his name that got those (USBWA) guys to want to do it.”
The Tisdale Award will be the second national honor presented by the USBWA that is named after a person with Oklahoma ties.
The USBWA already has the Henry Iba Award recognizing the national coach of the year and awards the Oscar Robertson Trophy to the national player of the year.
"Information for the Tisdale Award can be found at www.access-sports.net."