March 28, 2000

NORMAN, Okla. - Eduardo Najera, a 6-8, 240-pound forward who just completed a stellar career on the University of Oklahoma basketball team, was named the Chip Hilton Player of the Year today by Chip Hilton Sports and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Najera a first-team All-Big 12 selection and a third-team All-America pick this year, was chosen over fellow finalists Shane Battier (Duke), Mark Madsen (Stanford), Troy Murphy (Notre Dame) and Scoonie Penn (Ohio State). The award is presented to a player who has demonstrated personal character both on and off the court, similar to the fictional Chip Hilton character depicted by Hall of Fame coach Clair Bee in the classic Chip Hilton Series that was originally published between 1948 and 1966.

"This is probably the most prestigious award I've ever won and I am extremely happy to have been considered with the other finalists," said Najera. "I have worked very hard since I arrived at OU and I think this award shows that the hard work has paid off. My coaches and teammates have been the main reason for my success, so I thank them. I also thank my family and all of my fans in Mexico and the United States."

The eighth-leading all-time scorer at OU (1,646 points) and fifth-leading rebounder (910 rebounds), Najera guided the Sooners to a 27-7 record this season and their sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Oklahoma's 27 wins tied for the fifth most in school history as the Chihuahua, Mexico, native averaged a team-high 18.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Najera, a member of the Big 12 All-Defense Team, has also been named a finalist for the John R. Wooden and Naismith Awards.

The Chip Hilton Award is judged on the following criteria: athletic skill, excellence of effort, fair competition, team spirit, personal discipline, respect of university and athletic authority, personal integrity, service to others, team leadership and accountability to family, coaches and the university.

Najera, along with Clair Bee Coach of the Year Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, will be honored at the Final Four at noon at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Indianapolis on Monday, April 3.