Norman, Okla. Oklahoma seniors Stacey Dales and LaNeishea Caufield was selected as preseason candidates for the 2001-02 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award announced today by Jackie Bradford, Executive Director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

Dales and Caufield, Oklahoma's top returning scorers, becomes OU's first Naismith Player of the Year candidates. Dales, the 2001 Big 12 Player of the Year, averaged 16.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.4 steals and a Big 12-leading 7.3 assists a game as a junior. Her mark for assists ranked among the NCAA's top 10. She also became Oklahoma's first consensus All-American earning first team honors on the Kodak, Associated Press, Women's Basketball Journal and Women's Basketball News Service list. She was one of only two players named to the Kodak All-American first team that's returning to the court this season. LaToya Thomas of Mississippi State is the other.

Caufield, a native of Ada, Okla., ended last season by leading the nation in total steals with 135. The Defensive All-American also led the Big 12 and tied for second in the NCAA for most thefts per game with 4.0. Caufield is a two-time Big 12 second teamer that averaged 15.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and shot an impressive 83.9 percent from the foul line a year ago.

Caufield and Dales have started all 96 games at Oklahoma. The duo led the Sooners to an overall record of 28-6, a program best, and its second straight Big 12 Conference regular season title and NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2000-01.

"It is a tremendous honor for any team or program to have one member of its squad list on that prestigious honor roll," said Sooner Head Coach Sherri Coale. "To have two is something really, really special. This also reflects the quality of the Big 12 Conference. Not only are Stacey and LaNeishea listed among the top players in the nation but Texas Tech's Plenette Pierson, Baylor's Sheila Lambert and Danielle Crockrom and Iowa State's Angie Welle are among the elite players as well."

The Naismith Awards program, now in its 34th year, honors the outstanding college basketball players in the United States. The awards program was founded by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, an organization dedicated to recognizing the achievements of student-athletes in basketball.

The candidates were selected by a vote of the Board of Selectors comprised of leading basketball coaches, journalists and basketball analysts. Members of the board were asked to name top male and female players who are most likely to be in contention for the award.

Last year's Naismith Award recipients were Shane Battier from Duke University and Ruth Riley from the University of Notre Dame. The first recipient of the male Naismith Award was Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) of UCLA in 1969. Other college player of the year recipients include many NBA and WNBA standouts such as Bill Walton, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Cheryl Miller, Clarissa Davis, Dawn Staley and Chamique Holdsclaw. The women's Naismith Award was first presented in 1983 to Anne Donovan of Old Dominion. Miller was a three-time winner of the award, while Davis, Holdsclaw and Staley each won the award twice.

2001-02 Preseason Naismith Player of the Year Watch List
Chantelle Anderson, Vanderbilt
Alana Beard, Duke
Lucienne Berthieu, Old Dominion
Sue Bird, Connecticut
LaNeishea Caufield, Oklahoma
Danielle Crockrom, Baylor
Stacey Dales, Oklahoma
Chrissy Floyd, Clemson
Catrina Frierson, Louisiana Tech
Deanna Jackson, UAB
Gwen Jackson, Tennessee
Sheila Lambert, Baylor
Kara Lawson, Tennessee
Takeisha Lewis, Louisiana Tech
Brandi McCain, Florida
Tawana McDonal, Georgia
Plenette Pierson, Texas Tech
Nicole Powell, Stanford
Alicia Ratay, Notre Dame
Michelle Snow, Tennessee
Diana Taurasi, Connecticut
Nikki Teasley, North Carolina
LaToya Thomas, Mississippi State
Ayana Walker, Louisiana Tech
Angie Welle, Iowa State
Shaquala Williams, Oregon
Tamika Williams, Connecticut
DeTrina White, LSU
Shereka Wright, Purdue