By Jeff FaraudoSTAFF WRITER

It was the Year of the Freshman in the Pac-10 Conference.

A couple of guys named Aaron/Arron did all right, too.

In our sixth annual Pac-10 basketball writers survey, Oregon senior Aaron Brooks was judged the league's quickest, most improved and best clutch player.

But it was junior Arron Afflalo of regular-season champion UCLA who got the nod as the Pac-10 player of the year from our panel of 26 writers who regularly cover the conference.

Afflalo also was the lone unanimous pick on the five-man all-conference team that also included Brooks, USC's Nick Young, UCLA's Darren Collison and Washington's Jon Brockman.

As the Pac-10 tournament begins today at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, our voters weighed in on topics including the league's most overrated and underrated players, the biggest disappointment, and how the Pac-10's precocious freshmen stack up.

The coach of the year question elicited a landslide response, but the answers were more varied to the query of who might be coaching Arizona five years from now.

Afflalo, chosen by the league's coaches as the Player of the Year, got a similar endorsement from those who write about the conference.

"Besides being the best perimeter defender in the conference, and perhaps the country," one voter wrote, "Afflalo never seems to miss a shot in the final 10 minutes of a game.


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His toughness seems to lift the entire team." "The most complete player in the league," another writer suggested.

"An elite defender who can score at the end of the shot clock," said another.

Brooks, the Pac-10's leading scorer, had his supporters, too. "The nickname Mr. Big Shot fits," one writer noted. Suggested another, "Fatherhood made him get serious."

The Pac-10 coaches chose Arizona's Chase Budinger as the league's top freshman, but 16 of our 26 voters said Cal's Ryan Anderson deserved the award based on his consistent performance this season.

When asked which collegiate rookie will emerge as the best player five years from now, Stanford 7-footer Brook Lopez edged Washington 7-footer Spencer Hawes in an 11-10 vote.

"And it might not be that close," one writer suggested.

Said a voter who favored Hawes, "The guy is Kevin McKale."

Budinger wasn't without backers. "He's Luke Walton, only better. Much better."

Pac-10 runner-up Washington State, one of the surprise stories of the country, earned mention atop two categories. Versatile junior Kyle Weaver was judged most underrated, with one voter summing things up by saying, "Because he does everything very well and because he does it all in Pullman!"

If Weaver outpolled 10 others to secure the top spot, first-year coach Tony Bennett corraled all 26 votes after guiding a team picked to finish last in the league to what will be its first NCAA tournament bid in 13 years.

The various responses:

"No other coach even enters the conversation."

"Ought to get it for the next five years for what he's done."

"He should be national coach of the year."

"Are you kidding?"

No such consensus on who could be at the coaching reins in Tucson five years from now. The nod went to Texas A&M rising star Billy Gillispie.

Ex-Stanford coach Mike Montgomery was the choice of several voters, as was Gonzaga's Mark Few. Two voters suggested that Lute Olson still will be there for the 2111-12 season, even at age 77.

A couple of Olson's current players, senior Mustafa Shakur and sophomore Marcus Williams, finished 1-2 in the balloting for most overrated player. The general theme: too much hype, not enough victories.

No one in an Arizona uniform, however, could wrestle away the title of most disappointing player from Oregon State's Sasa Cuic, a 6-foot-10 junior who seems allergic to rebounds and never found any consistency.

"Twenty-five points one night and zero the next," one writer said. "That says it all."