BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky University senior guard Orlando Mendez-Valdez has been named to the 2009 AP All-America team, it was announced this week. The 6-1 native of San Antonio, Texas was an Honorable Mention selection, becoming the 36th All-American in the Hilltoppers' illustrious 90-year history. He was also selected to participate in the Hershey's College All-Star Game, held in conjunction with the Final Four this weekend in Detroit, Mich.
It is the second All-America selection in as many seasons for WKU, and the seventh in the past nine years. Current NBA star Courtney Lee of the Orlando Magic was an Honorable Mention All-American last season for the Toppers.
Oklahoma's Blake Griffin was the only unanimous selection to the First-Team, joining Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina), DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh), James Harden (Arizona State), and Stephen Curry (Davidson).
The Hershey's College All-Star Game features two teams comprised of NCAA basketball's top seniors. For the second year, the game will be played on the actual Final Four court and will provide Detroit residents and other basketball fans the chance to see some of the country's best collegiate basketball players.
The game is Friday, April 3 at Ford Field with tip-off slated for 4:35 PM CT. It is free to the public to attend and will be televised live on CBS College Sports.
Mendez-Valdez guided the Toppers to an amazing season in 2008-09, exceeding critics expectations, both individually and as a team. Averaging 18.0 points per game in the NCAA Tournament, Mendez-Valdez had WKU within 0.9 seconds of upsetting 10th-ranked Gonzaga in the NCAA Second Round and advancing to the program's second-straight Sweet 16, what would have been a first in school history.
Mendez-Valdez, who earned a spot on the five-member Sun Belt All-Conference First-Team, became the fifth Sun Belt Player of the Year for WKU in the past nine seasons joining the likes of Courtney Lee (2007-08), Anthony Winchester (2005-06), Mike Wells (2003-04), and Chris Marcus (2000-01).
After three seasons in a support role, his senior season was the time for Mendez-Valdez to step into the spotlight. Averaging 14.2 ppg, Mendez-Valdez became the first player ever to make 100 three-pointers in a single season, connecting on 101-of-240 for 42.1 percent. His 140 assists were also eighth most all-time in a single season and his 1,138 minutes played rank as the fourth highest total. He finished the year ranked in the top 10 in the conference in six major statistical categories.
He has 23 double-digit scoring games including nine of 20 points or more, becoming the 42nd player in WKU history to reach 1,000 career points, finishing with 1,066 to place 35th all-time. And his success this year did not just come at the friendly confines of Diddle Arena, as 16 of his 23 double figure scoring games, including 10 of his top 12, came on the road. He poured in a career-best 25 points on 7-of-9 from the three-point line against Florida State at the MetrosPCS Orange Bowl Classic on December 28, only to equal that mark in his final collegiate game, scoring 25 points on 7-of-10 from long range against #10 Gonzaga, captivating a national television audience in the NCAA Tournament Second Round in Portland, Ore.
In addition to scoring, Mendez-Valdez has been a defensive presence and a playmaker. He has led the Toppers in steals 16 times and in assists on 16 occasions. With 355 career assists, Mendez-Valdez ranks fourth all-time at WKU. He is fourth all-time in career three-pointers (197) and second in three-point accuracy (42.3).
As a career-highlight, Mendez-Valdez scored 18 points, dished out 12 assists, and grabbed 10 rebounds in a January 1 win over Troy at Diddle Arena, marking the first ever known triple double in school history. For his efforts, he was named the Sun Belt Player of the Week on January 5.
Mendez-Valdez finishes his career holding two single season school records as well as ranking in the top six in six career categories.
He is set to graduate from WKU in May with his degree in Physical Education.