Three University of Kentucky players were among 50 players tabbed to the Naismith Trophy Watch List, which the Atlanta Tipoff Club released on Wednesday.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns are represented on the list of 50 players across the country considered candidates for the Naismith Trophy. The Naismith Trophy is awarded annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to the national player of the year.
Each year, the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Board of Selectors chooses 50 preseason candidates as well as the midseason team of 30 candidates. The Naismith voting academy will narrow that group down to 10 semifinalists on March 6, name four finalists on March 22 and announce the winner during Final Four weekend on April 5. The voting academy, comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country, bases its criteria on player performance throughout the season.
The UK trio has started all seven games this season for the undefeated and top-ranked Wildcats.
Cauley-Stein, now in his third season with the Kentucky program, is averaging 8.7 points and 6.0 rebounds. With 10 blocks on the year – tied for second most on the team – and 176 in his career, Cauley-Stein needs just 92 more swats to becomes UK’s all-time leader in that category.
Harrison, who hit three game-winning shots during UK’s magical run to the national championship game last season, leads the Wildcats in scoring this year with a 10.4 average. The sophomore guard from Richmond, Ky., has scored in double figures in three of his last four games, including a 19-point effort vs. Boston. The 19 points ties a team high for all UK players this year.
Towns, a freshman from Piscataway, N.J., leads Kentucky and is tied for 10th in the country with 21 blocks. The 6-foot-11 forward, who is widely regarded as one of the top players in the 2014 freshman class, is averaging 8.0 points and 7.4 rebounds. He’s scored in double figures in each of his last two games, and against UT Arlington he posted 13 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in just 17 minutes.
Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, creator of the game of basketball, the first trophy was awarded to UCLA’s Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, in 1969. Anthony Davis became UK’s first winner of the award in 2012 after guiding the Cats to their eighth national title. Other winners include Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Marcus Camby, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Michael Jordan.
Kentucky will return to action on Friday at 7 p.m. in Rupp Arena when the Cats play host to No. 6/7 Texas in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.