Kentucky forwards Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns are among 30 of the nation’s top players on the Naismith Trophy Midseason 30 list.
Cauley-Stein and Towns, UK’s leading two rebounders, are eligible for the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national player of the year award after leading the top-ranked Wildcats to a 24-0 record so far. The duo has started every game this season.
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.
Cauley-Stein, now in his third season with the Kentucky program, is averaging 9.2 points – most of any UK frontcourt player – and 6.3 rebounds. The Olathe, Kan., native has recorded 11 double-figure scoring games this season, including a 21-point, 12-rebound performance against then-No. 6 Texas in December. He leads the team with 34 steals and has swatted 39 shots on the year.
The 7-foot forward became the first player in program history to amass 200 or more career blocks and 100 or more career steals earlier this season. He’s also one of just eight players in program history with 500 or more rebounds, 100 or more blocks, and 75 or more steals.
Towns, a native of Piscataway, N.J., leads the undefeated Wildcats in rebounds (6.5 per game) and blocked shots (2.4), in addition to 9.1 points a contest.
Over the last four games, the 6-foot-11 forward leads the team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. During that stretch, he’s recorded two of his three career double-doubles, plus he scored a career-high-tying 19 points in a difficult victory at Florida.
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.