Kentucky junior Willie Cauley-Stein is one of five finalists for the 2015 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award, one of four inaugural awards the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is presenting to the top players in college basketball.
Cauley-Stein joins Bobby Portis of Arkansas, Jahlil Okafor from Duke, Rakeem Christmas of Syracuse and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky in the final five for the award, named after UCLA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. A national committee comprised of top college basketball personnel narrowed the list down to five players.
Already a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award – not to mention a semifinalist for the Naismith Trophy – Cauley-Stein has been one of the center pieces of Kentucky’s historic 31-0 regular season.
The Olathe, Kan., native has been a one-man defensive wrecking crew, leading the nation’s top-ranked field-goal percentage defense in steals (44) while ranking second in blocked shots (49). Capable of guarding all five positions, Cauley-Stein is the only 7-footer in the country to rank in the top 215 nationally in steals per game.
Cauley-Stein’s offensive game has made tremendous strides in his third year at UK. The 240-pounder is averaging 8.9 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 58.8 percent from the floor, the second-best mark on the team.
Perhaps most impressive of all his numbers is Cauley-Stein’s performances vs. ranked foes. In six games against ranked competition, Cauley-Stein is averaging team highs in scoring (11.5) and rebounds (8.2).
Earlier this season, Cauley-Stein became the first player in school history to collect 200 or more career blocks and 100 or more career steals. He’s also one of just eight players in program history 500 or more rebounds, 100 or more blocks, and 75 or more steals.
The winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award, along with the three other inaugural position awards and the 12th annual Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award, will be determined by a combination of fan votes and input from the Hall of Fame’s selection committees. Fans can vote now through March 18 at HoophallAwards.com for the top position players.
The winners of the inaugural awards will be awarded April 10 at ESPN’s new “College Basketball Awards” from Club Nokia in Los Angeles. The awards show will be televised live on ESPN2 at 8 p.m.