Kentucky men’s basketball sophomore guard Tyler Ulis and freshman guard Jamal Murray are on the John R. Wooden Award midseason watch list, announced Wednesday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Wooden Award is presented annually to the top player in college basketball.
UK was one of only four schools with two players on the 25-man list, while Murray was one of only two freshmen to make the cut.
The players on the list are considered strong candidates for Wooden Award, though a player does not have to be on the preseason or midseason list to win the award. The leading candidates will be further pared to 20 top players in early February. Fifteen top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA will be submitted to the voters on the ballot prior to the NCAA Tournament.
Voters are permitted to take into consideration the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament when casting the ballot. The 10-man Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament, and the 40th annual presentation of the award will be the anchor presentation of the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show, which will take place the weekend of April 7-9.
Both Ulis and Murray have played well to earn a spot on the midseason list.
Ulis is the floor general of the 13-3 Wildcats. The 5-foot-9 sophomore is averaging 6.0 assists per game, ranked second in the Southeastern Conference, with 7.3 assists per game in conference play, tied for the most in the league.
Now in his second season with Kentucky, Ulis has stepped up his scoring for the Wildcats. The two-time SEC Player of the Week averaging 14.2 points per game, the second-best mark on the team, and has scored 20 or more points in three of the last four games. Against Ole Miss, he became the first player in school history to post at least 20 points, at least 10 assists and at least six steals in a game.
Murray is currently on pace to become the most prolific scorer in the John Calipari era. Average a team-best 17.6 points per game, the freshman from Kitchener, Ontario is averaging more points per game than Brandon Knight’s 2010-11 final scoring average of 17.3.
Murray has scored in double figures in all but one of 16 games this season. He’s reached double digits in 14 straight games and scored 20 or more points in five games this season, including a whopping 33 points vs. Ohio State, the second-best performance of the Calipari era. He’s hit a 3-pointer in all 16 games to start his Kentucky career, the only player in school history to do so.
Created in 1976, the Wooden Award is bestowed upon the nation’s best player at an institution of higher education who has proven to his or her university that he or she is making progress toward graduation while maintaining a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA. The unique Wooden Award trophy is presented to a man and woman each year. Previous winners include such notables as Larry Bird (‘79), Michael Jordan (‘84), Tim Duncan (‘97), Candace Parker (‘07 and ‘08), Kevin Durant (‘09), Maya Moore (‘09 and ‘11), Trey Burke (‘13) and Doug McDermott (‘14).