Kentucky men’s basketball sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis is one of 20 players on the John R. Wooden Award Late Season Top 20 list, announced Wednesday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Wooden Award is presented annually to the top player in college basketball.
The players on the list are considered strong candidates for Wooden Award, though a player does not have to be on the preseason, midseason or late season list to win the award. 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.
Ulis has had a spectacular sophomore season in leading Kentucky to an 18-6 record and 8-3 mark in the Southeastern Conference. He’s one of two SEC players on the list.
The 5-foot-9 guard is averaging 16.2 points, a team-best 6.4 assists per game – which ranks second in the SEC – and boasts an SEC-best 3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s scored 20 or more points in nine of his last 13 games, averaging 19.5 points and 7.3 assists while shooting 50.6 percent over that stretch.
The Chicago native is the only player in the SEC averaging at least 16.0 points and 6.4 assists or better. He is one of just five players nationally to achieve that feat (Kahil Felder, Oakland; Kris Dunn, Providence; Juan’Ya Green, Hofstra; Denzel Valentine, Michigan State;) and the lone underclassman.
With 20 points and five assists at Tennessee, Ulis has posted 10 games this season with at least 20 points and at least five assists in the same game, the most by a Wildcat in any season since 1972-73.
Ulis’ value is probably best represented by his performances in Kentucky’s biggest games. He’s averaging a team-best 21.7 points and a team-high 7.3 assists in UK’s three games vs. ranked opponents. He shot 54.5 percent with a 5.5 assist-to-turnover ratio in those games.
He is also only the second player at UK since 1972-73 (the first year UK has full game-by-game assist numbers for) with have at least four assists in 17 consecutive games in a single season. Roger Harden also did it 17 times.
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).