Kentucky men’s basketball sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis is one of 15 players on the John R. Wooden Award national ballot, announced Saturday by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. The Wooden Award is presented annually to the top player in college basketball.
The finalists are candidates for the Wooden All-American Team, out of which the Wooden Award winner will be selected. All 15 players on the ballot have proven to their universities that they are making progress towards graduation and are maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 grade-point average.
Voting will take place from March 14 to March 21. Nearly 1,000 members of the national college basketball media make up the majority of the voting body. They take into consideration a player’s entire season of play, as well as opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Fans may vote through the fan voting site at woodenawardvote.com. The Wooden Award All-American Team, consisting of the nation’s top 10 players, and the five finalists for the Wooden Award, will be announced the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament and will be the focus of a 30-minute show March 28 on ESPNU at 8 p.m.
Ulis certainly has the credentials to win the national player of the year award.
The sophomore from Chicago is averaging 16.7 points, a Southeastern Conference-best 7.1 assists (eighth nationally) and a league-best 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio (eighth nationally). He’s scored 20 or more points in 11 of his last 19 games.
Ulis is the only player in the SEC averaging at least 16.7 points and 7.1 assists or better. He is one of just four players nationally to achieve that feat (Kahil Felder, Oakland; Juan’Ya Green, Hofstra; Denzel Valentine, Michigan State) and the lone underclassman.
He has the single-season school record for most 20-point, five-assist games with 12, and according to the SEC Network, his three 20-point, 10-assist games this season are the most of any SEC player in the last 20 seasons.
Ulis’ value is probably best represented by his performances in Kentucky’s biggest games. He’s averaging a team-best 22.8 points and a team-high 9.0 assists in UK’s five games vs. ranked opponents in either the Associated Press Top 25 or the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. He shot 54.3 percent with a 5.0 assist-to-turnover ratio in those games.
The Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year finalist is only the third player in school history with 200 assists in a season. Already third on the school’s single-season assists list with 207 dimes, he’s on pace to break John Wall’s single season record of 241 assists (2009-10).
Ulis is the only player with 23 consecutive games with four or more assists since at least 1972-73.
The 40th annual presentation of the John R. Wooden Award will be the anchor presentation of the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show on ESPN2 on April 8 at 8 p.m. The men’s and women’s John R. Wooden Award All-American Teams will be honored during the ceremony, and the 2016 Wooden Award Legends of Coaching Trophy, which will be presented to former Kentucky coach Tubby Smith.
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).