Kentucky sophomore guard Tyler Ulis is one of four finalists for the Naismith Trophy, awarded annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to the nation’s most outstanding player of the year.
Ulis is a finalist along with Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine. Ulis is the only non-senior of the four.
Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, founder of the game of basketball, the Naismith Trophy is awarded annually to the women's and men's college basketball players of the year. This year’s trophy will be presented at the Naismith Awards Brunch on April 3 in Houston, site of the Final Four.
First awarded in 1969 to UCLA's Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Naismith Trophy was sculpted by Marty C. Dawe of Atlanta and has become one of the most prestigious national honors awarded each year to the top women's and men's college basketball players in the nation. Each year, the Atlanta Tipoff Club's board of selectors, comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country, vote on player performance to ultimately select the winners.
Ulis’ 2015-16 season ended on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Chicago native posted one of the greatest all-time individual seasons for a point guard in school history while leading the Wildcats to a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship, the SEC Tournament title and a 27-9 overall record.
En route to becoming one of the nation’s elite players, Ulis ended the season with 246 assists, setting the new single-season school record previously held by John Wall. Until the season’s final game, Ulis had a streak of 28 consecutive games with four or more assists, the longest streak in school history since at least 1972-73.
Ulis has already been named to the Sporting News All-America First Team, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association All-America Second Team, and the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year by both the league’s coaches and the Associated Press.
Among the honors Ulis has already received this postseason:
· Naismith Trophy finalist
· Sporting News All-America First Team
· USBWA All-America Second Team
· SEC Player of the Year (Coaches/AP)
· SEC Tournament MVP
· SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Coaches)
· All-SEC First Team (Coaches/AP)
· SEC All-Defensive Team (Coaches)
· USA Today All-America First Team
· CBS Sports SEC Player of the Year
· USBWA District IV Player of the Year
· USBWA All-District IV Team
· Bob Cousy finalist
· John R. Wooden Award finalist
· USBWA Oscar Robertson finalist
About Mr. Fab-ULIS: Ulis finished the season averaging 17.3 points and an SEC-best 7.0 assists. Through games on Saturday, he ranks seventh nationally in assists and sixth in the country with a 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Entering Sunday’s games, the Chicago native was the only player in the SEC averaging at least 17.3 points and 7.0 assists or better. He was one of just four players in the nation (Kahil Felder, Oakland; Denzel Valentine, Michigan State; Juan’ya Green, Hofstra) with those numbers and the lone underclassman.
Ulis completed the year with the single-season school record for most 20-point, five-assist games with 14, 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.
In league play, Ulis averaged 8.4 assists with a 4.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. He played 672 of a possible 725 minutes in SEC games, committing a turnover every 19.8 minutes per game.
Ulis’ value was probably best represented by his performances in Kentucky’s biggest games. He averaged a team-best 24.4 points and a team-high 7.6 assists in UK’s seven games vs. ranked opponents. He shot 54.2 percent with a 3.8 assist-to-turnover ratio in those games. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider he played 291 of the possible 295 minutes in those games, including the entire 45 minutes of all three overtime contests.