From UK Athletics:
Having already proven they’re among the top freshmen in the country and possibly a part of the best backcourt in the nation, Kentucky men’s basketball freshman guards Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox are now among 25 players on the midseason watch list for the annual John R. Wooden Award.
Chosen by a poll of national college basketball experts, the Wooden Award midseason 25 is comprised of student-athletes who are the early frontrunners for one of college basketball’s most prestigious individual honors.
UK is one of five schools (Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA and Wisconsin) with two players on the midseason 25 and one of only two schools (UCLA) with two freshmen. Seven total freshmen total were among the midseason top 25.
Monk, a freshman from Lepanto, Arkansas, is off to a historic start. Averaging 21.7 points per game, he is ranked 16th nationally in scoring, second among all freshmen and first in the Southeastern Conference. No John Calipari-coached player has ever averaged more than 21.2 points for an entire season (Dajuan Wagner at Memphis in 2001-02). He’s scored in double figures in every game this season and has nine games of 20 points or more, including a Kentucky freshman record 47 points vs. North Carolina in December and another 34-point outburst at Ole Miss.
Monk has proven to be one of Calipari’s most dynamic scorers ever. Routinely a feature on SportsCenter’s Top 10 for his jaw-dropping dunks, he’s also proven to be one of the nation’s top 3-point shooters. He’s made 50 3-pointers through 16 games, only slightly behind where Jodie Meeks (57) was when he went on to set the UK single-season 3-point record in 2008-09 with 117 made 3-pointers. He’s made a trey in every game but one.
Faced with the unenviable task of replacing the 2016 Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award winner, Tyler Ulis, Fox has filled his shoes admirably and made his own mark as one of the nation’s fastest and craftiest players. Fox is currently averaging 16.3 points, 6.4 assists and 1.8 steals. His 6.4 assists per game ranks 11th in the country, second among all freshmen and first in the SEC, while his 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio is first in the conference. His 103 assists are ahead of where Ulis (90) sat through the first 16 games last year when he went on to break the school’s single-season assists record.
Fox already has a team-leading four double-doubles by way of points and assists, which includes his historic triple-double against Arizona State – the second triple-double in school history and first since Chris Mills did it Dec. 27, 1988. The Houston native has scored a combined 49 points over the last two games and has 10 games of six assists or more.
The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the 2017 John R. Wooden Award. The leading candidates will be further pared to 20 players in early February. The top 15 players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 grade-point average will be submitted to voters on the final ballot prior to the NCAA Tournament. Every year, players have made the final ballot that were not on the preseason or midseason lists.
Voting will open prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament and will allow voters to take into consideration performances during early round games. The Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced the week of the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the 2017 John R. Wooden Award will be announced during the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show on April 7.
Previous winners of the Wooden Award include such notables as Larry Bird (1979), Michael Jordan (‘84), Tim Duncan (‘97), Kevin Durant (‘07), Trey Burke (’13), Doug McDermott (‘14), Frank Kaminsky (’15) and Buddy Hield (’16). UK’s Anthony Davis won it in 2012.
Kentucky returns to the court Saturday in a matchup vs. Auburn at 4 p.m. ET. The game is set to air live on ESPN.
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