LOS ANGELES – BYU senior Kyle Collinsworth and Gonzaga senior Kyle Wiltjer and sophomore Domantas Sabonis were named to the John R. Wooden Award watch list on Tuesday, announced on ESPN.com and ESPN’s SportsCenter.
This marks the second straight year three West Coast Conference student-athletes have made the preseason list and the third consecutive season the conference has had multiple players named.
Chosen by a preseason poll of national college basketball experts, the list is comprised of 50 student-athletes who are the early front-runners for college basketball’s most prestigious individual honor. The Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 features three returning Wooden Award All Americans: Ron Baker (Wichita State), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga).
The Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 features three returning Wooden Award All-Americans: Ron Baker (Wichita State), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga). The list also highlights stars from the 2015 NCAA Tournament: Grayson Allen of NCAA National Champion Duke; two players from NCAA runner-up Wisconsin, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig; Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis; Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste; Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine. Other notables include Daniel Hamilton, a 2014 Wooden Award High School Player of the Year while at St. John Bosco High School and Kris Dunn of Providence, who finished last season ranked third nationally in assists per game (7.5).
Several universities boast multiple players on the list. Indiana (James Blackmon, Jr., Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams) and Kentucky (Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis) lead the honors with three candidates apiece, while Baylor, California, Duke, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Maryland, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia, Wichita State and Wisconsin each have two players each on the Preseason Top 50.
Through two games this season, Collinsworth is averaging 14.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals. Last season he posted averages of 13.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.8 steals while leading the Cougars to 25 wins and an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. He set the NCAA single-season record for triple-doubles and tied the career record with six.
Sabonis enters his second season with the Zags after leading the team with a .668 field-goal percentage as a freshman, including seven games where he was perfect from the field. The Lithuania native also led the team in rebounding at 7.1 per game and scored 9.7 points per game, while earning All-WCC Second Team honors. Sabonis hit double figures in scoring 20 times and rebounding six times. He also played for the Lithuanian National Team in the European Championships, helping his squad advance all the way to the title game, which also earned the team berth in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Wiltjer returns for his senior season after following up his redshirt year with a breakout performance, leading the team with 16.8 points per game and shooting a team-best .466 from behind the arc while making 68 three-pointers. The Portland, Ore., native led the team in scoring 18 times and had a team-best 30 games with double-digit points, including 11 with more than 20. His highest-scoring game of the season came at Pacific on Feb. 19, when he poured in 45 points, the third-highest single-game total ever at Gonzaga. Wiltjer became the seventh Zag to earn the WCC Newcomer of the Year Award and was named a USBWA and NABC Second Team All-American, AP Third-Team All-American, First Team All-WCC selection and WCC Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
About the John R. Wooden Award
The 40th annual presentation of the John R. Wooden Award will take place during the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show presented by Wendy’s. Texas Tech Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Tubby Smith, will be presented with the Legends of Coaching trophy during the show as well. The Wooden Award Weekend, April 7-9, 2016, will honor the male and female Wooden Award winners, the top 5 All Americans, and the Legends of Coaching recipient, Coach Tubby Smith.
Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball. It 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 and maintaining a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA. Previous winners include such notables as Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84), Tim Duncan (’97), Candace Parker (’07 and ’08), Kevin Durant (’07), Maya Moore (’09 and ’11), Trey Burke (’13) and Doug McDermott (’14). Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky won the 2015 John R. Wooden Award presented by Wendy’s.
Since its inception, the John R. Wooden Award has contributed close to a million dollars to universities’ general scholarship fund in the names of the All-American recipients. The Award has also sent more than 1,000 underprivileged children to week-long college basketball camps in the Award’s name. Additionally, the John R. Wooden Award partners with the Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) each year to host the Wooden Award Special Olympics Southern California Basketball Tournament. The day-long tournament, which brings together Special Olympics athletes and the All Americans, takes place at the Los Angeles Athletic Club the weekend of the John R. Wooden Award presentation.
Follow the candidates and get the latest news throughout the season by liking the Wooden Award Facebook page or following @WoodenAward on Twitter and Instagram.