Three Wildcats Tabbed to Wooden Award Watch List

LOS ANGELES – The Kentucky men’s basketball team has three players – all freshmen – on the preseason award watch list for the John R. Wooden Award for player of the year. Forward Bam Adebayo and guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are three of the 50 players tabbed to the preseason list, which was announced Tuesday. 

Chosen by a preseason poll of national college basketball experts, the Wooden Award watch list is comprised of 50 student-athletes who are the early front-runners for college basketball’s most prestigious individual honor.

UK is one of four schools with three players on the preseason watch list and the only school with three freshmen. Only seven freshmen total were among the preseason 50.

Adebayo won the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year award in his final season at High Point Christian Academy after averaging 18.9 points and 13.0 rebounds per game as a senior. A McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Bran Classic participant, he has already been tabbed to the preseason All-Southeastern Conference First Team by both the league’s coaches and the Associated Press, and he is a preseason nominee for the Naismith Trophy (national player of the year) and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award (nation’s top center, as awarded by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame).

On Sunday, Adebayo recorded the first double-double of his college career, recording 14 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes. 

Fox, who shared MVP honors with Monk at the Jordan Brand Classic, has showcased his blazing speed and his ability to distribute the ball in Kentucky’s first two games. The McDonald’s All-American is averaging 16.5 points and 7.5 assists in two games, including a double-double (12 points and 12 assists) in his first career game. The 12 assists marked the most assists in school history (with records dating back to 1971-72) in a season opener as well as a player making his UK debut.

Fox arrived at UK as the reigning Texas Gatorade High School Player of the Year and was rated as the nation’s No. 6 overall player coming out of high school. Fox was on the preseason All-SEC First Team of both the conference’s coaches and the AP, and he is among the early season candidates for the Bob Cousy Award (Hall of Fame’s top point guard) and the Naismith Trophy

Monk, also a McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand participant, was the 2016 Arkansas Gatorade High School Player of the Year in addition to earning the state’s Mr. Basketball award after averaging 28.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game a season ago. Monk has scored in double figures in both regular-season games, averaging 13.0 points, including 16 Sunday night vs. Canisius. 

Like Adebayo and Fox, Monk was on the preseason watch list for the Naismith Trophy. He was was tabbed to the Jerry West preseason watch list (Hall of Fame’s top shooting guard) and was second-team selection by both the league’s coaches and the AP for the preseason All-SEC team. 

The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the 2017 John R. Wooden Award. Players not chosen to the preseason list are eligible for the Wooden Award midseason list, late season list and the national ballot. The National Ballot consists of 15 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.  Nearly 1,000 voters will rank in order 10 of those 15 players, who have been qualified as meeting the standards set forth by Coach Wooden and the Wooden Award Steering Committee. 

Voting will open prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament and will allow voters to take into consideration performance 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 Antony Davis won it in 2012.

Kentucky returns to the court Tuesday in a matchup with No. 12/12 Michigan State at 7 p.m. The game is set to air live on ESPN. 

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