Four Naismith Player of the Year Award finalists announced
ATLANTA – The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced the four finalists for the James A. Naismith Trophy, recognizing college basketball’s most outstanding men’s player. The group features three conference players of the year in Josh Hart (Villanova, Big East), Frank Mason III (Kansas, Big 12) and Caleb Swanigan (Purdue, Big Ten), and one freshman of the year, Lonzo Ball (UCLA, Pac-12).
Ball is the 2016 Naismith High School Trophy winner and would become the fourth Bruin to claim the college Naismith Trophy, following Lew Alcindor (1969), Bill Walton (1972, 73, 74) and Marques Johnson (1997). Hart looks to become the second Big East player to win the Naismith Trophy in four years, after Creighton’s Doug McDermott in 2014. Mason and Swanigan are chasing their respective school’s second Naismith Trophy — Danny Manning won in 1988 at Kansas while Glenn Robinson of Purdue was the 1994 honoree.
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This year, fans have a say in the choosing the winner. Between March 20-31 fans can visit www.naismithtrophy.com/vote to cast their ballot for one of these four Naismith Trophy finalists. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on March 31 and fans are limited to one vote per day. The fan vote will account for 5 percent of the total vote.
The 2017 Naismith Trophy winner will be announced on Sunday, April 2 at the Naismith Awards Brunch delivered by UPS at the Final Four in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“Throughout this season we realized that there would be numerous candidates worthy of the Naismith Trophy, so for these four individuals to emerge as finalists, it says a great deal about their drive, determination and leadership,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. “Their performances in the tournament will go a long way in determining the winner.”
About the finalists:
Lonzo Ball, UCLA
- The freshman set the tone early, recording a 19-point, 11-assist and 8-rebound performance against Pacific in his first college game
- He leads the nation with 7.8 assists per game as a 6-foot-6 guard
- Ball is the floor leader for the nation’s top-scoring team (91.3 points per game)
- He won the 2016 Naismith national high school player of the year award
- He was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year
- Ball paces the Pac-12 with a league record for assists by a freshman with 241 (7.8 apg), and is second in the Pac-12 in steals (2.0 spg)
Josh Hart, Villanova
- The 6-foot-5 senior led Villanova to its fourth straight Big East regular-season title and second conference-tournament championship in three years
- He scored 29 points in the title-clinching win over Creighton and earned tournament MVP, becoming just the third player to win the tournament MVP award twice
- He leads Villanova with 18.6 points — which tops the conference — and 6.5 rebounds, while handing out 3.0 assists per game
- Was named Big East Player of the Year and Co-Defensive Player of the Year
- Hart is one of only two players in Villanova history to amass at least 1,800 points, 700 rebounds, 250 assists and 150 steals
Frank Mason III, Kansas
- Averages 20.8 points and is the first Kansas player to lead the Big 12 in scoring since 2004-05
- First in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (.487), while ranking fourth in assists (5.1 apg)
- Vying to become the first player in Big 12 and Kansas history to average 20.0 points and 5.0 assists per game for a season
- Mason totals 19 games of 20 or more points including six of his last seven and eight of his last 10 contests
- Ranks ninth on the KU career scoring list at 1,796 and is tied for eighth in career assists at 552. He is only the third player in Kansas history to rank that high in both (Darnell Valentine, 1978-1981, 1,821 points/609 assists; Sherron Collins, 2007-2010, 1,888 points, 552 assists). With Mason’s next assist he and Valentine will be the only two and should he score 28 points he will be the only one
- Named the 2017 Big 12 Player of the Year and All-Big 12 First Team (both unanimous selections)
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
- The 6-foot-9 sophomore is a double-double machine, with 26 entering the NCAA tournament. The 26 double-doubles ties a Big Ten record
- He recorded four games with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds
- Helped lead Purdue to the Big Ten regular season championship and led the Boilermakers with 18.9 points and 12.6 rebounds per game in conference games
- Swanigan is on pace to become the first major-college player since 1992-93 to have 600 points, 400 rebounds and 100 assists in a season
- He earned Big Ten Player of the Year honors, becoming the fourth Boilermaker to claim such a feat
- He was named second-team Academic All-American