Wooden Watch: Week 12
The most prestigious award in college basketball is the John R. Wooden Award, given to the most outstanding collegiate basketball player of the season. With so many games and unexpected turns, the contenders can change in a heartbeat. Let’s take a look at the frontrunners as conference play hits full steam.
Obi Toppin, Dayton
Toppin is a rising superstar with an incredible skill set all around the court. Not only does the sophomore lead the country in dunks, but he also shoots over 35% from beyond the arc. Toppin has shot his team up the rankings, as Dayton sits at No. 7 in the latest AP Poll. The 6-foot-9-inch kid from Brooklyn averages 19.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game alongside an impressive 62.3 field goal percentage. As long as Toppin continues his impressive campaign and leads Dayton to more wins, he has a legitimate chance to become the first player from a non-power conference to win the award since BYU’s Jimmer Fredette in 2011.
Luka Garza, Iowa
Garza has had a breakout season that is falling under the radar. The 6-foot-11-inch junior has taken the Big Ten by storm and has dominated every team in his path so far. The Hawkeyes center is averaging 23.2 points per contest and has four 30-point games, including a 44-point outing at Michigan. Garza also averages 10.3 rebounds, but the interior is not his only speciality, as he has proven that he can step out and hit the 3-ball as well. The center is shooting 38.5% from beyond the arc, which makes teams have to worry about both his inside and outside game. He’s a true offensive threat. Garza has a good chance to become a finalist for the Wooden Award if he continues to steamroll the Big Ten.
Vernon Carey Jr., Duke
The five-star freshman Carey is Duke’s newest big-time player. Although Duke hasn’t truly lived up to “Duke standards” this season, Carey has remained the heart and soul of this team. The 6-foot-10-inch center doesn’t have crazy stats due to a slow start, but as of late, Carey has been nothing but dominant, averaging 16.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game. The Duke star will likely continue to prove himself as the spotlight shines on him in ACC play. Expect Carey to keep his name in the Wooden Award conversation for the rest of the year.
Payton Pritchard, Oregon
Pritchard has been the commander for the Ducks this year. The Oregon-born senior is the go-to guy for Oregon and has taken over late in many games, including big overtime wins over Washington, Arizona and Michigan. It’s no surprise to see that Pritchard is averaging 19.5 points, 5.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. As a 6-foot-2-inch guard, Pritchard is always finding ways to make an impact for his team despite his smaller size, such as grabbing loose balls and rebounds, then making the opposition pay for it. Pritchard is the type of player who would rather have team success than individual success, but look for the Oregon guard to keep both himself and his team in the conversation for the Wooden Award and the national championship, respectively.
Other names to watch:
Cassius Winston, Michigan State: 18.1 PPG, 6.1 APG, 86.7 FT%
Jordan Nwora, Louisville: 19.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 46.2 FG%
Charlie Knezevic is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.