Better a bit late than never, right?
On Friday evening, April 7, the annual John R. Wooden Awards were presented by the Los Angeles Athletic Club in association with Wendy’s Hamburgers.
It was really cool to see the Basketball Hall of Famers share their thoughts with the ESPN College Gameday crew of Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg, and Jay Williams (with the small exception of Bob Cousy, who shared his thoughts via viral video from his home).
Here are the winners from the 2016-2017 season, starting with the men’s side.
Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year
Malik Monk, Kentucky. Monk was SEC Freshman of the Year and with good reason in being a key spark to a Elite Eight berth.
Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year
Johnathan Motley, Baylor junior. Motley finished his time with the Bears as an Associated Press Second Team member, similar with Monk. He declared for the NBA Draft on Monday.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year
Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga senior. The product out of Poland improved his game dramatically after not being medically cleared to play inbetween his sophomore and junior years. He was one of the huge reasons why Gonzaga was able to clear a major hurdle en route to the school’s first national championship game appearance. And did you know, Karnowski won more games than any player all-time? More than Larry Bird, Danny Manning, Jimmer Fredette, and Doug McDermott, that’s for sure.
Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year
Josh Hart, Villanova senior. He pretty much did it all for the Wildcats, shooting, rebounding, distributing the ball to his teammates. He kept saying to Coach Jay Wright, it was always about team first–not for individual goals. At least, most of the Big East recognized him as the conference’s Player of the Year and was also named by the Associated Press as a First Team All-American.
Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year
Frank Mason III, Kansas senior. Jay Williams said during the Awards Show that Mason was, “one of the toughest players in college basketball.” The way he was so unselfish with and at times without the ball directing his teammates, his 20.9 ppg and 4 assists per game average really shined. The Big 12’s choice as their Player of the Year, he shot 42.9 percent in helping Kansas reach the Sweet 16 before being run over by Oregon in the Sweet 16.
Women’s game featured new legend in the making
Kelsey Plum shot 53 percent during her senior year, 43 percent from three-point range. The Washington senior also averaged 31.7 ppg, the highest average during her college career. Along the way, she picked up many special awards:
- espnW national player of the year
- unanimous pick on the espnW All-America first team
- unanimous pick on the AP All-America first team
- USBWA All-America team
- AP women’s basketball player of the year
- winner of Dawn Staley Award
- winner of Ann Meyers Drysdale Award as USBWA national player of the year
- 2017 Naismith Trophy
- 2017 Nancy Lieberman Award
- 2017 WBCA NCAA Div. 1 All-America team
- 2017 Wade Trophy award winner
And to top it all off, she was named as the 2017 John R. Wooden Award Winner as the Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. Plum edged out a pair of UConn stars taking over in the footsteps of past winner Breanna Stewart (Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson), along with Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State and budding General Hospital actor-in-training A’Ja Wilson of NCAA Champion South Carolina.
The men’s award capped the evening and although there was a pretty stellar group of candidates with the likes of Lonzo Ball of UCLA, Josh Hart of Villanova, Caleb Swanigan–the Big Ten Player of the Year for Purdue, and Nigel Williams-Goss from the National runners-up in Gonzaga.
But in the end, the 2017 John R. Wooden Award Winner on the men’s side went to Frank Mason III out of Kansas. The Petersburg, Virginia native rewrote the college basketball record books as he surpassed past legends from Pistol “Pete” Maravich and Bill Walton in being the consensus National Player of the Year in addition to winning these special awards:
- CBS Sports National Player of the Year
- Player of the Year by USA Today, the Associated Press, The Sporting News, Naismith College, the NABC Player of the Year, and the winner of the Oscar Robertson Trophy.
Overall, it was a very good show–even with sideline reporter Molly McGrath teaming up with Josh Hart and A’Ja Wilson last Thursday to act out a tense scene on the set of General Hospital. At least, they were all good sports and that is what college athletics are all about.
Well, what a way to wrap up an incredible and historic season. Please continue to check my blog periodically for some key coaching news and any pertinent rule changes which might affect the flow of the game.
In the interim, I hope you can visit my other blog where it is nothing but blue skies and calm vibes as I share many album reviews of the best Brazilian jazz sambas and bossa novas this side of the Equator. I usually try to post one or two reviews per week, even during the height of the college basketball season.
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Above all, thank you to my loyal online fans old and new–with a special virtual shout-out to my new group representing the first listening board with the podcasts housed on SoundCloud. You guys and ladies are amazing!
For some of you, I will hope to see you again come the fall. Thanks for sharing in this special season, one that I will certainly remember for a long time to come.