The Los Angeles Athletic Club has announced its Preseason Top 50 today on ESPN's SportsCenter and on ESPN.com. 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 the sport’s most prestigious honor, the 2015 John R. Wooden Award Presented by Wendy's.
Many 2014 NCAA Tournament stars were chosen to the Wooden Award Presented by Wendy's Preseason Top 50, including Ryan Boatright of Connecticut, an All-Final Four team selection in 2014 when he helped lead his team to the NCAA title; three players from a Kentucky squad that fell to the Huskies in the title game, Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison, and Andrew Harrison; Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, the MVP of the 2014 West Regional; and Florida’s Michael Frazier II. Other returners of note include Tyler Haws of BYU, the nation’s No. 2 returning scorer (23.2 ppg), and Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet, the 2014 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year.
Seven freshmen were named to the team: Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, Jr. of Kansas; Stanley Johnson of Arizona, a high school Wooden Award honoree in 2014; Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor of Duke; Karl-Anthony Towns of Kansas; and Myles Turner of Texas.
Kansas (Alexander, Oubre, Jr., Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden, Jr.) and Kentucky (Cauley-Stein, the Harrison twins, and Towns) lead the honors with four players apiece, while preseason Top 5 Arizona boasts three (Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Johnson). Duke, Louisville, Texas, Wichita State and Wisconsin have two players each on the preseason Top 50 list.
In terms of conferences, the Big 12 leads the way with 10 picks, followed by the ACC (8), and the Big Ten (7), Pac-12 (7), and SEC (7). The American, the Missouri Valley, and WCC had two picks apiece, while the Atlantic-10, Big East, Horizon, Sun Belt, and Ivy League each had one selection.
The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the 2015 Wooden Award. The Wooden Award National Advisory Board will select 25 players for the midseason list in early January. The leading candidates will be further pared to 20 in early February. Fifteen 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 will be placed on the ballot and submitted to voters prior to the NCAA Tournament, and voting will take into account play during the opening rounds of the tournament. The Wooden Award All American Team will be announced the week of the "Elite Eight" round of the NCAA Tournament.
About the John R. Wooden Award:
The 39th annual Wooden Award ceremony will honor the Men's and Women's Wooden Award winners, and will include the presentation of the Wooden Award All American Teams and the Legends of Coaching Award, which in 2015 will go to San Diego State Head Men’s Basketball Coach Steve Fisher. The event will take place the weekend of April 10-12, 2015.
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 (’09) and Maya Moore of Connecticut (’09 and ‘11). Creighton’s Doug McDermott won the 2014 Wooden Award Presented by Wendy’s.
Utah's only Wooden Award winner was 2005 national Player of the Year Andrew Bogut, the current center for the Golden State Warriors. (The 1998 recipient was Antawn Jamison, whose North Carolina Tarheels were upset by Andre Miller and the University of Utah in the Final Four.)