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Utes Poeltl Named Finalist for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame today announced the 15 watch list members for the 2015 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award. Among the 15 finalists is Utah freshman center Jakob Poeltl.

The Austrian 7-footer is having an impact, ranking third in the Pac-12 in blocks and seventh in rebounding. He is also 15th in the country in rebound rate among all Division I players.

Poeltl is two blocks shy of setting the single-season freshman mark at Utah and could very well set the mark for field goal percentage (58.8). Only two other players in Utah history have averaged over 9.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and blocked 40 shots as a freshman; Andrew Bogut and Keith Van Horn.

Named after Hall of Famer and three-time NCAA Champion Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the annual honor in its inaugural year recognizes the top centers in men's college basketball. The watch list of 15 candidates was determined by a national committee comprised of top college basketball personnel.

"For many years the Basketball Hall of Fame has recognized the top collegiate point guards in the nation with the Bob Cousy Award. We are excited to expand upon these awards by now recognizing the top players at each position," said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame. "When it comes to collegiate centers, none have accomplished more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and we are pleased to include him in this celebration of the best in the game today."

"It's truly an honor for this award to bear my name," said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a 1995 inductee of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and six-time NBA Champion. "The fifteen athletes on this list represent the most dedicated, determined and skillful centers in college basketball today and I wish them well as they head into March."

By early March, the current list of 15 finalists for the 2015 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award will be narrowed down to five players. The final five players in contention for the award will be presented to Mr. Abdul-Jabbar and the Hall of Fame's selection committee. The winner of the 2015 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award will be presented at ESPN's new College Basketball Awards presented by Wendy's from Club Nokia in Los Angeles, CA on Friday, April 10, 2015. The Awards will be televised live on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. EST.

2015 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award Candidates:

Bobby Portis, University of Arkansas

Alan Williams, University of California, Santa Barbara

Josh Scott, University of Colorado

Jahlil Okafor, Duke University

Joshua Smith, Georgetown University

Willie Cauley-Stein, University of Kentucky

Jarell Martin, Louisiana State University

Kennedy Meeks, University of North Carolina

Brad Waldow, Saint Mary's College

Stefan Nastic, Stanford University

Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse University

Jakob Poeltl, University of Utah

Damian Jones, Vanderbilt University

Daniel Ochefu, Villanova University

Frank Kaminsky, University of Wisconsin