It’s no surprise that these four are major reasons why their teams have been so successful this season, and it’s too bad that only one of them can take home the award. The Naismith Award, previously won by now NBA talents Buddy Hield, Frank Kaminsky, Doug McDermott, and Trey Burke, is given to the most consistent and valuable player in all of college basketball.
I will now explain why each candidate is as deserving as the next.
UCLA’s Lonzo Ball
Last season, the UCLA Bruins finished with an unimpressive 15–17 record, and missed the NCAA Tournament. This season, Lonzo Ball has led UCLA to a 30-4 record in one of the most competitive conferences in college, the PAC-12. Ball is averaging nearly 15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and is a big reason why UCLA has the No.1 offense in college basketball. Lonzo Ball’s pass-first mentality has resulted in six different Bruins averaging at least 10 points per game this year. The spotlight has always been on Lonzo Ball, and he has taken advantage of it.
After dominating in high school at Chino Hills, Lonzo Ball has exceeded expectations this season. Ball’s historic season for the UCLA Bruins has not gone unnoticed, and you will see why at the 2017 NBA Draft. UCLA will play against the Cincinnati Bearcats tonight, and Lonzo Ball is looking to continue what has been a remarkable season.
Villanova’s Josh Hart
After leading Villanova to a National Championship last season, Josh Hart was looking to repeat this March. Unfortunately, his team fell to the Wisconsin Badgers yesterday in the round of 32. The senior guard averaged almost 19 points and 6.5 rebounds shooting over 50% this season. Josh Hart was one of the main reasons why Villanova finished the regular season with a 31-3 record. Hart’s season-long consistency was evident in yesterday’s loss, scoring 19 points on an efficient 5-9 shooting.
Most NBA General Managers prefer to draft/develop freshman or sophomore talent out of college, but Josh Hart’s leadership skills, and consistent ability to provide on both ends of the floor is simply too special to pass on. Hart averaged more than 10 points more than he did in his rookie season at Villanova, and has developed into one of the most exciting players in the country to watch.
Kansas’ Frank Mason III
What’s not to love about Frank Mason III. The senior has improved every year since joining Kansas in 2013, and is having a season for the ages. When you average nearly 21 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists, you’re going to win player of the year honors in your conference. Mason, who is averaging more than 15 more points than he did in his rookie season, is the main reason why the Kansas Jayhawks are 29-4 this season. Frank Mason scored 22 points in Kansas’ 100-62 win against UC Davis in the first round. Mason’s desire to capture a National Championship has been contagious this season. After a pair of third round exits, and a defeat in the Elite Eight last year, Frank Mason III is as committed to winning as anyone.
Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan
Before I get into how incredible Caleb Swanigan has played this season, I have to touch upon all of the adversity he has overcome. When Swanigan was just 13 years old, he weighted 360 pounds. Swanigan lived with his mother and siblings in shelters, and was moving from school to school. Roosevelt Barnes, a sports agent living in Utah decided to adopt Swanigan, and things quickly took off from there.
Swanigan lost 100 pounds, and began dominating high school basketball. Caleb Swanigan has completely turned his life around, and was awarded with a scholarship to play basketball for Purdue. After a strong rookie campaign in which Swanigan averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds, the Boilermakers were upset in the first round by Arkansas-Little Rock. This season, Swanigan took things to the next level. Averaging over 18 points, and almost 13 rebounds, Caleb Swanigan has become arguably the most dominant big man in college basketball. Swanigan erupted for 20 points and 12 rebounds in Purdue’s win over Iowa State last night. Swanigan was given an opportunity to turn his life around, and he took advantage of it. Caleb Swanigan is as deserving as any of the other candidates to win the 2017 Naismith Award.
Which of these four players do you think deserves the award? Let us know in the comments below!