Buddy Hield and Breanna Stewart Take Home the Hardware at the John R. Wooden Award Ceremony
College basketball’s brightest stars gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Friday night to put a final bow on what was another successful college basketball season. The College Basketball Awards Presented by Wendy’s was hosted by the College Gameday crew of Jay Bilas, Jay Williams, Seth Greenberg, and Rece Davis.
The evening was full of special moments, including highlight packages of the season’s greatest plays, plus the best dunks of the year. Also featured were Tom Izzo and Denzel Valentine’s appearances on ‘Dancing With the Stars’, as well as Minnesota’s Rachel Banham and her social media interaction with Lakers superstar, Kobe Bryant. The cornerstone of the evening was the John R. Wooden Award, which is awarded to the top male, and top female players of the college basketball season.
The College Basketball Awards Presented by Wendy’s – in coordination with the Los Angeles Athletic Club and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame handed out a total of 8 awards on the evening. The main event of the night was the Wooden Award presentation, but the 7 other honors given out were awards for outstanding player at each position for the men, as well as the women’s Wooden Award, and the Wooden Legends of Coaching Award, which had previously been announced. Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith was honored with the Legends of Coaching Award, during his acceptance speech he gave much praise to Mr. John Wooden as well as the entire Wooden family.
Award Winners: Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding Point Guard 5’9” Tyler Ulis, who averaged over 7 assists per game in his sophomore season with the Kentucky Wildcats. Upon receiving the award, Ulis said he came into this season with one thing in mind, “My role was to lead this team, and I tried to do that.”
Jerry West Award, given to the most outstanding Shooting Guard Buddy Hield, Oklahoma University, averaged over 25 points per game this season. When asked about coming back for his senior season he said, “It’s been special, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am glad I came back.”
Julius Erving Award, given to the most outstanding Small Forward Denzel Valentine, Michigan State University, averaged 20 points, 7.6 assists, and 7.6 rebounds per game. When asked what it means to be given an award named after Dr. J he said, “ He is a legend, it is just a blessing and an honor.”
Karl Malone Award, given to the most outstanding Power Forward Georges Niang, Iowa State University. When asked what this season was like he said, “It was great, the memories will last in my mind forever.”
Kareem Abdul Jabbar Award, given to the most outstanding Center Jakob Poeltl, Utah, when asked what it means to win an award named after Kareem Abdul Jabbar he said, “It is so amazing, Kareem is the best center to play the game.”
Coming as no surprise, Breanna Stewart was named the Women’s Wooden Award winner, as she led the University of Connecticut to their fourth straight NCAA Championship, along the way Stewart became the first Women’s player to ever win four consecutive NCAA titles. This was her second consecutive season winning the Wooden Award. When asked about the pressure of going after four straight NCAA titles Stewart said, “It’s a huge challenge, and I credit a lot of it to Coach Auriemma and the rest of the staff for all they do for us.”
The Men’s award was a little less predictable, but ultimately the award went to Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, as he edged the Julius Erving Award winner, Denzel Valentine. Hield led the Sooners to the final four this season and finished his senior campaign averaging over 25 points per game. During his acceptance speech Hield said, “It’s been fun and I can’t be more blessed to be around college basketball, I can’t be prouder and I thank my family for supporting me through the whole journey.” Hield was accompanied by his family to the ceremony, also during his speech he reminisced on building his own basketball hoop with his brother and cousin, it was a very touching moment from a true gentleman.