Wooden Watch: Week 5
The college basketball season is beginning to heat up as conference play is right around the corner, and the contenders from the Wooden Award are separating themselves from the pretenders. Let’s look at some of the candidates for this year’s Wooden Award:
Markus Howard, Marquette
The senior guard standing at just 5-foot-11 has quickly proven this season that he is one of the most dominant players in the country. Howard is bucket machine as he averages 26 points this season thanks to a 51-point showing with nine three-pointers against USC on Friday. He’s getting a lot of comparisons to NBA stars Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, because he can legitimately pull up from anywhere.
The biggest question moving forward will be Howard’s track record against blue bloods. He seems to disappear when the Golden Eagles need him the most, like when he scored just six points in 32 minutes in a loss to No. 3 Maryland on Sunday. This Marquette team stands at 6-2 for now, but Howard is a scorer and not much else. Without a dominant playmaker or defender, this team could sink quick and so would Howard’s Wooden Award chances.
Jordan Nwora, Louisville
Unlike Howard, the 6-foot-7 junior from Buffalo, New York has proven that he can beat good teams. No. 1 Louisville dominated the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines by 15 on Tuesday thanks to Nwora’s 22 points and 12 boards in 36 minutes.
Consistency is key for Nwora, who has played in every single game this season and hasn’t scored less than 18 points in any of them. He’s also very efficient, shooting just over 46 percent from the field and almost 44 percent on threes this year. Barring injury, he might already have the ACC Player of the Year Award locked up, but Nwora has a good chance to win two more trophies: a Wooden Award and a National Championship.
Lamar Stevens, Penn State
There were many question marks heading into Stevens’ senior year, and he’s answered just about all of them with flying colors. Through four games, he’s averaging 17.8 points, the third most in the Big Ten and more than award favorite Cassius Winston. He had his best game of the young season two weeks ago against Bucknell when he put up 27 points, three steals and an emphatic dunk which gave the Nittany Lions the momentum to seal the deal and get the win.
A big concern heading into the year for Stevens was the lackluster consistency of his outside shot. He’s currently shooting just over 23% from downtown. If he can develop a more consistent jumper, he would be one of the best all-around players in the game.
Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky
The Kentucky Wildcats had an early season scare three weeks ago when they lost to Evansville. They probably lost because their freshman guard Tyrese Maxey struggled. He began the year in the sixth-man role, but after scoring 26 points and grabbing five boards in the first game of the season against Michigan State, John Calipari was so impressed that he moved him into a starting role.
Maxey is a legitimate scoring force. He’s only hit 26 percent of his three point attempts this year, but he’s shooting a solid 50 percent from inside the arc. With a No. 8 Kentucky team that doesn’t have the usual abundance of one-and-done players this year, Maxey will have plenty of opportunities with the ball and has the chance to put up some impressive numbers.
Jack McCune is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.