Wooden Award Favorites
College basketball is returning to action this week and there is a lot of anticipation surrounding the amount talent this season will showcase. With a combination of returning stars and an extremely talented freshman class, more teams are contending for the national championship than ever before.
Despite all the talent each team has there are a few players that stand out from the bunch and are poised to be Wooden Award candidates by the end of the season. Here are the preseason favorites heading into the year:
RJ Barrett - Forward - Duke:
Barrett fits the mold of modern forwards in today’s game. He will be an incredible asset for Duke defensively, as his frame and agility allow him to guard positions anywhere from the one to the four.
Barrett has been working all summer with renown NBA skills coach Drew Hanlen, improving many aspects of his game, most notably his jump shot. However, Barrett’s greatest strength is his ability to attack the rim and get to the basket.
Barrett also has incredible finishing ability at the rim which is rare for someone his size. If Barrett can put all the pieces together and there are no chemistry issues at Duke, there is no reason why Barrett should not win the Wooden Award.
Rui Hachimura - Forward - Gonzaga:
Hachimura showed signs of brilliance last season, particularly in the second round of the NCAA tournament where he posted 25 points and four blocks against Ohio State. However, there were some glaring flaws in his game.
Hachimura’s motor on both ends of the is contagious for the rest of his team. If he can demonstrate a greater ability to create shots for himself off the dribble and have a reliable jump shot, he will dominate college basketball.
Given Hachimura’s progression from year to year since attending Gonzaga, there is no indication saying he will not be a stud this season, which makes the Wooden Award certainly possible for him this season.
Zion Williamson - Forward - Duke:
Never in the history of basketball has there been a prospect comparable to Zion Williamson. Just his measurables alone will leave you speechless. He is 6’7, 285 pounds with a 45-inch vertical.
To put that in perspective if Williamson were to enter the NBA today he would be the second heaviest player in the league. However, nobody that heavy in the league could run nearly as fast as Zion or jump nearly as high. When he was in ninth grade, you would find him playing point guard for his team, and today you could never imagine seeing a 285-pound point guard.
However, when you watch Williamson play it is evident he has all the ball skills and elusiveness to play anywhere on the floor. He has an unprecedented athletic ability and will dominate the collegiate level just on his athleticism alone.
Forget it if Williamson starts pulling up from range or is able to shoot free throws on a consistent basis. Zion’s flare and rare ability could easily win him the Wooden Award this season, so long as he can stand out on a particularly talented Duke team.
Nicholas Prince is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.