SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame has five positional awards given to the top players in the country every year. This week the Hall of Fame committee unveiled its preseason watch lists of prospective players it believes will be in contention for the awards come season’s end. To no surprise of the Big Blue Nation, the Kentucky men’s basketball program has been well represented.
UK players have now earned selection to four of the five watch lists after freshman Nick Richards (pictured) was selected Friday, Oct. 20 for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar watch list, which honors the nation’s best center.
Richards is one of 20 candidates for the Abdul-Jabbar Award. PJ Washington previously earned selection to the Karl Malone watch list for the best power forward, Kevin Knox is among the candidates for the Julius Erving Award for the best small forward and Hamidou Diallo is among the selections for the Jerry West Award, which recognizes the best shooting guard.
Kentucky is one of four schools with four or more players earning selection to one of the positional award watch lists. UK joins Arizona, Duke and Southern Cal as the others to achieve the feat.
Fourteen combined players from the Southeastern Conference have been named to one of the five watch lists. Kentucky comprises 29 percent of the players honored. Texas A&M (three), Auburn (two) and Florida (two) had multiple players on the various watch lists, while Alabama, Georgia and Missouri each had one player chosen.
UK has had multiple winners of the various awards. Tyler Ulis was named the winner of the Bob Cousy Award for the best point guard in 2016 and Malik Monk won the Jerry West Award as the best shooting guard in 2017. Richards is looking to become the first winner from Kentucky of the Abdul-Jabbar award.
The Abdul-Jabbar Award be presented by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to the nation’s top center for the fourth consecutive season. The Hall of Fame announced its original list Friday.
The three previous winners of the award include Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski (2017), Utah’s Jakob Poeltl (2016) and Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky (2015).
By mid-February, the watch list of 20 players will be narrowed to 10. In March, five finalists will be presented to the award’s namesake and the Hall of Fame selection committee. The winner of the 2018 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show in Los Angeles on April 6. Players do not have to be on the watch list to win the award until the five finalists are announced.
Richards enters his freshman season after an impressive high school career. The 7-footer is a top-20 prospect by all of the major recruiting services and is ranked as high as No. 15 by 247Sports. He led The Patrick School to the championship of the New Jersey Tournament of Champions, joining Karl-Anthony Towns and Isaiah Briscoe as other Wildcats to have led their teams to the championship. Richards scored 24 points and had 12 rebounds in that win.
He is the 2017 winner of the Mr. New Jersey Basketball honor and was a participant in the McDonald’s All American Game, the Jordan Brand Classic, Nike Hoop Summit and the Elite 24. He is the second player from the Patrick School to suit up for the Cats. Former national champion and No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is the other.
The Abdul-Jabbar Award is named after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played for legendary coach and Hall of Famer John Wooden at the University of California, Los Angeles from 1966-69. He is a three-time NCAA champion who earned numerous accolades, including three-time Final Four Most Outstanding Player, three-time National College Player of the Year and three-time Consensus First-Team All-American (1967-1969).
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught,