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Arizona’s Deandre Ayton named Naismith Trophy finalist

Arizona's Deandre Ayton (13) reaches for a rebound during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA in the semifinals of the Pac-12 men's tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Las Vegas. Arizona won 78-67 in overtime. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

For his stellar play throughout the 2018 season, University of Arizona’s big man Deandre Ayton was named a Naismith Trophy finalist on Tuesday.

He is joined by Marvin Bagley III from Duke, Jalen Brunson from Villanova and Devonte Graham from Kansas.

If he does end up winning the coveted award, he will be just the third freshman in the history of the award to take home the hardware. He would also become the first player out of the Pac-12 to win the honor from somewhere other than UCLA.

And it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those who are familiar with his dominant play.

In the Pac-12, his 392 rebounds, including a staggering 113 offensive boards, led the conference — 29 more than second place UCLA’s Thomas Welsh’s 343. He only trails UCLA’s Aaron Holiday in scoring, averaging 20.3 points per game, while shooting 61.6 percent from the field and 74.2 percent from the free throw line. He added 59 blocked shots, tying the seventh most in conference history by a freshman.

Under the spotlight of the Pac-12 Tournament, Ayton continued to shine, dropping back-to-back 32-point games and adding 14 and 18 rebounds against UCLA and in the title game against USC, respectively, helping the Wildcats lock up their seventh tournament title. He also passed Arizona’s Al Fleming’s mark for most double-doubles in a season with 23.

If he does win the award, it would just add to the list of honors the big man already totes as he was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player — becoming the first player to win all three awards in the same season.


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