Cade Cunningham, Ayo Dosunmu, Luka Garza, Corey Kispert named Naismith finalists | Zagsblog
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Saturday / July 13.
  • Cade Cunningham, Ayo Dosunmu, Luka Garza, Corey Kispert named Naismith finalists

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    The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced the four finalists for the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy, the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball, and they include Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu, Iowa’s Luka Garza and Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert.

    The finalists emerged from a group of 10 semifinalists and were selected by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national voting academy, comprised of leading journalists from around the country, current and former head coaches, former award winners and conference commissioners, all of whom base their selections on outstanding on-court performances during the 2020-21 college basketball season. The next round of voting runs from March 19-31, with the winner being announced live on CBS Sports Network’s NCAA® March Madness® 360 studio show on April 3. 

    “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the level of talent on the court was stellar, as these players emerged as the leading candidates for the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. “Their consistency throughout the course of the season and ability to dominate games make them among the game’s top performers, and we look forward to honoring one of them at the end of the season.”

    Once again, fans will have a say in who wins the top honor by participating in the Naismith Awards Fan Vote presented by Jersey Mike’s. By visiting from March 19-31, fans will have the opportunity to cast a ballot daily for the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy for the Men’s and Women’s College Player of the Year and the Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year awards. There will also be opportunities to vote on the @NaismithTrophy and NCAA @MarchMadness Twitter pages. The fan vote will account for five percent of the overall vote, which will be tabulated and certified by Aprio, a premier CPA-led business advisory firm, headquartered in Atlanta.

    The winner will be presented with the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy, which is produced and provided by Herff Jones, leading provider of graduation and educational products and services designed to inspire achievement and create memorable experiences for students. A replica trophy will be donated by Herff Jones to the winner’s university. 

    About the Finalists:

    Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State

    • Cunningham was named Big 12 Player of the Year and was also unanimously chosen as the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, becoming only the fourth player in conference history to earn both honors.
    • He led the team in scoring during the regular season for both conference games (20.1 ppg) and overall (19.7 ppg).
    • Cunningham is averaging 20.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game so far this season. 
    • Even in a shortened season, he is just the third Cowboys freshman to ever score 500 points in a season and needs just 16 points to become the highest scoring freshman in program history.
    • Oklahoma State opens as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region.
    Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

    • Dosunmu is averaging 20.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game so far this season and has scored in double figures in 41 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation. 
    • The junior guard is the only NCAA player during the last 11 seasons to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and five assists per game in a season.
    • He was a unanimous Big Ten First-Team All-Conference selection and was named the Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player after leading his team to the conference tournament title.
    • Dosunmu recorded two triple-doubles this season to set the record in the history of the Fighting Illini program and contributing to the program’s winningest Big Ten season in school history.
    • Illinois opens as a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament.
    Luka Garza, Iowa

    • Garza leads NCAA Division I this season in total points scored (687 points) and is ranked third nationally in points per game 23.7 (ppg).
    • Named Big Ten Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, he is only the second player ever to accomplish that feat (Jim Jackson, Ohio State, 1991-92).
    • The center was a unanimous Big Ten First-Team All-Conference selection, and his jersey number (No. 55) was retired on Senior Day.
    • He became the Hawkeyes’ all-time leading scorer and the only men’s player in Big Ten history to have a resume that includes over 2,200 points, 900 rebounds, 150 blocked shots and 100 3-pointers. 
    • Iowa opens as the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament West Region.
    Corey Kispert, Gonzaga

    • Kispert led Gonzaga to its first-ever unbeaten regular season finish in program history (26-0), and the Zags will become the sixth team to enter the NCAA Tournament unbeaten since Indiana went wire to wire in 1975-76.
    • He also led the Bulldogs to claim both the West Coast Conference regular season and conference tournament championships.
    • The senior forward was named the WCC Player of the Year after leading the league in scoring (19.3 ppg).
    • He will leave the Zags as the winningest player in program history (121-10).
    • Gonzaga has been the top-ranked team the entire season and enters the NCAA Tournament as the overall No. 1 seed.
    Written by

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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