Sport

Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III among four finalists for Naismith Trophy

The four Naismith Award finalists were announced on Tuesday, with Villanova's Jalen Brunson, Duke's Marvin Bagley III, Arizona's Deandre Ayton, and Kansas' Devonte' Graham making up the quartet.

While Ayton and Bagley are both in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick in June's National Basketball Association draft, the other two finalists-Graham and Brunson-helped their respective teams grab No. 1 seeds in the Big Dance.

For the second year in a row, Villanova University has a finalist, and Brunson would be the school's first victor of the Citizen Naismith Trophy (Josh Hart was a finalist in 2017). Frank Mason III won the honor in 2017 and Danny Manning was the 1988 recipient. The vote was tabulated and certified by Aprio, formerly Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, the largest full-service, independent CPA-led business advisory firm, based in Atlanta, GA.

Celebrating its 50th year by honoring past winners, the Citizen Naismith Trophy has been presented to 45 unique winners at 31 schools over the last 49 years, starting with its first presentation to UCLA's Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in 1969.

The 2018 Citizen Naismith Trophy victor will be announced on Sunday, April 1, at the Naismith Awards Brunch at Pearl Stable in San Antonio.

Graham is one of four finalists for the Naismith Trophy, awarded to the top player in the country each year.

With Graham, Kansas captured its 14th consecutive Big 12 title and won the conference tournament.

On every national player of year watch list, Graham is the only player in NCAA Division I this season averaging 17.0-plus points, 7.0-plus assists, 1.6-plus steals and fewer than 3.0 turnovers per game.

Graham ranks third nationally, and second in the Big 12, in assists per game at 7.5. He has averaged 19.4 points per game entering the NCAA Tournament, adding 4.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds per contest, while shooting 53.1 percent from the floor overall and 41.3 percent from three-point range.

Ayton, a 6-10 center from Phoenix, became the third player in Pac-12 history to be named both the conference's freshman and player of the year after averaging 20.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. His 98 3-pointers made are fifth on the KU season list as last week he passed his own season-high mark of 94 set in 2016-17.



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