Calipari, Cauley-Stein up for Naismith honors

As perhaps the MVP of Kentucky’s 30-0 season, Willie Cauley-Stein was on Wednesday named one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Trophy.

The junior forward has also been named a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award honoring the nation’s top player. He is averaging 8.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game for the Wildcats and has earned a reputation as the nation’s most complete defensive player.

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Cauley-Stein leads UK with 42 steals and has blocked 49 shots, second on the team behind freshman big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Earlier this season, Cauley-Stein became the first player in program history to record more than 200 blocks and 100 steals in a career. He is one of only eight players in UK’s storied tradition to record more than 500 rebounds, 100 blocks and 75 steals.

The 7-footer has been even better in marquee matchups. In UK’s six games against ranked opponents, Cauley-Stein leads the Cats in scoring (11.5) and rebounding (8.2).

The other nine semifinalists are: Jerian Grant (Notre Dame); Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin), Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Cameron Payne (Murray State), D'Angelo Russell (Ohio State), Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa), Deion Wright (Utah) and former Kentucky Wildcat Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga).

Kentucky coach John Calipari was also named a finalist for the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year. The No. 1 Cats are attempting to become the first undefeated national championship team since Indiana in 1976. They are one of only 13 teams to ever reach 30-0 in NCAA history.

Under Calipari’s guidance, UK leads the nation in scoring margin (+21.4) and defensive field goal percentage (.349). The Cats have held 18 of 30 opponents to 55 points or less, the most in school history during the shot clock era.

The Naismith awards will name finalists on March 22 and announce a winner during Final Four weekend on April 5.

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