The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award goes to the top center annually in men’s college basketball. Andy Katz breaks down his picks for the top 11 candidates entering 2019-20.
1. Udoka Azubuike, Sr., Kansas: Azubuike’s 2018-19 season was cut short by a hand injury, but when he played he was unstoppable at times in the post. Bill Self expects him to do that on a nightly basis and be the anchor the Jayhawks lacked last season. Having Azubuike back means Kansas is a legit Final Four contender yet again.
2. James Wiseman, Fr., Memphis: Penny Hardaway got the top player in the class of 2019 and the favorite to be the No. 1 NBA draft pick in 2020. But before he gets there, he can be a dominant player in the paint for the Tigers and help them chase an American Athletic Conference title and possibly more in the NCAA tournament.
3. Kaleb Wesson, Jr., Ohio State: Wesson’s importance was on display when he was suspended for three games late last season. The Buckeyes were lost without him and didn’t win any of those games in his absence. He came back and the Buckeyes beat Indiana in the Big Ten tournament to clinch an NCAA tournament berth. Wesson can be the anchor for the Buckeyes in their quest to challenge for a top four finish in the Big Ten.
4. Charles Bassey, So., Western Kentucky: Bassey’s decision to return rather than stay in the NBA draft was a bit of a surprise. He averaged a double-double and should do so again for a team that should enter Conference USA as the favorite next season.
5. Steven Enoch, Sr., Louisville: Enoch transferred from UConn to Louisville and blossomed into a shot-blocking, rim-protecting force around the basket. If his offensive game continues to grow, which it should, then the Cardinals will be in the thick of the chase for the top spot in the ACC.
6. Matt Haarms, Jr., Purdue: Haarms was the energy player off the bench his first season and then spent part of last season starting and coming in as a reserve. Regardless of when he plays, he brings enthusiasm, activity and a developing game that is barely scratching the surface of his potential.
7. Jon Teske, Sr., Michigan: Teske was one of the most improved players in the country last season. John Beilein gave him more confidence in the Big Ten tournament in 2018, and then Teske shined taking over for Mo Wagner last season. Juwan Howard should love his thirst for knowledge. Teske will have a chance to be an all-Big Ten player as a senior.
8. Omer Yurtseven, Jr., Georgetown: Yurtseven was exactly what the Hoyas were missing last season. He should give them the rim protector they need and the compliment to an outstanding guard tandem in Mac McClung and James Akinjo. Yurtseven has already competed at the highest level while at NC State in the ACC. He’ll be tough to handle in the Big East.
9. Daniel Oturu, So., Minnesota: Oturu didn’t have to be a dominant player last season with Jordan Murphy taking care of most of the board work. But Oturu is done with his apprenticeship and it’s his time to take over the post. He should be ready to handle the responsibility and be a major factor in the Big Ten.
10. Neemias Queta, Sr., Utah State: Queta could have stayed in the NBA draft but decided to come back to the Aggies. That’s great news for the favorites in the Mountain West, who now have a 1-2 punch with Sam Merrill on the wing and Queta in control in the paint.
11. Chase Jeter, Sr., Arizona: Jeter has seen steady improvement since transferring from Duke. He’ll have a stellar recruiting class around him and a lead guard in Nico Mannion who can feed him often.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL RANKINGS: Andy Katz gives his preseason Power 36 rankings, as of late May
12. Nick Richards, Jr., Kentucky
13. Isaiah Stewart, Fr., Washington
14. Vernon Carey, Fr., Duke:
15. Mike Watkins, Sr., Penn State
16. Filip Petrusev, So., Gonzaga
17. Reggie Perry, So., Mississippi State
18. Austin Wiley, Sr., Auburn
19. Cameron Krutwig, Jr., Loyola Chicago
20. Josh Carlton, Jr., UConn
21. Osun Osunniyi, So., St. Bonaventure
22. Onyeka Okongwu, Fr., USC
23. Armando Bacot, Fr., UNC
24. Luka Brajkovic, So., Davidson
25. Mattias Markusson, Sr., Loyola Marymount