KU’s Udoka Azubuike, Missouri’s Jontay Porter are candidates for Abdul-Jabbar award

By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

Kansas junior Udoka Azubuike and Missouri sophomore Jontay Porter are two of 20 candidates for the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar center of the year award, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Friday.

The annual honor in its fifth year recognizes the top center in college basketball.

Azubuike, 7-foot, 270 pounds from Delta, Nigeria, averaged 13.0 points on NCAA-best 77 percent shooting as a sophomore. He also contributed 7.0 rebounds a game. Porter, 6-11, 240-pounds from Columbia, averaged 9.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 43.7 percent from the field his freshman campaign.

Others on the Abdul-Jabbar preseason watch list: Daniel Gafford, Arkansas; Austin Wiley, Auburn; James Thompson, Eastern Michigan; Jessie Govan, Georgetown; Killian Tillie, Gonzaga; Alessandro Lever, Grand Canyon; Nick Richards, Kentucky; Cameron Krutwig, Loyola; Naz Reid, LSU; Jalen Smith, Maryland; Dewan Hernandez, Miami; Nick Ward, Michigan State; Bol Bol, Oregon; Moses Brown, UCLA; James Dickey, UNC Greensboro; Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky; Nathan Knight, William & Mary and Ethan Happ, Wisconsin.

The winner will be presented at The College Basketball Awards on April 12 in Los Angeles.

ESPN ranks KU No. 1

Kansas is ranked No. 1 and Kentucky No. 2 in ESPN.com’s preseason power rankings released on Friday.

Gonzaga is No. 3 followed by Nevada, Duke, North Carolina, Auburn, Tennessee, Villanova, Michigan State, Oregon, Virginia, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Kansas State, LSU, Mississippi State, Washington, Florida State, UCLA, West Virginia, Marquette, North Carolina State, Alabama and St. John’s.

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On ESPN.com deciding between KU and Kentucky, Jeff Borzello writes: “Right now, it comes down to versatility, balance and experience and Kansas just has more of it. The Jayhawks have three guys who can play point guard. They can go more standard with the Lawson brothers (Dedric, K.J.) at the forward spots and Marcus Garrett or (Lagerald) Vick at the 2; or they can go jumbo with Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa up front and Dedric Lawson also on the floor. Bill Self is just spoiled for choice — and he has eight guys with college experience in his rotation. (Quentin) Grimes might be the best incoming guard in the country, but neither he nor (Devon) Dotson will need to rush to get acclimated.”

Lawson leads player list

CBSsports.com has named KU’s Dedric Lawson the fourth best player in the country heading into the 2018-19 season. KU’s Quentin Grimes is No. 21, Kansas State’s Dean Wade No. 23, Missouri’s Jontay Porter No. 40, KU’s Udoka Azubuike No. 54, KSU’s Barry Brown No. 59 and Xavier Sneed No. 74, Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie No. 89 and KU’s Lagerald Vick No. 94.

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