Ayton named Karl Malone Player of the Year

Ayton named Karl Malone Player of the Year
Deandre Ayton.

The awards continue to roll in for highly touted big man Deandre Ayton. The former Arizona Wildcat was named the “Karl Malone Power Forward” of the year at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Basketball awards show hosted in Los Angeles, California, over the weekend.

Ayton, who is projected to enter the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a centre, played the power forward position at Arizona this past season to accommodate the team, as Dusan Ristic, another 7-footer, played the five.

In his lone collegiate season, Ayton averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 61.6 percent from the field.

Ayton was the first player in the history of the Pac-12 Conference to earn Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the conference tournament in the same season. His 24 double-doubles over 35 games, set a new Arizona school record and tied for first nationally last season with Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy.

Ayton is expected to be one of the top three picks in the June NBA Draft.

According to Ayton, in an interview with ESPN at the awards, he saw the game against Oregon as the turning point in his season.

“Playing at Oregon, it was a lot of adversity in that game, a lot of distractions, but we had one goal to win that game,” Ayton said.

“Not having coach Sean Miller coach that game was a lot of pressure. But it really brought me and my teammates together. It was us against the world.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win. But we grew and our relationships got stronger.”

The Oregon game came shortly after the scandal broke, which alleged that Miller had made a $100,000 payment to Ayton to get him to come to Arizona. Ayton had 18 points and 16 rebounds in that game.

Miller elected to stay away from the team for five days before denying any wrong doing.

In other Naismith positional awards, Purdue’s Carsen Edwards was named the Jerry West Award as the top shooting guard, Villanova’s Jalen Brunson won the Bob Cousy point guard of the year award, Villanova’s Mikal Bridges was named the Julius Erving small forward of the year and Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado was named the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar center of the year.