Australian Ben Simmons headlines the shortlist of players for the highest honour in US college basketball.
The Louisiana State University star and Oklahoma freshman Buddy Hield, the consensus top-two picks in the next NBA draft, are both on the 20-man shortlist for the John R Wooden Award.
Named after the legendary coach who made his name leading UCLA from 1948 to 1975, it is given to the country’s best collegiate basketballer and will be handed out on April 8.
The list will get whittled down to 15 and a 10-man Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced before the winner of the individual honour is named.
If Simmons wins the award, he will not be the first Australian to do so, as Golden State centre and 2005 number one draft pick Andrew Bogut was named the best college player for the 2004/05 season after his sophomore year at the University of Utah.
Last year’s winner, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, was drafted ninth in the 2015 NBA draft and is currently playing for the Charlotte Hornets.
Other notable winners include retired greats like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and David Robinson, as well as current stars like Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis.
Notable Wooden Award winners
- 78/79: Larry Bird – 3 NBA titles, 3 NBA MVPs
- 83/84: Michael Jordan – 6 NBA titles, 5 NBA MVPs
- 86/87: David Robinson – 2 NBA titles, 1 NBA MVP
- 96/97: Tim Duncan – 5 NBA titles, 2 NBA MVPs
- 04/05: Andrew Bogut – 1 NBA title
- 06/07: Kevin Durant – 1 NBA MVP
- 08/09: Blake Griffin
- 11/12: Anthony Davis