LEXINGTON, Ky. – After landing players on two of the first three Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame positional preseason lists, the Kentucky men’s basketball team landed not one but two players on Thursday’s Karl Malone Award watch list.
Graduate transfer Reid Travis and sophomore PJ Washington are two of the 20 candidates for the Karl Malone Award, which is presented to the nation’s top power forward at the end of the season.
Named after Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone, a 14-time NBA All Star and 11-time All-NBA First Team player, this year’s award will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show in April. Travis and Washington are looking to become the first Wildcats to win the award since its inception in 2015.
Previous winners of the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award include Deandre Ayton, Arizona (2018), Johnathan Motley, Baylor (2017), Georges Niang, Iowa State (2016) and Montrezl Harrell, Louisville (2015).
Including Travis and Washington, five players from the Southeastern Conference are on the preseason list.
Both Travis and Washington have the college credentials to back up the early-season accolades they are receiving.
Washington, a 6-foot-8 forward, returns to Kentucky as its leading scorer (10.8 points per game) and rebounder (5.7 boards per game). He appeared in 37 games for the Wildcats in 2017-18, starting 30 of them. Washington scored in double figures in 11 of the final 12 games of the season, averaging 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 57.6 percent from the floor, including a double-double vs. Kansas State in the Sweet 16 (18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds in addition to a career-high-tying three steals).
The Dallas native averaged 14.5 points, 7.5 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game in in the four-game exhibition tour in the Bahamas. He shot 51.4 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from long range and scored in double figures in all four games against professional teams.
Travis, a 6-8, 238-pound forward, will begin his Kentucky career highly decorated. A two-time All-Pac-12 selection, Travis left Stanford as one of just three players in school history to record at least 1,400 points and 700 rebounds in less than 100 games played. Last season, he averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, both ranked third in the league. He scored in double figures in all but one of his 35 games played.
In the Bahamas, against four professional teams, Travis averaged 10.9 points and a team-high 10.3 rebounds in four wins. His best game was against Team Toronto, when he recorded 19 points and 15 rebounds. He also grabbed 14 boards against the Bahamas National Team.
By mid-February, the watch list for the Karl Malone Award will be trimmed to 10 players. Five finalists will be revealed in March with the winner being announced during the annual ESPN College Basketball Awards show on April 12.
Kentucky is slated to begin exhibition play beginning with its annual Blue-White Game on Sunday. That game will air live on the SEC Network at 7 p.m. UK will follow that with two tune-ups against Transylvania on Oct. 26 and Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Nov. 2. Both of those games will also air live on the SEC Network with 7 p.m. tip times. The Wildcats open the regular season in Indianapolis for the State Farm Champions Classic. They will face Duke at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.