SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Already a candidate for national player of the year awards and a leading contender for Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Kentucky men’s basketball sophomore forward PJ Washington is now among the finalists for the Karl Malone Award.
Washington was chosen by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as one of five finalists competing for the honor of the nation’s top power forward.
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 on April 12. Washington is looking to become the first Wildcat to win the award since its inception in 2015.
This year’s finalists include Washington, Mike Daum (South Dakota State), Dedric Lawson (Kansas), Grant Williams (Tennessee) and Zion Williamson (Duke).
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).
Fans are encouraged to visit HoophallAwards.com to cast their votes March 8-29.
On Wednesday, Washington was tabbed as one of 10 semifinalists for the Citizen Naismith Trophy, awarded annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to the national player of the year.
Washington has been on a tear since the calendar flipped to 2019. He’s scored 20 or more points in eight of the last 13 games and has been at the center of Kentucky’s national surge. The Wildcats have won 15 of their last 17 and are firmly in the discussion for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Washington is averaging 18.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 blocks over the last 13 games. During that stretch, he’s shooting 53.7 percent from the floor and 47.5 from 3-point range. That span also includes three straight double-doubles vs. then-No. 9/10 Kansas, at Vanderbilt and at Florida.
Overall, Washington leads the Wildcats in both scoring (14.9 points per game) and rebounding (7.4 rpg). After mulling a decision to turn pro after last season, Washington is enjoying career highs in virtually every statistical category in his return sophomore season, including a team-high seven double-doubles.
For the season, Washington is shooting 52.5 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from 3-point range. A year after hitting just five 3s in 37 games at a 23.8-percent rate, he’s already drained 30 in 30 games this season.
He’s one of just five players nationally standing 6-foot-8 or taller averaging at least 14.5 points, shooting at least 50 percent from the field, at least 40 percent from 3-point range and with at least 30 made 3-pointers.
Perhaps the truest indicator of Washington’s worth this season is his impressive play vs. Kentucky’s best competition. In UK’s eight games vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams, Washington is averaging 16.1 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent.
Notable games include a recent 23-point game vs. Auburn that featured a career-high five 3-pointers, 23 points in the home win over then-top-ranked Tennessee, and a 29-point, 12-rebound game vs. Seton Hall.
Washington was named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week on Feb. 19 and is a two-time SEC Player of the Week pick this season.
Kentucky will complete its regular season Saturday vs. Florida at 2 p.m. in Rupp Arena. CBS will televise the game.