Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert and Baylor guard Jared Butler, who will attempt to lead their teams into the Elite Eight this weekend, were among the five finalists announced Friday for the 2021 John R. Wooden Award.
Kispert and Butler are the only two active NCAA tournament players vying for the Wooden, awarded annually to the top player in college basketball. Kispert and Gonzaga will face Creighton in the Sweet 16’s West Region on Sunday, and Butler and Baylor take on Villanova on Saturday in the South Region.
The three other 2021 Wooden finalists announced Saturday — Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham, Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu and Iowa forward Luka Garza — all saw their teams fall in the second round.
Kispert, the WCC Player of the Year, leads the undefeated Zags with 19.2 points per game, to go along with 4.9 rebounds per contest. The 6-foot-7 senior is shooting 54.5% from the field, 90.1% from the free throw line and 45.8% from 3.
Butler, who has established himself as the nation’s top junior, leads 24-2 Baylor with 16.9 points per game and 2.1 steals per game and is second on the team with 4.8 assists per outing.
Also Friday, 10 players were named to the 2021 John R. Wooden Award Presented by Wendy’s All American Team. The five Wooden finalists mentioned above are joined by Kofi Cockburn (Illinois), Hunter Dickinson (Michigan), Evan Mobley (USC), Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga) and Drew Timme (Gonzaga), all of whom appeared on the 15-player Wooden ballot announced March 6.
Five players from the final ballot were neither named as Wooden finalists nor picked for the Wooden All American team: Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey, Villanova’s Collin Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, and Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell.