Frank Mason's hardware haul not entirely rare, but impressive all the same
As you all surely know by now, Kansas senior Frank Mason III in the past couple of weeks has swept nine national player of the year honors, ranging from the big dogs like the Naismith Trophy and AP Player of the Year to similar honors handed out by USA Today, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, Sporting News Bleacher Report and a couple of national associations.
With the Wooden Award representing the last major honor to be handed out — Friday in Los Angeles — Mason, who led the Jayhawks to a 13th consecutive Big 12 title and became the first player in Big 12 history to finish a season averaging 20 points and 5 assists per game, is on the verge of sweeping them all.
While the other honors are nice and those trophies shine just as bright on a mantle or in a trophy case, the Wooden, Naismith and AP honors are generally regarded as the biggest of them all.
With that in mind, I set out Monday morning to find how often a player has swept all three of the top honors and the result surprised me just a little.
It turns out, it’s much more common than many might think.
In fact, only twice in the past 20 years have those three awards not gone to the same player.
Last season, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield won the Wooden and Naismith while Denzel Valentine, of Michigan State, won the AP honor.
Before that, you had to go all the way back to 2003, when Texas’ T.J. Ford won the Wooden and Naismith awards and David West, of Xavier, won the AP honor. Other than that, from 1998 through 2017, it’s the been the same player winning all three awards 18 of the 20 times.
While that bodes well for Mason’s chances of winning the Wooden Award on Friday — and, at this point, how could they not give it to him? — it also would make that accomplishment a little less rare than some may believe.
Having said that, sweeping all 10 awards is another feat altogether. For one, Bleacher Report has not been giving out it’s award for 20 years. For two, some of those other outlets have gone against the grain a few times, with a couple of them involving Jayhawks.
For instance, in 2002, when Duke’s Jay Williams swept the big three, KU’s Drew Gooden tied him for the NABC honor.
A year later, in 2003, KU’s Nick Collison split things up even more when he won the NABC award despite Ford winning the Wooden and Naismith and West being named the AP player of the year.
In 2012, when Anthony Davis, of Kentucky won — and should have won — most major player of the year honors, the NABC award went to Michigan State’s Draymond Green and ESPN.com picked KU’s Thomas Robinson.
Same thing in 2006, when Duke’s J.J. Redick cleaned up, Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison won the NABC honor and Oscar Robertson Trophy, handed out by the USBWA.
Different strokes for different folks, I guess. And, it’s important to note that each award has a slightly different criteria, outlined by the organization sponsoring the award and the voting panel making the selection.
Every once in a while, character will play a larger role or voters will give greater consideration to performance in the tournament or high-profile games, and that can lead to different awards going to different players.
In Mason’s case, he was high character all season and throughout his KU career, was stellar on the stat sheet, showed up in the tournament and also delivered in KU’s biggest games all season long.
That’s why he has cleaned up this postseason and why there’s no reason to believe he won’t add another on Friday when the Wooden winner is announced.
I’m sure Mason would trade all of them for a trip to the Final Four or to be playing in tonight’s national title game, but getting to that point involves a little bit of luck. What Mason has achieved was all about the work he put in and the production all of that heart and sweat generated.
What a year.
Players to sweep the AP, Naismith and Wooden Awards in the last 20 years:
2017 – Frank Mason III, Kansas
2015 – Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
2014 – Doug McDermott, Creighton
2013 – Trey Burke, Michigan
2012 – Anthony Davis, Kentucky
2011 – Jimmer Frdette, BYU
2010 – Evan Turner, Ohio State
2009 – Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
2008 – Tyler Hansbrough, UNC
2007 – Kevin Durant, Texas
2006 – J.J. Redick, Duke
2005 – Andrew Bogut, Utah
2004 – Jameer Nelson, Saint Joseph’s
2002 – Jay Williams, Duke
2001 – Shane Battier, Duke
2000 – Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati
1999 – Elton Brand, Duke
1998 – Antawn Jamison, UNC