Buddy Hield, Breanna Stewart honored as nation's top players

ByMyron Medcalf ESPN logo
Saturday, April 9, 2016

Oklahomashooting sensation Buddy Hield, who recently led the Sooners to their first Final Four appearance in 14 years, won the Wooden Award on Friday in one of the closest races in its history.

Hield edged Michigan Statesenior Denzel Valentine.The Sooners senior also won the Jerry West Award as the nation's best shooting guard.

Breanna Stewart was the women's Wooden Award winner after leading UConn past Syracuse in Tuesday's national championship game, the Huskies' 75th straight win.

The awards were given out during college basketball's nationally televised awards show in Los Angeles.

Midway through the season, Hield and Valentine surged ahead of the pack of Wooden contenders with rare numbers. Hield finished the season with averages of 25 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while connecting on 46 percent of his 3-point attempts and 89 percent of his free throws.

During Oklahoma's 44-point loss to Villanova in the Final Four, Hield became the Big 12's all-time leading scorer with 2,291 career points (former Oklahoma star Wayman Tisdale scored 2,661 career points when the conference was known as the Big Eight).

Hield hugged his mother before taking the stage to accept his second trophy of the night.

"It's been fun and I can't be more blessed to be around college basketball," he said. "I can't be prouder and I thank my family for supporting me through the whole journey."

Hield explained how he built his own hoop in the Bahamas, where he grew up, using plywood and stolen nails.

"It was tough, but I got it up and asked my brother to help me," he said.

Valentine, who won the Julius Erving Award as the nation's top small forward, averaged 19.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.6 assists this season. He is the first player to finish with averages that exceeded 17, 7 and 7 since assists became an official statistic in the 1983-84 season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

In Chad Ford's latest mock NBA draft, Hield is projected as the No. 6 pick by the New Orleans Pelicans, with Valentine projected as the 16th pick to the Utah Jazz.

Other finalists for the Wooden wereMalcolm Brogdon of Virginia, Brice Johnson of North Carolina andTyler Ulis of Kentucky.

This was the second straight season Stewart won the Wooden Award.

"It's a huge challenge," Stewart said of expectations. "And I credit a lot of it to Coach [Geno] Auriemma and the rest of the staff for all they do for us."

Other finalists were Rachel Banham of Minnesota, Moriah Jefferson of UConn, Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State and A'ja Wilson of South Carolina. Stewart accepted the trophy from Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale as Wooden's daughter, Nan, looked on.

Stewart lost just five games in her four-year career. As a freshman, she had predicted the Huskies would win four straight national titles.

"I don't regret it, but it wasn't easy, that's for sure," she said.

Also Friday night, Uliswon the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top point guard,Iowa State'sGeorges Niang won the Karl Malone Award as the nation's top power forward, and Utahcenter Jakob Poeltl won the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award as the nation's top center.

Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith received the Wooden Legends of Coaching award. He is one of two coaches to lead five different schools to the NCAA tournament.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Related Video