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January 22, 2014

Wooden Award: Johnson added, Gordon survives cut



This is why the John R. Wooden Award voters reserve the right to add any deserving names to the initial list released in November. During the course of the first half of the season, worthy candidates for the title of top player in college basketball emerge.

Arizona guard Nick Johnson was among the new names on the Wooden Award list that was cut from 50 to 25 and announced Wednesday morning on ESPN's flagship program, SportsCenter.

Johnson, a junior, leads the nation's top-ranked team in scoring (16.3 points) and free throw percentage (81.9 percent) through 18 games. And it is both areas that have helped keep the Wildcats undefeated heading into Thursday's game against Colorado.

The 6-3 guard leads Arizona with six games of 20 points or more - including a career-high 24 against Washington earlier this month - and his clutch performance for a team that has struggled at the free-throw line iced wins on the road at now-No. 7 San Diego State and Michigan.

Johnson also earned Most Outstanding Player honors when the Wildcats claimed the NIT Season Tip-Off title at Madison Square Garden in November. He scored 15 points in the championship game against Duke.

Also on the list was freshman Aaron Gordon, whose 12.4 points are second on the team to Johnson. The 6-9 forward, who was included on the initial list of 50, also is averaging a team-high 7.8 rebounds.

Arizona was one of just four schools with two players on the list. Syracuse (C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis), Michigan State (Adreian Payne and Keith Appling) and Duke (Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood) were the other three.

The Wildcats, Orange and Spartans also rank 1-2-3 in both major polls.

The 15 finalists for the Wooden Award will be revealed March 8 and names not on the list of 25 could still be added. Among the omissions on the first cut was Kansas freshman Joel Embiid, who was on the initial 50 and has generated buzz as the No. 1 overall draft pick for the NBA draft in June, if he comes out early. The center is averaging 11.1 points on 67.9 percent shooting to go with 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots.

Also, a 10-man Wooden Award All-American team will be unveiled during the regional rounds of the NCAA tournament.

The award, created in 1976, will be presented at the Final Four in Dallas. Former Michigan guard Trey Burke won the award last season.

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Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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