Arizona freshman big man Deandre Ayton put on a show to close the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas last week. He ended the week with back-to-back 32-point games, a career high in scoring for him, to help lead the Wildcats to their seventh Pac-12 Tournament title.
In doing so, he also took home the tournament's most outstanding player award getting a trophy that was just a bit small in his hands. Tuesday morning he learned he will be one of four finalists for a trophy that is a little bigger as he was named to the exclusive list for college basketball's top award, the Naismith Trophy.
The award goes to the top player in college basketball and the freshman from The Bahamas has shown all season that he is certainly worthy of being in consideration. Saturday's championship game marked the 23rd double double for Ayton this season tying him with Kevin Love for the freshman record set back in 2008.
The national record for freshmen is 28 set by Michael Beasely from Kansas State also in 2008, so there is still time and games available for Ayton to reach that record if the Wildcats can continue to win. His 23 double doubles are second in the country nationally as he trails Minnesota junior Jordan Murphy by just one.
Ayton heads into the NCAA Tournament and Thursday's matchup with 13th-seeded Buffalo averaging 20.3 points and 11.5 rebounds for the Wildcats with a chance to cement his spot as the No. 1 pick in this summer's NBA Draft.
All throughout the week in Las Vegas, Ayton stuck to his theory that team success will bring him individual success. It is something his coach Sean Miller has continued to tell him and one of Ayton's big goals has been to get Miller to a Final Four for the first time.
If the 7-foot-1 star is able to do that winning the national player of the year award should take care of itself.
"I didn't expect it, you just have to work hard," Ayton said of all the success he's had this season. "Team success, individual accolades come along with that. We're winning and you guys decide who deserves the Pac-12 Player of the Year or the national player of the year, it's up to them."
Ayton is joined on the four-man list by Duke big man Marvin Bagley III, Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson and Kansas point guard Davonte' Graham