The famed John Wooden Award Top 20 list was released Wednesday, and for the second time in three years, the list features a Wisconsin Badger.
Going into the season, many likely would have predicted this player to be Nigel Hayes, as he was named Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. But instead, sophomore Ethan Happ represents the No. 7 team in the country on the list.
Happ had a very good freshman year last season as he was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and is now starting to get a lot more national recognition. Before this week, Happ had won back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
In addition to this, the big man from Milan, Illinois is the only player in the country to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals throughout all of conference play. Overall this season, Happ is averaging nearly 15 points, nine boards, three assists, two steals, and over one block per game. The craziest thing is that he is a big man, and often gets double teamed as well.
Within the top 20 list, Happ is joined by fellow Big Ten players Caleb Swanigan of Purdue and Melo Trimble of Maryland. Wisconsin’s center is also one of only four sophomores on the list, joined by Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon, Duke’s Luke Kennard, and Swanigan.
There are only two seniors on the list, but they are the leaders in most circles, with those players being Villanova’s Josh Hart and Kansas’ Frank Mason III. Some other big names on the list include Lonzo Ball of UCLA, Markelle Fultz of Washington, Josh Jackson of KU and Malik Monk of Kentucky, all freshmen, as well as the 5’9” scoring juggernaut Marcus Keene of Central Michigan.
Although Happ is not as big of a national name as some of these other great players, his consistency, unbelievable statistics and rising team give him an outside chance at the award, and a pretty good shot at being at least an All-American. Happ is certainly in the top half of this list, especially when factoring in both sides of the ball, as he is also considered a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.