The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced its preseason watch lists this week for all five traditional positions, and each one — composed of 20 players — featured its share of mid-major candidates.
Julius Irving Award Watch List
Seth Towns, Harvard
Seth Towns wasn’t on the scene as much last season due to a knee injury. But for refreshers, he was only the third sophomore to win the Ivy League Player of the Year Award in 2017-18. While averaging 16.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, he helped lead Harvard to its sixth Ivy League championship in program history and its second-ever berth in the NIT.
Anthony Lamb, Vermont
Anthony Lamb was busy last season, to say the least. He led the America East in scoring (21.2) and rebounding (7.8). On the defensive end, he tallied 62 blocks as well. Due to his all-around play, he was named America East and USBWA District I Player of the Year.
Jerry West Award Watch List
Kellan Grady, Davidson
Grady, like many other players on this list, is a walking bucket. He scored in double figures 22 times and hit five three-pointers on five occasions. Grady hit the 25-point plateau seven times and 30-point mark twice. He was a three-time Atlantic 10 Player of the Week and was later named to the First Team All-Conference.
Antoine Davis, Detroit Mercy
The first-team All-Horizon League member and Horizon League Freshman of the Year. What a way to start off your career.
Davis was one of the nation’s most lethal scores last season. While starting all 30 games he played in, he led Detroit Mercy in almost every statistical offensive category, hitting a three in every game and finishing with at least 17 points in all 30 contests. He made an NCAA freshman record 132 three-pointers, breaking Steph Curry’s record. He recorded 23 20-point games, nine 30-plus-point outings and had a pair of 40-pointers.
Sam Merrill, Utah State
The 2019 Mountain West Player of the Year had an amazing season for the Aggies. He scored in double figures in every game but one. Merrill totaled 1,237 minutes, fourth in school history. His minutes counted as he shot 46 percent from the floor and 90 percent from the free-throw line.
Karl Malone Award Watch List
Yoeli Childs, BYU
Yoeli Childs averaged over 20 points per game last season for the Cougars to go with 10 rebounds. As BYU’s returning scorer and rebounder, he will be tasked with helping power the Cougars back to the postseason. BYU hasn’t danced since 2015 and it would be shame to see Childs’ career end without him getting a chance.
Lamine Diane, CSUN
Lamine Diane made a statement during his first season on the court.
Diane became the first-ever Big West player to win the conference’s Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Newcomer of the Year awards all in the same season. This was due to being only one out of three freshmen to average a double-double. He averaged 24.8 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.
Obi Toppin, Dayton
Obi Toppin was ranked second in the nation in dunks and broke Dayton’s school record with 83 of them. He just plays on a different level than those around him. So different that he was the first freshman in 20 years to make the Atlantic 10 First Team. He averaged 14 points per game and his 66 percent shooting from the floor ranked fourth in the nation.
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga
Killian Tillie is returning to Gonzaga after missing the bulk of last season with an injury. We saw him flash his full potential, however, in 2017-18 when he averaged 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest. If Gonzaga is going to make another deep March run, Tillie will need to stay healthy.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Watch List
Nico Carvacho, Colorado State
Nico Carvacho doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves because his team lost 20 games last year, but he is already the No. 1 rebounder in school history and ranks second all-time in the Mountain West. He finished in the top 10 for this award last year after scoring in double figures 28 times and ranking third in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage.
Neemias Queta, Utah State
The Mountain West’s Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year returns for his second season fresh off a year that saw him improve drastically from start to finish. He proved how much of a difference-maker he could be early on when he went for 24-and-nine in a surprising blowout win for the Aggies over Saint Mary’s. In the postseason, he averaged 13.5 points and 9.0 rebounds over four games.
Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky
Like Queta, Charles Bassey was also his conferences Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. While some expected him to jump to the NBA after last season, he returns to Bowling Green, making Western Kentucky the easy favorite in CUSA. He averaged a double-double (14.6 ppg and 10.0 rpg) and averaged 2.4 blocks per game for good measure.
Nathan Knight, William & Mary
Nathan Knight had a strong argument to be the preseason CAA player of the year, but he’ll have to settle for all-conference First Team and a spot on this list. Knight ended last season with a flourish, even if his team never threatened to break out of the NMTC doldrums. He scored 30-or-more points five times in 2018-19, including three times over the final seven games of the regular season. Knight also led the CAA in block percentage and ranked in the top 10 in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.