5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners

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Mar 10, 2017, 5:30 AM | Updated: Nov 21, 2017, 3:35 pm

The Wooden Award honors the nation’s best college basketball player in any given year. The award commemorates UCLA legendary John Wooden, who is undoubtedly the greatest college basketball coach ever. If you aren’t sure about that, all you need to do is read about his accomplishments.

The award was founded in 1976 and a women’s award was added in 2004.

The official list of requirements for the award are:

  • All candidates must have a cumulative 2.00-grade point average since enrolling in their current university.
  • Candidates must exhibit strength of character, both on and off the court.
  • Candidates should be those who contribute to team effort.
  • Candidates must excel in both offense and defense.
  • Candidates should be considered on their performance over the course of the entire season (pre-conference, conference and tournament play).

To see all the action of this year’s March Madness and this year’s Wooden Award hopefuls, make sure and watch the games with CenturyLink’s Prism TV  with features that allow you to watch and record anywhere.

Here are some memorable former Wooden Award winners.

Sean Elliott

The only Wooden Award winner from Arizona colleges is Elliott, who garnered the trophy in 1989. Elliott was born in Tucson and played basketball at Cholla High School. After high school, he played for Lute Olson at the University of Arizona.

Elliott was picked third in the 1989 NBA draft by the San Antonio Spurs. He ended up as a two-time NBA All-Star, and earned an NBA championship in 1999. His No. 32 is retired by both the University of Arizona and the San Antonio Spurs.

Elliott played the 1999 championship season despite having a kidney disease that required a transplant. He underwent surgery in August that year, receiving a kidney from his older brother, Noel. He became the first player to return as a professional after a kidney transplant in March 2000 in a game against the Atlanta Hawks. He played in 19 games in the 2000 season and was a starter for most of the following season.

Jimmer Fredette

The 2011 winner, Fredette is among those who have not had a successful NBA career, in spite of being selected 10th in the NBA Draft. He bounced around several teams and has not been able to stick.

At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Fredette never looked the part of a big-time baller, even though his shooting skills are legendary. Without an NBA contract in 2016, Fredette joined the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association and became the league MVP.

“During his time in China, Jimmer played in 41 games. In those 41 games, Jimmer scored over 30 points, 34 times,” reports NBA writer Kohl Rast. “He scored over 20 points in 6 of the remaining 7 games and his lowest total was 10 points in a game where he logged only 16 minutes. Did I mention that Fredette also scored 73 points in a single game this season?”

Alana Beard

In 2004, Beard won the first Wooden award for women. As a player at Duke, she scored 2,687 points along with more than 500 assists and 400 steals. Beard spent six seasons with the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, then was away from the game for two years because of injuries. In 2012, she became a free agent and signed with the LA Sparks, where she finally won the first championship of her career in 2016.

In 2004, Beard started a nonprofit organization that sponsors female AAU basketball teams to help young women develop skills for success on or off the court, ESPN reports. Her foundation sponsors six teams in Maryland called Alana Beard’s Future and one in Louisiana called the Southern Mystics.

Larry Bird

In 1979, the current president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers was the third person to win the award. Bird was drafted sixth by the Boston Celtics in the 1978 NBA draft, even though he was still a college player. He signed a five-year, $3.25 million contract, making him the highest paid rookie in the league. Shortly after, the NBA changed its draft eligibility rules to prevent teams from drafting players before they were ready to sign. The rule became known as the Bird Collegiate Rule.

Michael Jordan

Even when Jordan earned the award in 1984, it is doubtful anyone expected him to become the greatest professional player of all time. He won the NCAA national championship as a freshman at North Carolina and opted to turn pro after his junior season. He was taken third in the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie were picked ahead of him. He won six NBA championships, was Finals MVP six times and league MVP five times.

This season’s winners will be named at a ceremony April 7. The 2017 Wooden Award candidates are:


Lonzo Ball, UCLA; Dillon Brooks, Oregon; Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame; Markelle Fultz, Washington; Ethan Happ, Wisconsin; Josh Hart, Villanova; Josh Jackson, Kansas; Justin Jackson, North Carolina; Luke Kennard, Duke; Lauri Markkanen, Arizona; Frank Mason III, Kansas; Malik Monk, Kentucky; Johnathan Motley, Baylor; Caleb Swanigan, Purdue; Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga


Lindsay Allen, Notre Dame; Jordin Canada, UCLA; Napheesa Collier, Connecticut; Brionna Jones, Maryland; Kelsey Mitchell, Ohio State; Chantel Osahor, Washington; Alexis Peterson, Syracuse; Kelsey Plum, Washington; Katie Lou Samuelson, Connecticut; Brianna Turner, Notre Dame; Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State; Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Maryland; Sydney Weise, Oregon State; Gabby Williams, Connecticut; A’ja Wilson, South Carolina

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