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Duke's Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett Headline 2019 Wooden Award Finalists

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 9, 2019

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 02: RJ Barrett #5 and Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils look on in the first half against the St. John's Red Storm at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 2, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

Duke freshman forwards Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett lead a group of 15 athletes on the short list for the John R. Wooden Award, according to the Associated Press.

Wooden honors are bestowed upon the nation's most outstanding men's and women's college basketball players each season. The Los Angeles Athletic Club, which gives out the annual award, will present the winner on April 12.

Williamson is the heavy favorite even though he's been out since suffering a Grade 1 knee sprain against North Carolina on Feb. 20. The 6'7", 285-pound forward has averaged 21.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. He has registered the highest player efficiency rating in men's Division I hoops over the past 10 years, per Sports Reference.

Williamson is simply an amazing player to watch. He's seemingly good for one jaw-dropping power dunk per game, but the excellent two-way player is also a defensive force, as this block against Virginia proved:

Duke has gone 23-2 in the 25 full games Williamson has played this season. He left the aforementioned UNC contest after just 36 seconds.

Barrett has proved to be a dominant scorer, averaging 23.3 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting. He's also filled out the stat sheet with 7.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

Sean Farnham of ESPN revealed how remarkable Barrett's season has been with this statistic:

Sean Farnham @SeanFarnham

Lets go one step further...Here is the list of all freshman in college basketball over the last 25 years to average 23+ PPG ; 7+ RPG; 4+ APG for a season: 1 - @DukeMBB RJ Barrett No really that's it... https://t.co/4mLOkmpkvg

Barrett may have been the favorite in other years, but Williamson has simply been sensational ever since he's stepped on the court.

Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura of Gonzaga are also candidates, and the AP listed the other 11 players up for the award:

"The other contenders are Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech, Mike Daum of South Dakota State, Carsen Edwards of Purdue, Ethan Happ of Wisconsin, Markus Howard of Marquette, De'Andre Hunter of Virginia, Dedric Lawson of Kansas, Ja Morant of Murray State, PJ Washington of Kentucky, Grant Williams of Tennessee and Cassius Winston of Michigan State."

Clarke is the wild card on the list. He's second in Division I with a 37.4 player efficiency rating and is scoring 16.6 points per game on 68.8 percent shooting.

Like Williamson, Clarke is also an excellent defensive player, averaging 3.1 blocks per game. NBC/Rotoworld NBA analyst Tommy Beer pointed out that Clarke is on his way to a feat never accomplished on the D-I men's level in 25 years:

Tommy Beer @TommyBeer

Per @bball_ref, #Gonzaga's Brandon Clarke is on pace to become the first NCAA Division 1 player in more than 25 years to average more than 16 points and three blocks per game, while shooting over 65% from the floor. @ZagMBB https://t.co/M1UoVVr9P6

The 6'8", 215-pound wing is on the No. 1 29-2 Gonzaga Bulldogs, who handed Duke its first loss of the year.

The field of 15 will be narrowed down to 10 and then five before the official mid-April announcement.

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