Cade Cunningham, Luka Garza Headline 2021 Wooden Award Finalists

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 6, 2021

Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham (2)points during an NCAA college basketball game Monday, March. 1, 2021, in Stillwater, Okla. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
Brody Schmidt/Associated Press

Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham and Iowa's Luka Garza are among the 15 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award given to the nation's best college basketball player.

Garza, who has led the Hawkeyes to the No. 5 spot in the Associated Press Top 25, is a finalist for the second straight year. Cunningham leads Oklahoma State in scoring (19.7 points per game) as a freshman.

Other finalists announced Saturday include Charles Bassey of Western Kentucky, Jared Butler of Baylor, Illinois teammates Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu, Hunter Dickinson of Michigan, Collin Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl of Villanova, Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana, the Gonzaga trio of Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme, E.J. Liddell of Ohio State and Evan Mobley of USC.

Garza was the runner-up last year to Dayton's Obi Toppin. The Hawkeyes star entered the NBA draft pool but announced Aug. 2 that he was returning for his senior season.

The move has paid off for Garza and Iowa. He ranks third in the nation with 23.9 points per game, leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game and is shooting a career-high 45 percent from three-point range.

Cunningham arrived at Oklahoma State with sky-high expectations. The Texas native was ranked as the nation's top recruit by 247Sports. He has led the Cowboys back to prominence after they missed the NCAA tournament in each of the previous three years.

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Liddell's breakout coincided with Ohio State's ascent into the Top 10. The sophomore, who wasn't included on the Wooden Award top-20 watch list released Feb. 1, averaged 17.3 points and 6.1 rebounds with 53.3 percent three-point shooting (8-of-15) in seven games last month.

Gonzaga, the nation's last remaining unbeaten team (24-0), has three candidates vying to become the program's first Wooden Award winner. Adam Morrison finished second during the 2005-06 season, 74 points behind Duke's JJ Redick.

The winner will be announced after the 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament in April.