LOS ANGELES – With the start Keldon Johnson is off to, it should come as no surprise the Kentucky men’s basketball freshman guard was among the 25 players on Wednesday’s John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25.
Chosen by a poll of national college basketball experts based on their performances during the first half of the 2018-19 season, the Wooden list is comprised of 25 student-athletes who are frontrunners for national player of the year.
Johnson is one of five freshmen on the midseason list and one of three players from the Southeastern Conference.
The national ballot, which will be released later this season, will consist of 15 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 grade-point average.
Nearly 1,000 voters will rank in order 10 of those 15 players, who have been qualified as meeting the standards set forth by Coach Wooden and the Wooden Award Steering Committee. Voting will open prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament and will allow voters to take into consideration performance during early round games. The Wooden Award All American Team will be announced the week of the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the 2018 John R. Wooden Award will be presented during the ESPN College Basketball Awards presented by Wendy's on April 12.
Kentucky's Anthony Davis is the only winner in program history. He claimed the honor in 2012 after helping lead Kentucky to its eighth national championship in program history.
Johnson, a 2018 McDonald’s All American, has led UK to an 11-3 record, including a neutral-site victory vs. North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic and a road victory over archrival Louisville.
The 6-foot-6 guard leads the Wildcats in scoring with a 15.6 average and has scored in double figures in all but two games. Johnson has scored 20 or more points a team-high-tying four times, including a career-high 27 vs. Tennessee State, 23 vs. the Duke Blue Devils, who are now No. 1 in the Associated Top 25, and 21 vs. nationally-ranked North Carolina.
Johnson is shooting 50.7 percent from the floor and has been UK’s best perimeter shooter with a .392 3-point field-goal percentage. He’s made 20 total 3-pointers, including 10 in a two-game stretch vs. Utah and North Carolina.
But it’s not just Johnson’s ability to score that’s made an impact player on the 18th-ranked Wildcats. Johnson is also averaging 5.6 rebounds a game and has grabbed seven or more boards in six games.
Johnson is the only freshman in the country averaging at least 15 points per game while shooting at least 50.0 percent from the field, at least 39.0 percent from 3 and with at least 15 3-point field goals made.
The two-time SEC Freshman of the Week winner (Nov. 26 and Dec. 17) is also on the Citizen Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List and the Julius Erving Award Preseason Watch List. The Naismith Trophy is awarded annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to the national player of the year while the Erving Award goes to the top shooting guard in the country, as chosen by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Wildcats are back in action Saturday vs. Vanderbilt. That game is scheduled for an 8:30 p.m. tipoff on the SEC Network.