The midseason John R. Wooden Award Watch List was announced today by the sponsoring LA Athletic Club, narrowing the field of candidates for one of the most prestigious awards in women's basketball.
Baylor junior Brittney Griner and Stanford senior Nnemkade Ogwumike highlighted, both of whom were named Wooden Award All-Americans in 2011 (Ogwumike was also named a Wooden Award All-American in 2010) highlighted the list which narrowed the field of candidates to the 20 frontrunners based on their performances in November, December and January of the 2011-12 season.
Griner is averaging 22.5 points per game (No. 7 nationally in scoring) for undefeated and No. 1-ranked Baylor; she also ranks No. 4 in field-goal percentage (61 percent), No. 24 in rebounding (9.9) and No. 1 in blocked shots (5.4), and, though only a junior, is closing in on the NCAA's all-time record for blocks. Ogwumike has carried Stanford, which has suffered only one defeat this season, to a No. 4 ranking in both major national polls; individually, Ogwumike leads the Pac-12 and ranks No. 6 in the nation in scoring (22.9 ppg) and No. 7 nationally in rebounding (11.2 rpg).
Also among the frontrunners are Delaware's Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins, both of whom return to the field of midseason candidates for a second year after being nominated in 2010-11. Delle Donne has led Delaware to its first-ever Top 25 ranking and is currently the nation's leading collegiate scorer, averaging 27.9 points per game, and ranks No. 26 in the NCAA in reboundings (9.8) and No. 16 in field-goal percentage (55.2 percent). Skylar Diggins leads No. 2-ranked Notre Dame with 17 points, 5.8 assists (No. 15 in the NCAA) and 2.5 steals per game.
Others returning to the watch list for a second year after making the ballot previously include Georgetowns Sugar Rodgers, Shekinna Stricklen of Tennessee, and Shenise Johnson of Miami. Ohio States Samantha Prahalis was on the ballot in 2010, along with Stricklen, Nneka Ogwumike and Delle Donne.
The Wooden Award, created in 1976 in honor of Hall of Fame player and coach John R. Wooden, was first bestowed upon female players in 2004. The award is presented annually to the "Most Outstanding College Basketball Player in the United States," based on the voting of a media committee, which considers a player's performance in the regular season, conference tournaments, and the postseason, as well as the player's character.
Past recipients include Duke's Alana Beard (2004), LSU's Seimone Augustus (2005, 2006), Tennessee's Candace Parker (2007, 2008), and Connecticut's Maya Moore (2009, 2011) and Tina Charles (2010).
This season's Wooden Award winner, together with the Wooden All-American team and University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, whose selection as the Wooden Legends of Coaching Award winner was previously announced, will be honored on Friday, April 6, 2012, following the NCAA Division I Women's Final Four, at the annual Awards Gala.