The Bruins' leading scorer is one step closer to another award.
No. 17 UCLA men's basketball (22-6, 14-5 Pac-12) guard Johnny Juzang was placed on the final ballot for the John R. Wooden Award, one of two major national player of the year honors, on Saturday. The Bruins have not had a player win the award since 1994-1995, when Ed O'Bannon took it home, and the only other winner from the program was the inaugural recipiant Marques Johnson in 1977.
Juzang is also one of 30 players in the running for the other top award in the country – the Naismith Trophy – and was named a finalist for the Jerry West Award for top shooting guard on Tuesday.
The other players who are on the ballot for the Wooden Award are Kansas' Ochai Agbaji, Duke's Paolo Banchero, Illinois' Kofi Cockburn, Wisconsin's Johnny Davis, Villanova's Collin Gillespie, Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren, Purdue's Jaden Ivey, Auburn's Walker Kessler, Ohio State's E.J. Liddell, Arizona's Bennedict Mathurin, Iowa's Keegan Murray, Auburn's Jabari Smith, Gonzaga's Drew Timme and Kentucky's Oscar Tshiebwe.
A recent string of injuries and mishaps have led to Juzang missing time, but he is still the Pac-12's third-leading scorer even amid the interruptions.
COVID-19 protocols knocked Juzang out of the Bruins' final two games of January, and even though he was asymptomatic and returned to team facilities five days later, he missed one game due to a hip injury and two more with an ankle injury in the following weeks.
Before this most recent stretch, Juzang had appeared in 23 consecutive games for UCLA dating back to last postseason, when he notably ascended to the status of March Madness hero by averaging 22.6 points per game throughout the NCAA tournament. So far in 2021-2022, Juzang is averaging 17.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.7 steals per game while shooting 44.3% from the field, 36.7% from deep and 86.6% from the free throw line – best in the Pac-12.
Juzang was averaging 19.0 points and 5.2 rebounds on .461/.386/.889 shooting splits in the 11 games leading up to his ankle injury against Oregon on Feb. 24.
One regular season game remains for Juzang and the Bruins, as they are set to host crosstown rival USC on Saturday. It remains to be seen if Juzang will play in that contest, but if he doesn't, he won't be able to take the court again until the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals begin on March 10.
Juzang has twice been named Pac-12 Player of the Week – first after helping UCLA defeat then-No. 5 Villanova at home in November, then again after averaging 25.5 points per game in the Bruins' road sweep of Utah and Colorado in January.
Voting for the Wooden Award will take place between March 14 and March 21, and the winner will be announced March 30. The qualifications for the Wooden Award, according to the Los Angeles Athletic Club, are as follows:
- Candidates must exhibit strength of character, both on and off the court
- Candidates must be full-time students in an accredited NCAA college or university
- Candidates must be making progress toward graduation and have a cumulative 2.00 grade point average since enrolling in their school
- Candidates must 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