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Atlanta Tipoff Club | March 19, 2021

Finalists for 2021 Naismith Men's Player of the Year announced

Dwyane Wade sits down with Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced today the four finalists for the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy, the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball, and they include Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu, Iowa’s Luka Garza and Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert. While all four finalists look to become their university’s first recipient of the award, two names are familiar to the Naismith Awards—Garza, who was a 2020 finalist for this honor, and Cunningham, who won last year’s Jersey Mike’s Naismith High School Player of the Year Trophy.

The finalists emerged from a group of 10 semifinalists and were selected by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s national voting academy, comprised of leading journalists from around the country, current and former head coaches, former award winners and conference commissioners, all of whom base their selections on outstanding on- court performances during the 2020-21 college basketball season. The next round of voting runs from March 19-31, with the winner being announced live on CBS Sports Network’s NCAA® March Madness® 360 studio show on April 3.

MORE: Live coverage of the 2021 NCAA tournament | Full schedule 

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the level of talent on the court was stellar, as these players emerged as the leading candidates for the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. “Their consistency throughout the course of the season and ability to dominate games make them among the game’s top performers, and we look forward to honoring one of them at the end of the season.”

Once again, fans will have a say in who wins the top honor by participating in the Naismith Awards Fan Vote presented by Jersey Mike’s. By visiting from March 19-31, fans will have the opportunity to cast a ballot daily for the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy for the Men’s and Women’s College Player of the Year and the Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year awards. There will also be opportunities to vote on the @NaismithTrophy and NCAA @MarchMadness Twitter pages. The fan vote will account for five percent of the overall vote, which will be tabulated and certified by Aprio, a premier CPA-led business advisory firm, headquartered in Atlanta.

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The winner will be presented with the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy, which is produced and provided by Herff Jones, leading provider of graduation and educational products and services designed to inspire achievement and create memorable experiences for students. A replica trophy will be donated by Herff Jones to the winner’s university.

About the Finalists:

Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State

  • Cunningham was named Big 12 Player of the Year and was also unanimously chosen as the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, becoming only the fourth player in conference history to earn both honors.
  • He led the team in scoring during the regular season for both conference games (20.1 ppg) and overall (19.7 ppg).
  • Only two other power conference players over the last 20 seasons can match Cunningham’s all- around stat line of 20.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.8 blocks per game - and none of those players can match his 3-point clip of 41.2%.
  • Even in a shortened season, he is just the third Cowboys freshman to ever score 500 points in a season and needs just 16 points to become the highest scoring freshman in program history.
  • Oklahoma State opens as a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region.

Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois

  • Dosunmu is averaging 20.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game so far this season and has scored in double figures in 41 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation.
  • The junior guard is the only NCAA player during the last 11 seasons to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and five assists per game in a season.
  • He was a unanimous Big Ten First-Team All-Conference selection and was named the Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player after leading his team to the conference tournament title.
  • Dosunmu recorded two triple-doubles this season to set the record in the history of the Fighting Illini program and contributing to the program’s winningest Big Ten season in school history.
  • Illinois opens as a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament.

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Luka Garza, Iowa

  • Garza leads NCAA Division I this season in total points scored (687 points) and is ranked third nationally in points per game 23.7 (ppg).
  • Named Big Ten Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, he is only the second player ever to accomplish that feat (Jim Jackson, Ohio State, 1991-92).
  • The center was a unanimous Big Ten First-Team All-Conference selection, and his jersey number (No. 55) was retired on Senior Day.
  •  He became the Hawkeyes’ all-time leading scorer and the only men’s player in Big Ten history to have a resume that includes over 2,200 points, 900 rebounds, 150 blocked shots and 100 3-pointers.
  • Iowa opens as the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament West Region.

Corey Kispert, Gonzaga

  • Kispert led Gonzaga to its first-ever unbeaten regular season finish in program history (26-0), and the Zags will become the sixth team to enter the NCAA Tournament unbeaten since Indiana went wire to wire in 1975-76.
  • He also led the Bulldogs to claim both the West Coast Conference regular season and conference tournament championships.
  • The senior forward was named the WCC Player of the Year after leading the league in scoring (19.3 ppg).
  • He will leave the Zags as the winningest player in program history (121-10).
  • Gonzaga has been the top-ranked team the entire season and enters the NCAA Tournament as the overall No. 1 seed.

“Jersey Mike’s salutes these top four finalists for the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy who have excelled despite a global pandemic,” said Rich Hope, chief marketing officer, Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems, Inc. “These high-performing student-athletes show remarkable leadership on and off the court.”

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ABOUT THE ATLANTA TIPOFF CLUB Founded during the 1956-57 season, the Atlanta Tipoff Club is committed to promoting the game of basketball and recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of those who make the game so exciting. The Atlanta Tipoff Club administers the Naismith Awards, the most prestigious national honors in all of college and high school basketball. Named in honor of Dr. James Naismith, inventor of the game of basketball, the family of Naismith Awards annually recognizes the most outstanding men’s and women’s college and high school basketball players and coaches. Other Naismith Awards are presented to the men’s and women’s college basketball defensive players of the year, as well as lifetime achievement awards to basketball officials and outstanding contributors to the game. UCLA’s Lew Alcindor received the first Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy in 1969, while the late Anne Donovan (Old Dominion) was the inaugural women’s recipient in 1983. Corporate partners of the Naismith Awards include Jersey Mike’s and Werner Ladder.

ABOUT JERSEY MIKE’S SUBS Jersey Mike’s Subs, with more than 2,500 locations open and under development nationwide, serves authentic fresh sliced/fresh grilled subs on in-store freshly baked bread — the same recipe it started with in 1956. Passion for giving in Jersey Mike’s local communities is reflective in its mission statement “Giving...making a difference in someone’s life.” For more information, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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