ATLANTA – Kentucky junior Rhyne Howard, a 2020 finalist, and freshman Paige Bueckers (UConn), who claimed the 2020 Jersey Mike’s Naismith High School Trophy, lead the list of contenders for the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy, symbolic of the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball. The list of finalists, which is rounded out by Louisville senior Dana Evans and South Carolina sophomore Aliyah Boston was announced by the Atlanta Tipoff Club today.
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 regular 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.
2021 TOURNAMENT: Live coverage of the women's basketball championship
“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, once the games began it was very clear which players emerged as the leading candidates for the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy,” said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club. “Each finalist’s consistency throughout the course of the season and ability to dominate games make them among the 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 naismithfanvote.com 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 also will be opportunities to vote for your favorite women’s player on the @NaismithTrophy Twitter page. 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.
Later this year, 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:
Aliyah Boston, South Carolina
- Boston led the Gamecocks in rebounds (11.7) and blocks (2.8) this season and averaged 13.7 points per game.
- The sophomore forward led the team in double-doubles (15).
- Boston made the 2021 All-SEC First Team for the second straight season and was named to the SEC All-Defensive team and SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year for her dominant defensive performance throughout the 2021 season.
- She earned SEC Tournament MVP honors for her 27-point, 10-rebound performance in the title game. In addition to her finalist ranking, she is a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.
Paige Bueckers, UConn
- Bueckers became the second BIG EAST player to win both the Freshmen of the Year and Player of the Year awards (Maya Moore, 2008).
- She had the highest single game scoring total by a UConn freshman since 2007 with 32 points.
- The freshman forward was the first player in program history to have three straight 30-point games.
- Her 14 assists against Butler rank as the single-game high in the history of the program.
- Bueckers led UConn to both regular season and tournament championships in the BIG EAST.
COACH OF THE YEAR: See the 4 finalists for the 2021 coach honors
Dana Evans, Louisville
- The senior forward leads the ACC in scoring at 20.0 points per game.
- Evans is the only player in program history to win four regular season conference championships.
- She has scored in double figures in 25 of 26 games played this season, including 40 straight games, the longest streak at Louisville in 20 years.
- Named ACC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, Evans became the ninth player in league history to accomplish the feat.
- She made 92% of her free throw attempts, leading the ACC and ranking fifth nationally.
Rhyne Howard, Kentucky
- Howard averaged 20.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game this season.
- The junior guard led Kentucky this season in scoring, rebounding and assists and was the only SEC player to lead her team in those three categories.
- In her 11 games against ranked opponents, she averaged over 22 points per game this season, hitting over 40% from 3 in those games.
- Named 2021 SEC Player of the Year for the second year in a row, Howard became one of two players in program history to earn multiple player of the year honors.
- She was also named to the 2021 All-SEC First Team for the third straight season and the SEC All-Tournament team for the second year in a row.
“Jersey Mike’s congratulates the top four candidates for the 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy,” said Rich Hope, chief marketing officer, Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems, Inc. “They are impressive student-athletes who have shown extraordinary leadership and resilience in a challenging year.”
For more information, visit naismithtrophy.com.
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 jerseymikes.com or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.