We’ve given out awards for best moment, worst moment, and most improved player for the Arizona Wildcats in the 2016-17 regular season.
But now we move on to the Player of the Year, and it’s unanimous from us.
It’s Finnish freshman Lauri Markkanen.
After being the only Wildcat named first team All-Pac-12, and earning third-team All-American honors from USA Today, Sporting News, and NBC Sports, Markkanen now has his biggest award of all, our Arizona Player of the Year.
Alec Sills-Trausch: I’m struggling on this one. Lauri Markkanen (15 points, 7 rebounds, 49% shooting, and 44% 3-pt) is an obvious candidate and the way he played to begin the year without Allonzo Trier, Ray Smith, Parker Jackson-Cartwright shows his true potential. However, Trier has been playing like a man possessed lately - but it has only been 11 games, which is why I’m hesitant to give him player of the year considering he’s played less than a semester. I guess Markkanen it is.
James Schlittenhart: Lauri Markkanen, and it might not be close. Markkanen is a Wooden candidate, a lottery pick, a threat to score from anywhere on the court, and one of the best players in the country right now. He has lived up to the preseason expectations, and I would be hard pressed to identify someone else I’d rather see wearing an Arizona uniform going into March. My darkhorse candidate is Kadeem Allen, but his role is more of a glue-guy rather than go-to.
Ronnie Stoffle: Lauri Markkanen is a likely unanimous winner of this award and deservedly so. However, I would like to nominate Rawle Alkins. Rawle is one of two players who played in all 31 games and averaged at least 28 minutes per contest (Lauri being the other).
He quietly had a strong season on both ends of the court. Kadeem Allen is likely the team’s Defensive Player of the Year, but Rawle is a great defender in his own right. He and Allen were consistently the two best backcourt defenders all season. On the offensive side, he shot approximately 36 percent from beyond the arc and never shied away from playing down low. Rawle never wowed us with 30 point performances but he scored at least 14 in nine games. His season high was 19, which he did twice.
His toughness was best displayed when he would scrap for loose balls and the put-back down low in spite of being 6-foot-5. This tenacity enabled him to be the team’s third highest rebounder with 5.4 a game. He saved his best rebounding performance for last as he registered 15 boards against ASU to tie Dusan’s team-high mark this season.
Lauri will win the award, as he should, but Rawle unequivocally deserves runner-up in my mind.
Brandon Hill: I’ll go with Markkanen as well, though I agree the impact of Trier has been huge (I think clearly with a full season this is Trier’s award) and the somewhat unheralded contributions of Alkins have also been crucial. Markkanen has been the most consistent outside shooter on a team that desperately needs it. His ability to pull bigs out on the perimeter opens things up for the many slashers the Wildcats utilize. He’s had 26 games in double-figure scoring, 15 games with eight or more rebounds, 59 made 3’s. He’s had a heck of a season.
David Potts: Lauri. It’s not particularly close. He played every game, he was more efficient on offense than anyone else on the team, and he rebounded the ball at a higher rate than anyone else on the team. In a universe where Lonzo Ball and Dillon Brooks didn’t exist, he might even be Pac-12 Player of the Year. For now, though, he’ll have to settle for team MVP.