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Deandre Ayton named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year

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Well deserved

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Wildcats star freshman Deandre Ayton has been named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, the conference announced Monday.

Ayton was also named to the Pac-12 All-First Team, All-Defensive Team and All-Freshman Team.

He is just the third player to win Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and Pac-12 Player of the Year in the same season (Cal’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim in 1996 and UCLA’s Kevin Love in 2008).

Ayton averaged 19.9 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, and 1.4 assists during the regular season, while shooting 62 percent from the field, 34 percent from 3, and 75 percent from the free-throw line.

The 7-foot-1 big man had 21 double-doubles in the regular season, the most ever by a Pac-12 freshman. The Bahamian ranks first in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and field goal percentage in UA freshman history.

Ayton had 26 points and 20 rebounds Saturday in Arizona’s win vs. Cal, becoming the first Wildcat to have 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game since Al Fleming in 1975-76.

“He’s a tremendous player. He does it on offense, he does it on defense. He does it in big moments,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said Saturday.

“Physically, he’s like Superman. But he’s also very skilled. If you have a guy like him that’s physically gifted, plus you have the skill level and the intelligence, he’s going to be a player that’s going to go down as one of the great ones to play our game. That’s how I see him.”

Ayton is projected to be a top-three pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, and Miller confirmed Saturday that Ayton will not be returning to Arizona next season.

“He’s a once-in-a-generation player and I doubt if I ever coach anyone like him again,” Miller said. “I don’t mean that we won’t try, but there just aren’t many Deandres walking around.”

Ayton is the ninth Wildcat to be named Pac-12 Player of the Year since the award’s inception in 1975-76.

Here are the eight others:

  • Sean Elliott (1987-88)
  • Sean Elliott (1989-89)
  • Chris Mills (1992-93)
  • Damon Stoudamire (1994-95)
  • Mike Bibby (1997-98)
  • Jason Terry (1998-99)
  • Derrick Williams (2010-11)
  • Nick Johnson (2013-14)

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire