Last season did not end well for Azuolas Tubelis, who was physically outmatched by Arizona’s final two opponents during the NCAA Tournament. He has since vowed to never let that happen again, which means the 2022-23 season could be a big one for him.
Potentially an award-winning one.
Tubelis is one of 20 players named to the preseason watch list for the Karl Malone Award, given annually to college basketball’s top power forward. He’s the third UA player to make one of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame’s preseason award watch lists, joining point guard Kerr Kriisa (Bob Cousy) and wing Pelle Larsson (Julius Erving).
The 6-foot-11 Tubelis is the UA’s top returning scorer from last year’s 33-4 team, having averaged 13.9 points along with 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He shot 54 percent from the field, posted four double-doubles and had seven 20-point performances, including a career-high 32 against Utah last January.
But in the NCAA tourney he had only 20 points in three games, just seven in the final two contests. Arizona’s Sweet 16 loss to Houston saw Tubelis miss all eight shots and finish with two points.
“I know I wasn’t good at all,” Tubelis said earlier this month at Arizona’s media day.
Tubelis was Arizona’s lone selection to the first team of the Pac-12 preseason all-conference team, one of four Wildcats to get mentioned overall.
Arizona has twice before had a Hoophall Award winner. Deandre Ayton won the Karl Malone Award in 2018 and Stanley Johnson won the Julius Erving Award in 2015.