Tennessee junior Grant Williams was tabbed to a pair of national player of the year lists this week, earning spots on the 2018-19 Oscar Robertson Trophy Final Midseason Watch List and Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year finalist.
Williams is one of 12 players in the running for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s top player, and one of 10 for the Karl Malone Award. He was also selected for the John R. Wooden Award Men’s Late Season Top 20 Watch List along with teammate Admiral Schofield.
The Charlotte, N.C., native has been one of the nation’s most all-around players this year, averaging 20.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. He’s also shooting 58 percent from the field and an impressive 84 percent from the charity stripe.
The junior forward is one of the best in the country at getting to the foul line, as no junior in Division I has made (435) or attempted (577) more career free throws than Williams. He ranks fourth in the country in free throws made this season with 147.
In one of the best performance in program history, Williams dropped 43 points on a perfect 23-of-23 from the charity stripe at Vanderbilt on Jan. 23. It was the most free throws made without a miss by a player in Division I in the last 60 years and second all time to only Oklahoma State’s Arlen Clark (24-of-24 vs. Colorado, 3/7/1959). The 23 makes in a game currently stand as the most in a game by a player this season. His 43 points were also the most by a Vol since all-time leading scorer Allan Houston dropped 43 against LSU on Feb. 10, 1990.
The performance earned Williams the honors of Citizen Naismith Trophy, Oscar Robertson and NCAA March Madness National Player of the Week recognition. Sports Illustrated and Sporting News both named him to their Midseason All-America First Team, while Dick Vitale tabbed him the Midseason Player of the Year.
The reigning SEC Player of the Year has positioned himself to repeat as the award winner. If Williams were to win the honor again, he would join a prestigious group of players in SEC history. In total, only nine players have accomplished the achievement since the award was first started in 1965, including VFLs Bernard King and Dale Ellis and other all-time greats such as Williamson, Pete Maravich and Shaquille O’Neal. The last person to win it in back-to-back seasons was Arkansas’ Corliss Williamson (1994, 1995).
Williams and the top-ranked Vols will be back in action Saturday against the Florida Gators in front of a sold-out, checkered Thompson-Boling Arena. The game will tip at 4 p.m. ET and will be televised by ESPN.