(Courtesy / UT Athletics)


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. –Dalton Knecht of the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team is the 2023-24 Julius Erving Award honoree, as announced Saturday evening on ESPN College GameDay.

The elite accolade, awarded by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, is given to the nation’s premier small forward.

“I am honored to receive this prestigious award. To see my name associated with one of the greatest basketball players ever is truly humbling,” Knecht said. “I want to thank Julius Erving and the entire committee for selecting me. It would not have been possible, though, without my teammates and coaches. I’d like to express my appreciation to every single one of them for supporting me throughout this entire season, on and off the court. I will be forever grateful to all of them, as well as to the University of Tennessee community and Vol Nation, for embracing me in such an incredible way.”

Knecht is the first player in Tennessee history to win any of the Starting Five—there is one given to the best player at each position—distinctions. The Bob Cousy Award, for the top point guard, started in 2004 and is in its 21st season, while each of the other four plaudits are in their 10th year after being initiated in 2015.

The list of Julius Erving Award designees, which Knecht now joins, features some of the finest college basketball players of the last decade. He is now alongside Kansas’ Jalen Wilson (2022-23), Duke’s Wendell Moore Jr. (2021-22), Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert (2020-21), Villanova’s Saddiq Bey (2019-20), Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura (2018-19), Villanova’s Mikal Bridges (2017-18), Villanova’s Josh Hart (2016-17), Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine (2015-16) and Arizona’s Stanley Johnson (2014-15).

Knecht edged Washington’s Keion Brooks Jr., Memphis’ David Jones, Weber State’s Dillon Jones and Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman for the recognition.

Additionally, Connecticut’s Tristen Newton won the Bob Cousy Award, North Carolina’s R.J. Davis claimed the Jerry West Award, San Diego State’s Jaedon LeDee earned the Karl Malone Award and Purdue’s Zach Edey collected the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award. The winners were determined by a combination of input from committees composed of top basketball personnel and Starting Five Fan Voting, presented by Dell Technologies.

“The Basketball Hall of Fame is proud to celebrate the best in the game at every level, both men and women,” said John L. Doleva, President of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. “The student-athletes who have received our Starting Five Awards are a true reflection of the Hall of Famers for whom the awards are named, both in terms of their character and abilities on the court. We are honored to recognize this remarkable group of people, and we know they will continue to achieve success wherever they go. We honor their accomplishments today and name them the … 2024 Naismith Starting Five.”

A fifth-year guard from Thornton, Colo., Knecht averaged 21.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in his one and only season at Tennessee, during which he tallied 780 points, the second-most in a campaign in program history. The eighth-leading scorer in the country shot 45.8 percent on field goals, 39.7 percent from long range and 77.2 percent at the line.

The SEC Player of the Year according to both the league’s head coaches and, unanimously, the Associated Press, Knecht registered 25.5 points per game in SEC play, the second-best mark by anyone in the last 22 seasons (2002-24). That figure also put him atop the 2023-24 league-only scoring leaderboard among all Division I players.

The fourth consensus First Team All-American in Tennessee history, Knecht aided the Volunteers to their 11th SEC regular season title, including their sixth outright, and to their second Elite Eight appearance. He scored 30-plus points eight times, third-most nationally, and 35-plus six times, setting a program record and leading the country this season.

A 6-foot-6, 213-pounder, Knecht is among four finalists for the Naismith Trophy and one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award.

To keep up with the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team on social media, follow @Vol_Hoops on Instagram and X/Twitter, as well as /tennesseebasketball on Facebook.

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