COLUMBIA, S.C. — Daniel Gafford, the University of Arkansas’ 6-11 sophomore from El Dorado, is among 10 candidates for the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced on Friday.
Other finalists are Wisconsin’s Ethan Haps, Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey, Maryland’s Bruno Fernando, Michigan State’s Nick Ward, UCLA’s Moses Brown, Buffalo’s Nick Perkins, Georgetown’s Jessie Govan, Colorado State’s Nico Cavacho and William & Mary’s Nathan Knight.
Gafford is averaging 16.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots and shooting an SEC-leading 66.7 percent from the field going into Arkansas’ game at South Carolina today.
“Daniel Gafford has got great footwork, great length and athleticism,” Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said Thursday night on his weekly radio show. “And then he’s a runner. Because there’s some guys that are athletic, that are not runners. They don’t run.
“This guy runs all the time. So our big guys are going be challenged to change ends of the floor because Daniel Gafford changes every time. He never takes a play off, doesn’t jog.”
In Arkansas’ two games against South Carolina last season, Gafford had 11 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in 19 minutes in the Razorbacks’ 81-65 victory in Walton Arena and 8 points, 3 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in 25 minutes when they beat the Gamecocks 69-64 at the SEC Tournament in St. Louis.
“At their place, he kicked our tail,” Martin said. “In the conference tournament, we kind of played better against him.
“So we’ll see. We got our hands full. We’ve got to make sure we answer the bell.”
In March, five finalists will be presented to Abdul-Jabbar and the Hall of Fame’s selection committee. The winner will be announced on April 12 in Los Angeles at the the College Basketball Awards Show.
Previous winners of the Abdul-Jabbar Award are Angel Delgado, Seton Hall (2018); Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga (2017); Jakob Poeltl, Utah (2016); and Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin (2015).