Great expectations: Charles Bassey named to Naismith Player of the Year award watch list

WKU sophomore center Charles Bassey (23) looks for a pass option during the exhibition basketball game between Kentucky State and WKU in Diddle Arena on November 2, 2019. WKU won 85-45.

Elliott Wells

After being named to several preseason watch lists, WKU men’s basketball sophomore Charles Bassey has been named one of 50 national watch list members for the 2020 Naismith Trophy Men’s Player of the Year award, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Monday.

The Naismith Trophy is given each year to the top men’s college basketball player in the nation, and Bassey is the first WKU men’s basketball player on the Naismith Trophy Watch List since current NBA player Courtney Lee was listed in 2007.

There’s little surprise that the 6-foot-11-inch, 230-pound center was selected to the watch list, as Bassey stood tall during his freshman campaign by averaging 14.6 points, 10 rebounds and 2.4 blocks — all while shooting 62.7% from the field.

Bassey’s stellar freshman year guided him to being named a Freshman All-American, along with being named to the All-Conference USA First Team, All-Freshman Team and All-Defensive Team.

The Lagos, Nigeria, native became just the second player in C-USA history to win both C-USA Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.

Bassey was named to the numerous C-USA awards in 2018-19 after leading the league in double-doubles at 17. He also ranked in the top 30 nationally in double-doubles, field-goal percentage, blocks per game, total blocks, rebounds per game, defensive rebounds per game and total rebounds while competing as one of the top-10 youngest players in the country.

During Bassey’s freshman year, he joined current NBA star Anthony Davis as the only two freshmen since 1992 to average at least 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks while shooting 60% overall.

In September, Bassey was announced as a Preseason First-Team All-American by both Lindy’s Sports Magazine and Street & Smith’s Basketball Yearbook.

Bassey was also named to the watch list for the 2020 Kareem-Abdul Jabbar Center of the Year Award on Oct. 18. The award is annually given to one of the top centers in the nation.

The watch list for the Naismith Trophy will be trimmed down to a 30-member team in early February, followed by the 10 national semifinalists and four finalists on March 5 and 17, respectively.

The Naismith award will be awarded in the hometown of the Atlanta Tipoff Club during the Final Four at the Naismith Awards Brunch on April 5.

Bassey and the Hilltoppers were in action for the first time this season on Saturday when Division II Kentucky State visited Diddle Arena for an exhibition matchup.

The Hilltoppers defeated the Thorobreds 85-45, while Bassey recorded a double-double by scoring 16 points, collecting 10 rebounds and swatting four blocks.

The Hilltoppers are set to open their regular season slate of games on Tuesday night when Tennessee Tech pays a visit to Diddle Arena for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

Reporter Elliott Wells can be reached at [email protected] Follow Elliott on Twitter at @ewells5.