Bassey named Conference USA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year

Western Kentucky University junior Charles Bassey (23) attempts to dunk the ball during Friday nights game in Diddle Arena on Jan 15, 2021. The WKU Hilltoppers defeated the Marshall University Thundering Herd 81-73.

Nick Kieser

Junior big man Charles has been named Conference USA’s Player of the year and Defensive player of the year Tuesday afternoon. 

The 6-foot-11 center from Lagos, Nigeria s the first Hilltopper to win a conference Player of the Year award since Orlando Mendez-Valdez in the Sun Belt Conference in 2008-09. He’s the 15th overall Player of the Year in program history.

Bassey joins Charlotte’s Eddie Basden (2005), Marquette’s Dwyane Wade (2003) and Cincinnati’s Kenyon Martin (2000) as players in C-USA history to win the league’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season.

Being the defensive player of the year is not unfamiliar territory for the big man. He was also the best defensive player his freshman season in the 2018-19 season. 

As of Monday, Bassey leads the nation in dunks and is ranked second in the country in double-doubles, third in blocks per game, fourth in rebounds per game and total rebounds, fifth in total blocks and eighth in field-goal percentage.

The junior is averaging 17.6 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per contest while shooting 61.1% from the field. He’s the only player in the nation since at least 2010 with four games in a season of at least 20 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.

Bassey has also produced his eye-popping numbers against top competition. WKU’s non-conference strength of schedule was ranked 43rd in the country by the NET on Monday.

Bassey was named a recording breaking seven C-USA Player of the Week awards this regular season. 

On Saturday, Bassey was named to the Wooden Award National Ballot, which consists of 15 student-athletes who are candidates for the Wooden Award All American Team and Wooden Award Trophy as the most outstanding college basketball player in the United States.

In addition to the Wooden Award, Bassey made the watch lists for the Naismith Trophy and Lute Olson Award National Player of the Year.

He is also a semifinalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and a top-five finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award.

Sports Editor Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Nick on Twitter at @KieserNick.