Four Zags named to Naismith Award watch list

#8 Gonzaga Bulldogs blowout University of Denver Pioneers
Corey Kispert blows by Denver's defense.

ATLANTA – Gonzaga’s Joel Ayayi, Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme were all named to the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy Men’s College Player of the Year Preseason Watch List, the Atlanta Tipoff Club released Thursday.

Gonzaga leads the 50-player watch list with four players included on the list, followed by Duke, which has won more Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophies (8) than any other school. Seven schools have two players represented include Baylor, Illinois, Kentucky, LSU, North Carolina, Stanford and Villanova. Overall, the ACC and Big Ten top the list, each with eight players represented, while the Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC are close runners-up with six candidates on the watch list.

Ayayi, who was named the 2020 West Coast Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player, appeared in all 33 games last season, starting in 23. The redshirt junior was selected honorable mention All-Conference in 2019-20. He averaged 10.6 points, 6.33 rebounds (which was eighth in WCC), 3.21 assists (11th in WCC), and 1.27 steals (10th in WCC) per game. He was fourth in the conference with a 2.08 assist-to-turnover ratio. Ayayi was recently named to the Preseason All-WCC Team.

Kispert was a finalist for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award last season. He was named the DI-AAA ADA Men’s Scholar Athlete of the Year, and was also tabbed USBWA All-District IX, NABC Second Team All-District 9 and WCC First Team. The senior earned Academic All-Conference honors for the second straight season in 2019-20. He was 11th in the West Coast Conference in points per game (13.9) and ninth in minutes played per game (32.9). The Edmonds, Wash., native led the team in three-point made field goals (78) and made 81 percent of his free-throws. He shot 43.8 percent from behind-the-arc last season.

Suggs is the highest-ranked recruit to ever sign with the Zags. He ranked fifth in ESPN’s Top-100 list in the Class of 2020. The West St. Paul, Minn., native, averaged 23.5 points per game during his senior season at Minnehaha Academy. He also averaged 7.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.8 steals per game helping the Redhawks to a 26-3 record and No. 13 national ranking. As a junior, he averaged 24.2 points, 6.5 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game.

Timme was recently named Preseason All-West Coast Conference. Last season, the Dallas, Texas, native appeared in all 33 games, averaging 9.8 points and 5.4 rebounds. He was third in the conference with 31 blocked shots. During his freshman season, he led the team shooting 62.1 percent from the field and was third in WCC making 62.3 percent of shots inside-the-arc. Timme recorded three double-doubles in 2019-20, and reached double-digit scoring in 16 games.

The list includes the 2020 Jersey Mike’s Naismith High School Trophy winner, Cade Cunningham, now a freshman at Oklahoma State University, the 2020 Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the Year winner, Marcus Garrett from Kansas, and Iowa’s Luka Garza, who was a finalist for the 2020 Men’s Player of the Year honor.

A list of the midseason 30 team will be released in early February, followed by the 10 national semifinalists and four finalists on March 4, and March 16, respectively. Players who do not make the watch list are still eligible to be selected for the midseason 30 team. The 2021 Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy will be awarded during the Final Four at the Naismith Awards Brunch on April 4.