Kentucky men’s basketball freshman guard Keldon Johnson is the second Wildcat in as many days to earn a spot on a preseason list for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s positional awards. Johnson is among 20 candidates for the 2019 Julius Erving Award, which honors the nation’s best small forward.
Johnson is one of six freshmen on the preseason list, and he is one of only two players from the Southeastern Conference. Joining Johnson from the league is Tennessee’s senior Admiral Schofield.
Named after Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving, this year’s award will be presented at the ESPN College Basketball Awards Show in April. No Kentucky player has won the award since its inception in 2015.
A 6-foot-6 guard, Johnson is a two-way player with a high motor who can score the ball in a variety of ways while also taking pride in his defensive play. During the Bahamas exhibition tour, he averaged 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, while starting all four games. He topped 11 points in every game, while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from long range. He had a 16-point effort on 87.5 percent shooting against Mega Bemax.
A native of South Hill, Virginia, Johnson spent his final season of high school basketball with Oak Hill Academy. He led the team in scoring at 22.1 points per game and also contributed 6.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. He led his Boo Williams (Va.) AAU team to the semifinals of the Peach Jam after averaging 20.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game during the Nike regular season.
By mid-February, the watch list will be trimmed to just 10 players. Five finalists will be revealed in March with the winner being announced during the annual ESPN College Basketball Awards show on April 12.
Kentucky is slated to begin exhibition play beginning with its annual Blue-White Game on Sunday. That game will air live on the SEC Network at 7 p.m. UK will follow that with two tune-ups against Transylvania on Oct. 26 and Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Nov. 2. Both of those games will also air live on the SEC Network with 7 p.m. tip times. The Wildcats open the regular season in Indianapolis for the State Farm Champions Classic. They will face Duke at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.
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