Now that we are into full preseason mode that means there are preseason teams and award watch lists to ponder. UNC has three players named to award watch lists heading into 2015-16 season.
The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame named University of North Carolina senior forward Brice Johnson, senior guard Marcus Paige and sophomore small forward Justin Jackson to the respective preseason watch lists for the Karl Malone Power Forward, Bob Cousy Point Guard and Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year positional awards.
Johnson is one of 20 players on the preseason list for the Karl Malone Award as the top power forward in the nation. The Orangeburg, S.C., native averaged 12.9 points and 7.8 rebounds last year and was a third-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection.
Paige is one of 20 players on the preseason list for the Bob Cousy Award as the premier point guard. The Marion, Iowa, native earned first-team All-ACC honors in 2014 and second- and third-team honors in 2015. He has 1,416 career points and 474 assists and needs just nine three-pointers to set UNC’s all-time record. Carolina is the only school with three Cousy Award winners – Raymond Felton (2005), Ty Lawson (2009) and Kendall Marshall (2012).
Jackson is one of 20 players on the preseason list for the Julius Erving Award as the nation’s top small forward. The Tomball, Texas, native averaged 10.7 points as a freshman, scoring in double figures in six of seven post-season games.
The Hall of Fame is scheduled to announce the 20 pre-season candidates for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award for the nation’s top center later this week.
The watch lists will be narrowed to 10 candidates in mid-February and five finalists in March, then presented to Cousy, Erving, Malone and their respective selection committees. The winners of the awards will be presented at the 2nd annual ESPN College Basketball Awards Show from Club Nokia in Los Angeles on Friday, April 8th.
This is Paige's second time on the Cousy Award watch list as he seeks to become the fourth Roy Williams era point guard to win it. Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson and Kendall Marshall were all named recipients of that award during their respective final seasons in Chapel Hill.
Of course this also assumes Paige spends a great deal of time at point guard and not on the wing with Joel Berry running the offense. The configuration of the backcourt is one of the biggest questions to be answered about this team which will begin the season ranked around or at #1 in most polls.