GLENDALE – (Wire Service Report) – Kansas senior guard Frank Mason III took home Associated Press Player of the Year honors while Gonzaga coach Mark Few was named Coach of the Year on Thursday at the site of the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz.
Mason led the Jayhawks in points (20.9 per game) and assists (5.2) and was the team’s fourth-leading rebounder (4.2) over 36 games. He averaged 22 points, six assists and 4.5 boards in four NCAA Tournament games.
The Petersburg, Va. native is the first player in Big 12 history to average at least 20 points and five assists during the regular season, resulting in him being unanimously selected the Big 12 Player of the Year.
An 11-time West Coast Conference Coach of the Year winner, Few has led Gonzaga to the NCAA Tournament in each of his 18 seasons at the school. He also won this year’s Henry Iba Award, honoring the nation’s top college coach.
This season, Few guided the Bulldogs to a 29-1 regular-season record after the team won its first 29 games before a 79-71 loss to BYU. Gonzaga (36-1) went on to win the WCC Tournament and has won four NCAA Tournament games en route to its first Final Four appearance in program history.
— TJ Leaf joined UCLA teammate Lonzo Ball and declared his intention to leave school after one season to enter the NBA Draft.
The school announced that Leaf plans to hire an agent. The 6-foot-10 freshman power forward is expected to be a lottery pick in the June 22 draft. He is projected to be the 11th overall selection by nbadraft.net.
“This was a huge decision for me and my family,” Leaf said. “It was definitely one of the hardest decisions in my life.”
During a season that ended in the NCAA Sweet 16 with a loss to Kentucky, Leaf averaged a team-best 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 61.7 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from 3-point range for UCLA (31-5),
— Arizona freshman forward Lauri Markkanen announced that he is entering the NBA draft.
The 7-foot native of Finland averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in his lone college season. He is projected to be selected 10th overall by NBADraft.net.
Wildcats coach Sean Miller said it was the right decision due to how high Markkanen will be chosen.
–South Carolina star Sindarius Thornwell missed practice on Thursday due to illness, just two days before the Gamecocks face top-seeded Gonzaga in the Final Four.
The senior guard remained back at the team hotel and didn’t participate in the media interview session at Phoenix.
“He had a little body temperature last night when we landed,” coach Frank Martin said. “He was a little better this morning. I just told our trainer to just feed him fluids, let him rest.”
Martin said that Thornwell won’t be affected by the missed practice due to his vast experience. Thornwell averages 21.6 points and 7.2 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Gamecocks.