Williamson joins Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter, Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke and Washington’s Matisse Thybulle in the running for the 2019 award, which will be announced at the Naismith Awards Brunch on April 7 during the Final Four in Minneapolis. The four finalists were chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s board of selectors, comprised of leading journalists from around the country, who based their selections on outstanding on-court defensive performances during the 2018-19 college basketball season.
Although missing the better part of the final six regular season games due to a knee injury, Williamson is set to return for the Blue Devils Thursday night in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals versus Syracuse.
The Spartanburg S.C., native has been an intimidating defensive presence all season, ranking second in the ACC in steals (2.2) and fourth in blocked shots (1.85). He is two blocked shots shy of becoming just the third Blue Devil in history with 50+ blocks and 50+ steals in the same season. The previous two to accomplish it – Shelden Williams and Shane Battier – were each a National Defensive Player of the Year winner.
Williamson has already been named the Sporting News National Player of the Year, both the ACC Player and Rookie of the Year, a consensus first-team All-ACC pick and an ACC All-Defensive selection. Averaging 21.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and shooting .683 from the field, Williamson is a finalist for the Wooden Award, the Naismith Award and the Karl Malone Award.
He is looking to become Duke’s 10th all-time National Defensive Player of the Year selection, extending the program’s NCAA lead in that category. Connecticut has the second most, with four.