UK's Washington semi-finalist for Naismith Trophy

ATLANTA Kentucky's PJ Washington is a semifinalist for the 2019 Citizen Naismith Trophy, awarded annually by the Atlanta Tipoff Club to the national player of the year.

Washington was one of 10 players on the semifinalist list released Wednesday. He joins Grant Williams from Tennessee as the Southeastern Conference representatives.

The sophomore forward is looking to become just the second Wildcat in UK's storied history to win the award. Anthony Davis, who led UK to the 2012 national championship, captured the school’s first and only Naismith Trophy.

Four finalists will be announced March 19, at which point fans will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite player leading up to the final announcement. The 2019 Citizen Naismith Trophy will be awarded at the Naismith Awards Brunch on April 7, during the Final Four in Minneapolis. Only players among the semifinalists are eligible to advance to the next round.

Washington is also one of 10 midseason finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Karl Malone Award, which honors the nation’s top power forward.

Washington has scored 20 or more points in eight of the last 13 games and has been credited for being the catalyst in Kentucky’s national surge. The Wildcats have won 15 of their last 17 and are still in the discussion for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Washington is averaging 18.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 blocks over the last 14 games. During that stretch, he’s shooting 53.6 percent from the floor and 47.5 from 3-point range. That span also includes three straight double-doubles vs. then-No. 9/10 Kansas, at Vanderbilt and at Florida.

Overall, Washington leads the Wildcats in both scoring (14.9 points per game) and rebounding (7.4 rpg).
For the season, Washington is shooting 52.5 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from 3-point range. A year after hitting just five 3s in 37 games at a 23.8-percent rate, he's already drained 30 in 30 games this season.

He’s one of just five players nationally standing 6-foot-8 or taller averaging at least 14.5 points, shooting at least 50 percent from the field, at least 40 percent from 3-point range and with at least 30 made 3-pointers.

In UK’s eight games vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams, Washington is averaging 16.1 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent.

Some of his best performances include a recent 23-point game vs. Auburn that featured a career-high five 3-pointers, 23 points in the home win over then-top-ranked Tennessee, and a 29-point, 12-rebound game vs. Seton Hall.

Washington was named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week on Feb. 19 and is a two-time SEC Player of the Week pick this season.

The Wildcats finish up their regular season Saturday vs. Florida at 2 p.m. in Rupp Arena. You can see the CBS Sports coverage on WKYT.

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