2024 USBWA College Basketball Awards

The USBWA (United States Basketball Writers Association) held its annual basketball awards ceremony at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis, Missouri, on Wednesday, April 17. The event brought together some of the most talented and accomplished basketball players and coaches from around the country, who were recognized for their outstanding performances and contributions to the sport. The ceremony featured several awards, including the Tamika Catchings Women's Freshman of the Year Award (JuJu Watkins), the Wayman Tisdale Men's Freshman of the Year Award (Reed Sheppard), the Henry Iba Men's Coach of the Year Award (Kelvin Sampson), and the Women's Coach of the Year Award (Dawn Staley). Legendary UConn coach Geno Auriemma was also in attendance to receive special recognition. Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams served as the guest speaker at the banquet. The event was a celebration of excellence in basketball and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the award recipients.

Click below to see the recap video with honorees and special guests.

Reed Sheppard

The UK Sharp-Shooter is the Third Wildcat to Win the Award
Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard, one of the country’s top three-point shooters, the Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Year and a member of its all-conference second team, is the 2023-24 Wayman Tisdale Award as the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s National Freshman Player of the Year.

Sheppard is Kentucky’s third Wayman Tisdale Award winner, following Anthony Davis (2011-12 season) and John Wall (2009-10, prior to the Tisdale naming when the award was the National Freshman Player of the Year), and the third consecutive player from the SEC to win the award following Jabari Smith of Auburn (2021-22) and Alabama’s Brandon Miller last season. The SEC has now had seven winners since Chris Jackson of LSU won the first one 33 seasons ago.

The 6-3 guard from London, Ky., was the only player in the country who amassed at least 75 steals, dished out at least 140 assists and made at least 70 3-pointers through March 9. From KenPom.com, Sheppard’s 3-point percentage of 52.6 percent led the country, his true-shooting percentage (70.4 percent) was fourth and his effective field-goal percentage (68.2 percent) ranked seventh.

Sheppard grabbed national notice in Kentucky’s come-from-behind win at Mississippi State on Feb. 27, pouring in a career-high 32 points with five boards, seven assists, two blocks and two steals. He scored 23 points after halftime and had 11 in the final 93 seconds. It was the only game in the NCAA this season in which a player had 30 or more points, seven-plus assists, five-plus rebounds, two-plus blocks and two-plus steals, and one of only 11 such games going back to 1996-97. 

He followed that two weeks later with a 27-point, six-rebound, five-assist showing in the Wildcats’ 85-81 upset at No. 4 Tennessee to close the regular season, sinking a career-high seven treys. Sheppard is the first Kentucky player in school history to have three games with at least 25 points, at least five boards and at least five assists in a single season.

Sheppard also led the Wildcats in assists on the season. Defensively, he has rankled opponents with his 82 steals, the second-highest total in program history. Sheppard became the first player in UK history to register five steals in three-consecutive games, collecting five thefts against Ole Miss (2/13), Auburn (2/17) and 
LSU (2/21).

JuJu Watkins

The USC Guard Was Second in the Nation in Scoring
After leading USC to its first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament since 1986, JuJu Watkins was named the winner of the Tamika Catchings Award. Coming to USC as one of the nation’s top recruits, the Los Angeles product did not disappoint. The 6-2 first-year guard set a school record – for women and men – with 13 games of 30-or-more points and was the USBWA’s National Freshman Player of the Week three times this season.

Watkins entered NCAA Tournament play as the nation’s second-leading scorer at 27.0 points per game, which included a 51-point outing in an upset at Stanford, the highest-scoring individual game in the nation this season. Her 42 points vs. Colorado on Feb. 23 is the most points ever scored by a USC player (male or female) at Galen Center, the home of the Trojans.

Watkins, who led the Trojans in scoring in 26 of their 31 games this season, consistently fills up the box score as she is also the team’s second leading rebounder with 7.2 to go with 2.4 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. She is just one of five Pac-12 players to ever accumulate at least 750 points, 150 rebounds and 50 steals in a season. 

As USC beat two top 10 foes in No. 7 UCLA and No. 2 Stanford along the way to winning the Pac-12 Tournament, Watkins was named to the All-Tournament Team. The Women of Troy’s 26 wins are the most since the 1993-94 season. Watkins is the first player from USC to win the Tamika Catchings Award.

“There are freshmen who have won the Tamika Catchings Award simply by being better than the rest of the season’s rookies. Then there is the rare crowning honor of being an impact freshman and that’s JuJu,” said Mel Greenberg, USBWA Vice President for Women. “From opening night, when her performance enabled the Trojans to stun Ohio State and quickly become a Top 10 program, she has been waking up the echoes of the Cheryl Miller and Lisa Leslie eras while becoming a must-see Hollywood sports talent.”

Kelvin Sampson

Houston Cougars Coach Wins His Second Iba Award
University of Houston Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kelvin Sampson is the 2023-24 recipient of the Henry Iba Award for the second time during his career after first earning the award following the 1994-95 season in his first year at Oklahoma.

He is the 10th repeat winner in the 66-year history of the award joining John Wooden, Tony Bennett, Fred Taylor, Bob Knight, Ray Meyer, Lou Carnesecca, Gene Keady, John Chaney, and Roy Williams. Sampson is also the second Houston coach to collect the honor after Hall of Fame Coach Guy V. Lewis following the 1967-68 season.

“This award has special meaning for me because of the impact of Coach Iba in the state of Oklahoma. Playing Oklahoma State in the gym with his name on it, I know the impact he had on the history of basketball in this country,” Sampson said. “This is a great honor, and I accept it on behalf of our staff, our players, who poured their hearts and souls into this season, and our entire program.”

Now in his 35th season overall and his 10th season at Houston, Sampson has placed the Cougars among the nation’s elite during his tenure. His Cougars earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament South Region, the second straight season Houston earned a region’s top seed.

In 2023-24, Sampson led the Cougars to a 30-4 overall record entering the NCAA Tournament and won the Big 12 regular-season championship by two games. Houston led the nation in scoring defense, turnover margin, field goal percentage defense, and ranked among the country’s Top 10 in turnovers per game, scoring margin and steals per game. Under Sampson’s leadership, Houston has been ranked for a school-record 86 consecutive weeks, including each of the last 41 weeks in the Top 10, another best for the program.

For his team’s impressive efforts in 2023-24, Sampson recently was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year. This marked the third straight season in which Sampson was named the Conference Coach of the Year and the fifth time in the last seven years.

Dawn Staley

South Carolina Coach Claims Award for Third Consecutive Season
South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley earned National Coach of the Year honors from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. Winner of the award in four of the last five seasons, Staley becomes the first coach in the award’s history to capture the honor in three consecutive seasons and her four awards are the second most all-time.

After losing all five starters off a Final Four team a year ago, Staley entered the season with just one player who had ever started a game as a Gamecock. Staley’s Gamecocks were even better this year, posting an undefeated 38-0 record on their way to the national championship. It marked the third time Staley has led South Carolina to the national championship. 

At the conclusion of the regular season, the Gamecocks’ seven wins over ranked opponents were the second-most in the country and their 17 wins over NET top-50 teams led the nation.

The Gamecocks swept the SEC Regular-Season and Tournament titles for the sixth time in the last 10 seasons, posting a perfect 16-0 SEC regular-season record for the third time in program history. Staley drew SEC Coach of the Year honors from her colleagues for the seventh time this season, leaving her just 
one behind legendary Pat Summitt for the most selections in league history.

“Having seen Dawn through most of her basketball career, the amazing thing is once she dropped her reluctance to coaching and accepted the Temple job is how fast the Owls turned around in her native Philadelphia,” said Mel Greenberg, the USBWA Vice President for Women. “Perhaps more remarkably, though, is how quickly South Carolina under Staley has rocketed into a powerhouse program at supersonic speed.”

South Carolina’s balanced attack led by 6-7 center Kamilla Cardoso features seven players averaging at least 8.1 points per game. Cardoso, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, averages 14.0 points per game on a team that is fourth in the nation averaging 86.1 points per game. South Carolina also held its opponents to 32 percent shooting from the field, the best mark in the country.

Staley, a two-time first-team USBWA All-American player at Virginia, is in her 24th season as a head coach and her 16th at South Carolina. The 38 wins this season give her six 30-win seasons with a chance to break the South Carolina school single-season record of 36, set just a year ago.

Contact Jim Wilson for more information