Arizona’s Deandre Ayton is Pac-12 Conference’s player, freshman of the year

Arizona’s Deandre Ayton (13) during an NCAA college basketball game in Corvallis, Ore., Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/
(Timothy J. Gonzalez / Associated Press)

A cloud of suspicion did not follow Arizona’s Deandre Ayton into awards season.

The 7-foot-1 forward was selected the Pac-12 Conference player and freshman of the year Monday in voting by conference head coaches despite a recent ESPN report alleging that Wildcats coach Sean Miller had been heard on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for Ayton before his arrival in Tucson.

Both Ayton and Miller have denied any wrongdoing, and Arizona officials cleared Ayton to continue playing.

Ayton, who has averaged 19.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, joins former UCLA star Kevin Love and former California standout Shareef Abdur-Rahim as the only players to win the conference’s player and freshman of the year award in the same season.

UCLA junior point guard Aaron Holiday and USC’s Jordan McLaughlin were two-time winners, garnering first-team and all-defensive team honors. Holiday, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring with 20.1 points per game and ranks second with 5.8 assists, and McLaughlin (12.5 points, 7.5 assists) were joined on the first team by Ayton and Arizona teammate Allonzo Trier, USC’s Chimezie Metu, Utah’s Justin Bibbins, Washington’s Noah Dickerson, Arizona State’s Tra Holder, Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle and Stanford’s Reid Travis.


Washington’s Matisse Thybulle was selected the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, Washington State’s Robert Franks the most improved player; Arizona State’s Remy Martin and Colorado’s Dominique Collier the sixth men of the year; Stanford’s Dorian Pickens the scholar-athlete of the year; and Washington’s Mike Hopkins the coach of the year after guiding his team to a tie for sixth place in the conference standings, four spots higher than predicted in the preseason media poll.

UCLA center Thomas Welsh was part of a second team that also includes Utah’s David Collette, Colorado’s George King, Oregon’s Payton Pritchard and Arizona’s Dusan Ristic.

UCLA forward Kris Wilkes was a member of the all-freshman team that also includes Ayton, Stanford’s Daejon Davis, Washington’s Jaylen Nowell and Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV. Holiday and McLaughlin were joined on the all-defensive team by Thybulle, Aytonand Oregon’s Kenny Wooten.

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