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Chris Smith named to Naismith Trophy preseason watch list

Smith is nominated as one of the 50 best players this preseason

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The UCLA Bruins are less than a week away from beginning what could become a very special 2020-21 basketball season. And with their start, six days from now, the preseason accolades are continuing to pour in for individuals.

Senior guard Chris Smith was selected to the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy Watch List ahead of the 2020-21 season, announced Thursday by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

The Naismith Trophy is awarded annually to the top men’s and women’s collegiate basketball players. And is, of course, named after the great Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of the game of basketball.

Dayton’s Obi Toppin is the most recent award winner on the men’s side while Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu won it on the women’s side last year.

Smith tested the NBA Draft waters for a bit this offseason before ultimately deciding to come back to UCLA for his final season, thus meaning all five starters as well as Kentucky-transfer Johnny Juzang make up one of the deepest and most experienced starting lineups in the country. He averaged 13.1 points per game to lead the team last year while finishing second in rebounds per game at 5.4.

He was named the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player of the Year in 2019-20.

Smith is one of just six players from the Pac-12 on the list, joining Oscar da Silva and Ziaire Williams from Stanford, Remy Martin from Arizona State, Evan Mobley from USC and McKinley Wright IV from Colorado on the list.

The season begins in six days and good ole No. 5 is receiving much-deserved acclaim.