UNI’s Green second in Jerry West rankings


Courtesy Photo

Panther guard AJ Green is widely expected to be one of the top guards in the nation this season.


On Thursday, Oct. 20, Andy Katz, a college basketball correspondent for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, released his first preseason rankings for the Jerry West Award. The Jerry West Award, named after the former standout for the Los Angeles Lakers and NBA Hall of Famer, has been awarded annually since 2014 to the nation’s best shooting guard. Former recipients of the award include NBA players D’Angelo Russell, Buddy Hield, Malik Monk and RJ Barrett. In these rankings, Katz listed the top 20 candidates for the award, and coming in at number two was UNI junior AJ Green.

Green, who played his prep basketball at Cedar Falls High School and is the son of associate head coach Kyle Green, has been a star for the Panthers since he first arrived on campus two years ago. From day one he had a spot in the starting five, having started all 65 games he’s played in since joining the team. He led the team in scoring as a freshman, averaging 15.0 points per game, and took home the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year award. After a stellar freshman season he took a big step up as a sophomore, leading the MVC in scoring with 19.7 points per game and taking home the MVC Player of the Year award. Green became the first sophomore to win the award since 2014 when it was won by Fred VanVleet, who is now an NBA Champion with the Toronto Raptors. He did all of this while also leading the team in assists as both a freshman and a sophomore. He even tested the NBA draft process, but ultimately decided to return for his junior season.

Green was ranked in front of players from much bigger basketball programs such as Michigan State, Baylor, Oregon and South Carolina, and was only ranked behind BJ Boston, a freshman at the University of Kentucky, a perennial basketball powerhouse. With the Panthers predicted to finish first in the MVC this season, UNI basketball is likely to receive more national attention, which will help Green in the pursuit of the Jerry West Award, as well as help all of the Panther players in pursuit of other awards. If Green can build upon the season he had last year, he should have a good shot of winning some major hardware at the end of the season.

At the same time that he released the Jerry West Award watch list, Katz also released a preseason March Madness bracket. In this bracket, he predicted that the Panthers will receive the 9-seed for the 2021 NCAA Tournament and will be taking on the Providence Friars in the Round of 64. Katz had the Panthers as the lone representative in the NCAA Tournament next spring, essentially predicting that they would win the MVC tournament and take the conference’s automatic bid to the tournament this season. Tournament projections undoubtedly will change throughout the course of the season, but many pundits in sports media have the Panthers as a likely participant in the NCAA Tournament this season.

There’s still a full basketball season to be played, but it’s great to see the Panthers receiving so much positive attention as we get ready for the season to start in just over a month.