UConn freshman Paige Bueckers and Iowa senior Luka Garza were named winners of the 2021 Naismith Trophy, presented annually to college basketball's most outstanding player, by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
Bueckers is the first freshman in the 39-year history of the women's collegiate award to take home the hardware and just the fourth first-year player ever, following men's winners Kevin Durant (2007), Anthony Davis (2012) and Zion Williamson (2019). Garza, a Naismith Trophy finalist in 2020 and now the 53rd winner in the history of the award, becomes the first Hawkeye to win the Naismith Trophy on the men's side. With former Hawkeye Megan Gustafson winning in 2019, Iowa now joins Duke, LSU, Notre Dame, Texas and Virginia as the only schools ever to win both a men's and women's Naismith Trophy.
Bueckers and Garza will be honored on their respective campuses this spring and presented with the Naismith Trophy, originally sculpted in 1982 by Atlanta's Marty C. Dawe. A replica trophy will be donated by Herff Jones to the winners' respective universities.
"Luka just concluded a remarkable college career and had tremendous expectations to live up to all season long, and while Paige is just beginning her college run, she had similar acclaim given her incredible high school achievements. The common denominator is that both displayed complete dominance on the court throughout the course of an incredibly challenging basketball season, and for that, we're honored to recognize them as the 2021 Jersey Mike's Naismith Trophy winners," said Eric Oberman, executive director of the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
"I feel incredibly blessed to receive the Naismith Trophy. It was an honor to receive the high school award last season, and truly, it's surreal to receive the collegiate award this year," Bueckers said in a statement. "My teammates and coaches are the reason I had any individual success this year, so thank you to them for being by my side all season. There are so many talented players who are deserving of this award, like Aliyah, Dana and Rhyne, so it's humbling to receive it."
Bueckers became the second Big East player to win both the Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year awards, following former Husky Maya Moore in 2008. Bueckers had the highest single game scoring total by a UConn freshman since 2007 with 32 points. The freshman forward was the first player in program history to have three straight 30-point games. She led UConn to both regular season and tournament championships in the Big East. Bueckers is the seventh Husky to win the women's Naismith Trophy, making it the 11th total win for UConn since Breanna Stewart (2014-2016), Moore (2009, 2011) and Diana Taurasi (2003, 2004) won multiple.
Bueckers and Garza were chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club's national voting academy, comprised of leading media members from around the country, current and former head coaches, former award winners and conference commissioners, all of whom based their selections on outstanding on-court performances during the 2020-21 college basketball season. Additionally, fans had the opportunity to cast a ballot counting for 5% of the vote.