Kansas basketball trio named to Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Watchlists

TCU v Kansas
TCU v Kansas / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

A pair of experienced veterans on this year’s Kansas men’s basketball team have been named to one of the country’s most prestigious award watchlists.

Senior guards Kevin McCullar Jr. and Dajuan Harris Jr. are two of 15 players in the country who are up for the Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the Year Award announced today. Kansas is the only school to have two players up for this year’s award.

McCullar is appearing on the watchlist for the third consecutive year dating back to his time at Texas Tech. He is currently ranked 12th in the Big 12 Conference with 34 steals (1.5 per game). He’s also had nine blocks on the season.

Surprisingly, Harris is appearing on the watchlist for the first time in his career. The reigning 2022-23 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year is currently ranked 10th in the conference in steals with 36 (1.6 per game).

Others appearing on the watchlist include familiar names such as Purdue’s Zach Edey, Houston’s Jamal Shead, and Iowa State’s Timan Lipsey.

The award was created in 2018, and if either Harris or McCullar were to win, they will become just the second Jayhawk to do so – joining former Kansas guard Marcus Garrett who won the award in 2020.

On the women’s side, KU senior center Taiyanna Jackson has been named one of 15 finalists for the Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Jackson currently leads the Big 12 in blocked shots with 57 and averages 2.7 blocks per game. That average is tied with Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee who is also up for the award.

Jackson has been a defensive stalwart since coming to KU. She’s been named to the All-Big 12 Defensive Team in back-to-back seasons while also earning a unanimous All-Big 12 First Team selection last year.

Jackson was a semifinalist for the 2022-23 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award, and if she were to take home the honor this year, she would become the first Jayhawk in Kansas women’s basketball history to do so.