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Caleb McConnell named to Naismith National Defensive Player of the Year watchlist

Caleb McConnell continues to be one of the best defenders in the nation.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb McConnell entered the season as the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year but had bigger aspirations.

McConnell has been named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year watchlist for 2023. The list is condensed to the top 15 defenders in the nation and McConnell is apart of the group.

“It’s an honor to be named to Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Watchlist along with some of the greatest defenders in college basketball,” McConnell said. “My defense is something I take extreme pride and effort in, and I appreciate the recognition. There is much more work to be done and I look forward to continuing to help my team win games as we look to take Rutgers basketball to new heights this season.”

This is to the first time that McConnell has received national recognition. Last season, he was named to the semifinal list for this very award. He was also named to the watchlist for the Julius Erving Award, given to the top small forward in the nation, during the preseason.

Rutgers has one of the top defenses in the nation, holding opponents to 57 points per game. This is good for fourth in the nation and tops in the Big Ten.

McConnell has led the charge with 2.3 steals per game. He is currently fourth in program history with 186 steals. McConnell is also averaging 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists.

The winner of the award will be announced on April 2. Below, you can find the full 15-man list to this point:

Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award watchlist

Chase Audige - Northwestern

Leaky Black - North Carolina

Moussa Cisse - Oklahoma State

Jaylen Clark - UCLA

Zach Edey - Purdue

Andre Jackson Jr. - UConn

Trayce Jackson-Davis - Indiana

Ryan Kalkbrenner - Creighton

Caleb McConnell - Rutgers

Kevin McCullar Jr. - Kansas

Shakeel Moore - Mississippi State

Marcus Sasser - Houston

Jamarion Sharp - Western Kentucky

Oscar Tshiebwe - Kentucky

Zakai Zeigler - Tennessee