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