Leading up to Seton Hall forward Sandro Mamukelashvili’s senior year, he had been tipped as one of the players to watch both in the Big East and across the national college basketball scene. He was named to the Preseason All-Big East First Team back in October, and now he’s been named as one of the top 10 candidates for the 2021 Karl Malone Award.
This award is given to the most outstanding power forward in college basketball. No Big East player has won it since it was awarded to the University of Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell in its inaugural year in 2015. Former recipients include current NBA stars Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans (2019) and DeAndre Ayton – who was the first non-American recipient of the award – of the Phoenix Suns (2017). Mamukelashvili could become the first European-born college basketball player to receive the honor.
Despite a season hindered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a pause in play within the Seton Hall program in November, Mamukelashvili has taken the mantle of one of the Pirates’ senior leaders admirably. He is the only Big East player to rank among the conference’s top 15 for points (fourth, 17.9), rebounds (eighth, 6.9) and assists (13th, 3.3) per game and one of only five players in the Power Six conferences to register multiple 30-point games this season.
Mamukelashvili has developed into one of the most well-rounded scorers in the league, demonstrating a deceptively gracious ability to get to the basket and shooting 33.3% from three-point range. His ability to create opportunities for his teammates as well as finish them has also helped developed a fruitful partnership between himself and Shavar Reynolds Jr. often on the court.
His senior year has so far been highlighted by a career-high 32 points against St. John’s and a 30-point game against Penn State as the Pirates came back from 19 points down to beat the Nittany Lions. The Pirates have struggled in recent games to see out wins over No. 3 Villanova and No. 17 Creighton, but Mamukelashvili still averaged 16 points across those three games with the second meeting against Villanova to come on Saturday.
In late February, five finalists will be presented to Mr. Malone and the Hall of Fame’s selection committee with the winner being announced on Apr. 9, 2021. The other four members of the Men’s Starting Five will also be announced on that day. Fan voting will go live on Friday, Jan. 29 for those interested in showing support for their favorite candidate.
Justin Sousa can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinSousa99.