The United States Basketball Writers Association named Oklahoma State star guard Cade Cunningham the winner of the 2021 Wayman Tisdale Award, given annually to the best freshman in college basketball.
The Arlington, Texas, native is coming off a sensational season that included First Team All-America honors from the Associated Press, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, USA Today, the Sporting News and the USBWA.
“I’m honored to be named the winner of the Wayman Tisdale Award,” Cunningham said. “This is a testament to all of the great coaches and teammates that I’ve been fortunate enough to play with over my career to this point. To be mentioned alongside the greats that have won this award, as well as Mr. Tisdale himself, is truly humbling.”
Cunningham is one of four finalists for the 2021 Naismith Trophy and is on the national ballot for the John R. Wooden Award. A generational talent at his position, he is also a finalist for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award.
He is a nine-time recipient of the Big 12 Player/Newcomer of the Week honor, which is the most by any player this year and the most in school history. At 20.1 points per game, Cunningham finished the season as the Big 12’s top scorer, and only two other players in all of college basketball over the last 20 seasons can match his stellar all-around stat line.
Cunningham is the second Cowboy to win the Tisdale Award, joining Marcus Smart in his All-American season of 2013. Other iconic Tisdale Award winners include Zion Williamson (Duke, 2019), Trae Young (Oklahoma, 2018), Lonzo Ball (UCLA, 2017), Anthony Davis (Kentucky, 2012), John Wall (Kentucky, 2010), Kevin Durant, (Texas, 2007), Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse, 2003), Jason Kidd (California, 1993) and Chris Weber (Michigan, 1992).
The USBWA has chosen the national freshman of the year since the 1988-89 season when LSU’s Chris Jackson was the recipient. Cunningham won the Tisdale Award over three other finalists, all fellow USBWA All-Americans: Michigan center Hunter Dickinson, USC forward Evan Mobley and Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs.
The award’s namesake, the late Wayman Tisdale, redefined what it was to have success as a freshman while at the University of Oklahoma. The three-time All-American went on to a 12-year NBA career before retiring in 1997 to focus on a blossoming career as a jazz musician. He died in 2009 after a courageous battle with cancer.