Five Wildcats honored in Pac-12 Yearly Awards, Love named Pac-12 Player of the Year

The 2023 Pac-12 Honors and Awards were released, and five Wildcats earned honors, awards, or honorable mentions: Caleb Love and Oumar Ballo are First-team All-Pac-12, Pelle Larsson is Second-team, and KJ Lewis and Keshad Johnson were honorable mentions.

Arizona State v Arizona
Arizona State v Arizona / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
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Caleb Love: Pac-12 Player of the Year, First-team All-Pac-12

Jan 17, 2024; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Caleb Love (2) celebrates a three point
Jan 17, 2024; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Caleb Love (2) celebrates a three point / Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

The prized transfer from North Carolina has found even more success with Arizona, earning Pac-12 Player of the Year. This was to be expected, with the only real competition for the award coming from teammate (and fellow First-team All-Pac-12 honoree) Oumar Ballo. The star guard had a handful of bad games, but he was the driving force behind many an Arizona win this year.

Love finished as the Pac-12's fourth-leading scorer at 18.7 points per game while attempting 14.6 field goals — tied for second in the conference. He's also a threat from distance, logging a league-high 59 3-pointers in Pac-12 play. He posted five games with 25-plus points alongside a career showing on the road against Oregon where he logged 36 points, and he was an instrumental part of Arizona's late-game push to knock off No. 2 Duke on the road in the now-iconic win.

Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd is hoping that Love's best ball is still ahead of him, though — the main reason he was pursued was for his prowess in the postseason like he showed at UNC. The Wildcats did everything possible to avoid another stunning first-round exit, and Love is the linchpin to that plan.

Oumar Ballo: First-team All-Pac-12, All-Defensive team

Oumar Ballo
Stanford v Arizona / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

Ballo landed in Tucson three years ago when he followed head coach Tommy Lloyd from Gonzaga to Arizona, and he's turned into an extremely imposing presence on the court. Ballo held down the post position admirably for the Wildcats last year and has grown into a locked-and-loaded threat on both ends of the court. He posted 16 double-doubles last year and pulled together a string of nine straight from Thursday, Feb. 1, to Saturday, March 2.

This is his first All-Defensive team nod and his second consecutive First-team All-Pac-12 honor. Last year's Most Improved Player has stayed the course and has earned his flowers. Ballo is one of just two players in the Pac-12 who averages a double-double at 13.1 points (Second on the team) and 10 rebounds (leads the team) per game. He attempted the fifth-most free throws in the conference as well and cashed in on 51.2% of them.

Fun fact: Ballo, Utah's Branden Carlson, and Oregon's N'Faly Dante are the only players on this year's squad who have been named to an All-Pac-12 First team before, and they are all centers.

Pelle Larsson: Second-team All-Pac-12

Jan 20, 2024; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Pelle Larsson (3) celebrates after making
Jan 20, 2024; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Pelle Larsson (3) celebrates after making / Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Larsson is another transfer who has spent three seasons in Tucson, coming in from Utah in 2021. After initially declaring for the NBA Draft after last season, he opted to return for one last ride and made it pay off. Larsson had a career year, posting highs in minutes, points, field goal percentage, and steals. He finished the regular season as the third-leading scorer by a hair with 13 points per game.

Larsson even had the opportunity to score more, but he also led the team in assists with 3.7 per game and 114 overall, narrowly edging out Kylan Boswell's 113. An underappreciated aspect of Larsson's game is his ability to take a beating, draw fouls, and remain in the game time after time. He attempted the third-most free throws on the team last year with 104, and he nailed 79 of them for a 76% average.

After testing the waters last season and not garnering much interest, NBA scouts are much more aware of Larsson this year. It's seeming more likely as time goes on that he'll be taken late in the draft and find himself an NBA roster spot to develop from.

Keshad Johnson: All-Defensive team honorable mention

Feb 22, 2024; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Keshad Johnson (16) celebrates after
Feb 22, 2024; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Keshad Johnson (16) celebrates after / Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson was the other veteran with deep postseason experience that Lloyd lured to Arizona in the offseason. Johnson also lived up to his billing as a top-tier defender — the other reason he was pursued by Arizona's coaching staff. After coming over from mid-major San Diego State, Johnson has continued to blossom against the higher level of competition and posted career-highs in minutes, scoring, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals.

He also finished the regular season as Arizona's second-leading rebounder behind Ballo with 5.8 rebounds per game and the fourth-leading scorer with 11.9 points per game. He surpassed the 20-point mark three times in his first year as a Wildcat after not doing it once in his four years at San Diego State. He stepped up in the biggest moment, too: his career-high 24-point day came in the loss to Purdue.

KJ Lewis: All-Freshman team honorable mention

KJ Lewis
Arizona v Duke / Lance King/GettyImages

Lewis was highly-touted when he first got to the Arizona campus ahead of the 2023 season, and he has lived up to the hype. With such a loaded starting five, the only way to reasonably get Lewis minutes is to have him come off the bench as one of the two top bench players — the other being the snubbed Bradley. Lewis, despite not being renowned for his scoring ability, logged six contests where he reached double figures and a career-high 18 points in the most recent UCLA win.

Lewis was a true jack-of-all-trades who filled out each section of the stat sheet nicely: 6.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He also takes great care of the ball and is one of only two Arizona players averaging more than 15 minutes and less than one turnover per game — the other is Bradley. He shot 47% from the field and 33.3% from the arc, and will blossom into a star after the current cast of guards moves on.

Pac-12 power rankings. P12PR. Arizona locks up No. 1 seed, Colorado/Oregon looking intimidating. dark

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