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Baylor Basketball

Baylor MBB’s Vital Named Naismith Defensive POY Finalist

March 23, 2020

ATLANTA – Baylor basketball redshirt junior guard/forward Mark Vital has been selected as one of four finalists for the Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the Year, as announced Monday by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

Vital is joined by Duke’s Tre Jones, Kentucky’s Ashton Hagans and Kansas’ Marcus Garrett. The finalists were chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s board of selectors, comprised of leading journalists from around the country, who based their selections on outstanding on-court defensive performances during the 2019-20 season. The winner will be announced on April 1 and will be honored at a future ceremony.

A two-time Big 12 All-Defensive Team and All-Big 12 honoree, Vital earned unanimous selection from every Big 12 coach to the 2020 Big 12 All-Defensive team. Vital was also named to the 2020 All-Big 12 third team as a junior after earning honorable mention in 2019.

A Lake Charles, La., native, Vital was a catalyst in Baylor’s switch to man-to-man defense in 2019-20. His ability to guard all five positions made Baylor’s defense one of the nation’s best. One of the best examples of this came with Baylor leading by one point in the final seconds against No. 18 Butler. Vital switched onto Butler’s point guard and leading scorer Kamar Baldwin, and when Baldwin drove inside, Vital stayed with him and blocked the potential go-ahead shot off of Baldwin and out of bounds with one second on the clock, securing the Baylor win.

The 6-5 junior averaged 6.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, adding 50 steals and 17 blocks while defending all five positions in Baylor’s stifling man-to-man defense.

Known for his tenacity and ability to make game-changing plays by diving onto the floor or into the crowd, Vital compiled an impressive highlight reel which is featured on Twitter using #GoingVital.

After playing mostly zone defense over the previous decade, Baylor switched to a man-to-man defense in 2019-20, leading the Bears to finish No. 7 nationally and No. 1 among Power-5 conference teams with a 60.1 points per game scoring defense. That mark set the school-record for the shot clock era and was Baylor’s best since allowing 59.1 points per game in 1958-59.

The Bears led the Big 12 in scoring defense for the first time in the league’s 24-year history. Baylor’s 60.1 points per game allowed was the fourth-best mark in Big 12 Conference history, trailing only Texas A&M’s 59.4 in 2007, Texas Tech’s 59.5 in 2019 and Oklahoma’s 60.0 in 2003.

Baylor’s defense finished the year ranked No. 4 nationally in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency (88.1), the best by a BU team since the metric was first tracked in 1997. BU’s best previous mark in adjusted defensive efficiency was ranked No. 16 in 2017 (92.9).

About the Naismith Men’s Defensive Player of the Year finalists:

Mark Vital, Baylor

Vital was a unanimous selection to the Big 12 All-Defensive team and earned an All-Big 12 third-team honor.

Playing both guard and forward for Baylor, he averaged 6.2 rpg and added another 50 steals this season.

The 6’5” junior has 73 career starts as a Bear and played in 87 consecutive games, which is a team high.

Marcus Garrett, Kansas

For the second straight season, Garrett was a unanimous selection on the Big 12 All-Defensive team, and the Kansas junior was also named 2020 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

The 6’5” guard led his conference in assists (4.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7).

Garrett averaged 9.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 4.5 deflections per game this season, including 6.9 deflections in his last nine outings for top-ranked Kansas.

Ashton Hagans, Kentucky

Hagans was named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman in 2019 and was included on the SEC All-Defensive team this season. 

In his sophomore season at Kentucky, he averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game.

The 6’3” guard accumulated 119 assists and a team-high 58 steals this season.

Tre Jones, Duke

Jones swept two major conference awards, earning both the ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year, becoming only the second player in conference history to take home both awards in the same season with the first being Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon.

He averaged 16.2 points and 6.4 assists per game.

The 6’3” sophomore guard ranked second in assists, fourth in assist/turnover ratio and sixth in both steals and scoring in the ACC.

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Baylor MBB’s Vital Named Naismith Defensive POY Finalist

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