Oumar Ballo wins Pac-12 player of the week after dominating in Maui

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Nathanial Stenchever | The Daily Wildcat

Oumar Ballo, center on the Arizona men's basketball team, dunks on Thursday, Feb. 17, in McKale Center. The Wildcats would win the game 83-69 against Oregon State University.

Throughout Feast Week, a ton of great college basketball teams were on display, but one player shook the scene in a different way. 

Arizona men's basketball center Oumar Ballo had his best three-game streak as a college basketball player during Thanksgiving week in Maui, Hawaii. 

Ballo’s 30-point performance against Creighton University on Nov. 23 in the Maui Invitational championship game led to a Pac-12 Player of the Week honor the following Monday, Nov. 28 – a first for this player in his collegiate career. Arizona beat Creighton 81-79 to win the tournament. 

“This is why I’m here and I would do anything to be available for my team,” Ballo said in a post-game press conference following the Creighton game.

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Ballo averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds while shooting over 79% from the field during the Wildcats' three victories in the Maui tournament. In two out of the three games, Ballo had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds while displaying a level of dominance he had not shown before this tournament. 

“I haven’t arrived, we haven’t done anything yet,” Ballo said. “It’s a long season. It’s a marathon.”

Two Wildcats won Pac-12 Player of the Week honors last season: Bennedict Mathurin won twice and Azuolas Tubelis got it once. The title of Pac-12 Player of the Week has been awarded to players on the Arizona basketball team 107 times, which is the most out of any other team.

After his incredible few games in Maui, Ballo is now averaging 19 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.5 blocks a game throughout the first six games of the season. As a sophomore last year, Ballo averaged 7 points and 4 rebounds while only playing 15 minutes per game compared to 26 this season.

Ballo came to Arizona last year as a player who showed tons of potential on the defensive side of the floor. On offense, he was known for catching lobs and running pick and rolls but rarely got the ball to post up a defender. 

“I’m just trying to be available for my team,” Ballo said during the Maui press conference. 

This season he came back looking like a different person, playing with more energy and taking advantage of smaller defenders when getting the ball on offense. If Ballo continues to play at this high of a level, this Arizona team could be a hard group to beat come March. 


 *El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


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