If you listened to the HoriZone Roundtable podcast over the weekend, you heard hosts Bob and Jimmy make their picks for the All-Horizon League Teams (with a bonus Third Team).
With that in mind I’m taking it upon myself to declare the following the unquestioned, official HoriZone Roundtable Awards and All-League selections.
Player of the Year: Loudon Love, Wright State
Preseason Player of the Year Antoine Davis led the league in scoring by three points per game and finished just under seven points per game ahead of third place, but his Titans floundered and finished in ninth place and Davis struggled to find the shooting stroke he had last year. With all of that in mind, it’s difficult to make an argument for the league’s biggest stat-stuffer as Player of the year.
Consistency was the key for Loudon Love this season. He scored in double-figures in all but one Horizon League game while completing eight double-doubles and eight 20-point performances in league play. His 16.3 points per game rank him seventh in the Horizon League, but just a little over one point per game behind the league’s third leading scorer Jayquan McCloud. His 9.7 rebounds per game rank second in league play between Elyjah Goss of IUPUI.
Defensive Player of the Year: Tray Maddox, Oakland
Admittedly, focusing on defense isn’t my forte (especially given the limitations of watching off-ball defense that television broadcasts present), but Maddox has consistently been the guy guarding opponents’ elite scorers for the Golden Grizzlies and he’s done an excellent job in that role.
Probably the best counterargument you could use against Maddox would be OU’s home game against IUPUI in January. While some of that performance can be attributed to missed assignments by Maddox, there were a lot more shots that seemed to be answered prayers. Maddox has frequently used his athleticism effectively as a defender for the Golden Grizzlies.
Freshman of the Year: Amari Davis, Green Bay
Despite excellent play from a few Wright State freshmen, this award has been locked up for a long time. Davis set the Horizon League record as the league’s nine-time Freshman of the Week honoree. He finished the regular season as Green Bay’s second-leading scorer with 15.8 points per game on 51.4% shooting. The 6-foot-3 guard Davis somehow managed to go the entire season without hitting a single three-pointer, missing all seven of his attempts he took.
Sixth Man of the Year: PJ Pipes, Green Bay
Linc Darner’s up-tempo play style requires quality depth, and PJ Pipes has definitely provided that for the Phoenix this season. Pipes is averaging 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game on the year.
What’s interesting about Pipes and solidifies his case is that unlike others who could be in the running for this award he didn’t benefit from the games where he was inserted into the starting lineup. After Pipes’ best three-game stretch of the season — when he averaged 16.7 points and 5 rebounds per game off the bench — he was inserted into the lineup against Milwaukee and finished the night with a single point on 0-for-6 shooting in 20 minutes in an 87-80 loss.
By remaining on the bench all year and providing a consistent spark, PJ Pipes should definitely be the pick here.
Coach of the Year: Dennis Gates, Cleveland State
I’ve already laid out my argument for Dennis Gates as the league’s unquestioned Coach of the Year. With Wright State’s win over Northern Kentucky in the season finale, the Raiders squeaked out sole possession of the Horizon League’s regular season title in a season where they were supposed to dominate. In my eyes, it’s a total reversal of the Player of the Year vote: the best team had a lot of head scratching losses while a team that some metrics still think is worse than ninth place Detroit Mercy was playing for a Horizon League Tournament home game on the last day of the season.
All-Horizon League First Team
Loudon Love, C, Wright State
The pick for Player of the Year is an obvious inclusion on the first team.
Xavier Hill-Mais, F, Oakland
Hill-Mais was a HoriZone Roundtable Preseason First Team pick who remained a strong candidate for First Team inclusion even as the Golden Grizzlies struggled early. Hill-Mais began to take over down the stretch — with four double-doubles in his last five games and five 20+ point performances in his last seven — and Oakland surged. Now the Golden Grizzlies have a home game in the Horizon League Tournament just over a month removed from discussions about whether the team was as bad as IUPUI.
Tyler Sharpe, G, Northern Kentucky
It was a weird year for the Norse on the All-League teams. Jalen Tate entered the season as a First Team All-League projection, with Sharpe pegged for the second team. As league play approached, Tate fell by the wayside as Dantez Walton emerged as a strong early favorite for Horizon League Player of the Year. But Walton and Tate have both battled injuries that have coast each about a third of the season so far.
That’s allowed Sharpe to emerge as the team’s strongest contender for First Team All-League. With five 30-point performances this year, Sharpe has kept the Norse in several games and allowed the team to run away with several others.
JayQuan McCloud, G, Green Bay
McCloud looked to be one of the several lead guards on the Second Team who were leading their teams in a few stats but a little lacking in shooting efficiency. That was until he kicked things into a higher gear. JayQuan McCloud finished the season with four 20-plus point performances in his last five games, and in the process lifted his three-point shooting percentage to a respectable 34.5 percent on the year. Add in the fact that his Phoenix claimed sole possession of third place and it’s easy to see how McCloud got the edge.
Marcus Burk, G, IUPUI
The last pick on this team was a tough one. Do you go for the league’s Preseason Player of the Year and leading scorer? The second go-to-guy on the league champions? One of several comparable lead guards from mid-tier teams?
Ultimately, Burk gets the nod despite not actually having the opportunity to contribute to a ton of wins because he was able to maintain better shooting than several players who didn’t see the type of volume that he did. Averaging an efficient 20 points per game when the other team knows stopping you is slightly more important than stopping teammate Jaylen Minnett is special.
All-Horizon League Second Team
Darius Quisenberry, G, Youngstown State
Quisenberry likely wills his way onto this list with his 41-point outing in an 88-70 win over Wright State if not for the fact that he followed it up with a nine point, 2-for-13 night in a 61-59 loss to Northern Kentucky. Like McCloud, Quisenberry took games over late in the league slate. Unfortunately, his efficiency didn’t see similar gains and his team stumbled down the stretch. As a result, McCloud gets the first team nod.
Tarkus Ferguson, G, UIC
Ferguson led the Flames in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and even blocks for the second year in a row. There’s no doubt he’s the biggest reason that the Flames were able to make such a dramatic turnaround in Horizon League play, going into the final weekend of the season fighting for third place in the standings.
Te’Jon Lucas, G, Milwaukee
Before the season, I hypothesized that Te’Jon Lucas could be Milwaukee’s Sandy Cohen. So far, that prediction is looking good. Lucas is the Horizon League leader in assists per game as well as Milwaukee’s leader in steals and the team’s second leading scorer. While it’s not quite the feat that Cohen pulled off as a senior at Green Bay, the stellar point guard has another year to improve his production.
Antoine Davis, G, Detroit Mercy
Antoine Davis was named the Horizon League’s Preseason Player of the Year after averaging 26.0 points per game on 40 percent shooting, including 38 percent from beyond the arc.
If Davis shot as well as he did last year, I’d call him a lock for the first team. Unfortunately for Detroit Mercy, the drop in his long-range shooting and the tendency for him to have a chance to shoot his way out of “slumps” on an everyday basis means that the team’s results have fallen below preseason expectations. Detroit Mercy finished ninth in the Horizon League and has been deemed ineligible for the postseason.
Bill Wampler, F, Wright State
The case for Bill Wampler presents an interesting chicken-and-egg argument. Wampler is averaging 15.6 points per game and hitting 40.6 percent of his three-pointers.
It could be argued that playing on a team with so much depth is hurting his stats by limiting his opportunities. Or that playing with so much talent is giving him open looks that players on less talented teams aren’t getting, boosting his stats.
Given that McCloud played his way into a strong position and Burk is arguably having a more inexplicably productive season as an efficent shooter, Wampler got bumped to the second team.
All-Horizon League Third Team
Amari Davis, G, Green Bay
Davis would’ve been a strong candidate for the first two teams if he would’ve produced anything other than scoring for the Phoenix this year. The 6-foot-3 freshman was kneck-and-kneck with JayQuan McCloud for Green Bay’s scoring lead until McCloud had the late surge to put him over the top for good.
Jaylen Minnett, G, IUPUI
The other half of IUPUI’s backcourt combination that was regularly asked to carry virtually the entire scoring load for the team, Minnett also managed to knock down an impressive percentage of his shots despite having little help. The junior guard averaged 16.7 points per game while hitting 36.5 percent of his three-pointers on the year. I didn’t feel great leaving a guy who still managed to score pretty efficiently despite having so much attention focused on him off of one of the first two teams, but IUPUI really needed to win more for him to move up.
Tanner Holden, F, Wright State
Wright State managed to secure its spot as the Horizon League’s undisputed regular season champion over the weekend, and I’m always on-board with a policy of “stick another winner on the teams.” Holden’s first year with Wright State was a great one, and it’s easy to imagine his 12.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game going up on a team that doesn’t have the depth and balance of the Raiders.
Dantez Walton, F, Northern Kentucky
Walton was a stellar player for the Norse in the non-conference. He won three Horizon League Player of the Week awards, and I’d argue he should have had a fourth. But injuries derailed him in Horizon League play, and he missed most of Northern Kentucky’s league games. Walton remained on my board as a potential first or second teamer until some late games missed with an ankle issue kept him under the 50% threshold in league play.
Still, he was easily the early favorite for Player of the Year in the early stages of the offseason, and I’m not about to deny him a spot on the inaugural All-League Third Team.
Algevon Eichelberger, F, Cleveland State
Cleveland State sneaks away with an All-League pick thanks to the inaugural All-Horizon League Third Team. His explosion onto the scene this season was a huge part of the unexpected rise of Cleveland State in the Horizon League standings. Eichelberger averaged 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds on the Vikings last year as the team went. 5-13 in Horizon League play. This year he was a consistent steadying force, jumping his numbers up to 14.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game even as the Vikings improved to 7-11 in league play.
All-Horizon League Freshman Team
Amari Davis, G, Green Bay
Like Love on the First Team All-League squad, Davis is an automatic pick for the All-Freshman team as the League Freshman of the Year
Tanner Holden, F, Wright State
Holden was another favorite of the NorseReport this year, with the publication loving his combination of efficiency and production on an ultra-successful team. His abilities were likely a contributing factor in promising young players Malachi Smith and Skyelar Potter transferring.
Holden looks like a future star in the Horizon League. His strong numbers come despite being one part of an incredibly balanced attack.
Basile was a key performer for the team when Loudon Love missed time due to injury. In my Player of the Year pick’s absence, Basile averaged 15.8 points and 9 rebounds per game through a four-game stretch. On the season, he’s averaging 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman looks like he has the potential to cause problems for opposing Horizon League frontcourts going forward.
Trey Calvin, Wright State
Calvin is the other Wright State wing whose ability to contribute early took minutes away from Smith and Potter and likely played a role in both players’ transfers. Calvin was quiet for most of February, but is still clearly one of the league’s top freshman in a pretty thin year for youngsters.
Courtney Brown, Milwaukee
While his impact isn’t always felt on the stat sheet, Brown is an energetic players who has the makings of a future glue guy for the Panthers. While other candidates for this spot have looked a lot stronger at earlier points in the season, Brown has maintained consistent minutes that they haven’t. His 4.7 points and 2.9 rebounds per game don’t pop off the page, but they’re comparable enough to his competition that Brown gets the edge here.