Realignment, roster turnover make for a serious challenge
With a non-league performance that mostly exceeded — admittedly painfully low — expectations now complete, it’s a good time to take a look at some of the Horizon League players who have stood out so far. I have thought about doing this for years, so go figure the year I’m finally able to put it together is the year where a school left and most of the remaining schools completely flipped over their rosters.
This isn’t in any way a prediction, as I think things could change dramatically when injuries heal and roles are established. Obviously, All-League is also heavily dependent on how teams finish in league play. This is more about where things stand right now when it comes to All-League-worthy performers in the Horizon League. Barring injury, many of the players near the top of the list are well on their way to postseason accolades, but as you drop further down the list things become a lot more fluid. With all of that said, here’s a look at where things might stand for All-Horizon League voting if the season ended today:
First Team All-Horizon League
|*Antoine Davis, G, Detroit Mercy||24.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.2 APG|
|Dwayne Cohill, G, Youngstown State||18.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 4.0 APG|
|Marques Warrick, G, NKU||19.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.6 APG|
|Enoch Cheeks, G, Robert Morris||16.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.9 SPG|
|Jarred Godfrey, G, Purdue Fort Wayne||15.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.7 SPG|
Antoine Davis is my pick for mid-season Horizon League Player of the Year. The league’s all-time leading scorer is currently the nation’s second-leading scorer heading into Horizon League play, averaging 24.2 points per game. It’s familiar territory for Davis, with the added benefit of having a team that looks like it could be very much in the mix for a finish near the top of the league. While his play so far is what made him my pick for Player of the Year, Davis has picked up his shooting and scoring in each of the last two seasons once Horizon League play began. His non-league production is arguably a little better than it was a season ago when he was named Co-Horizon League Player of the Year, so if he picks it up in league play again he might run away with the award.
Dwayne Cohill has had a good enough season that Davis isn’t currently an automatic choice to be the pick to repeat as Player of the Year despite his better non-league performance. In fact, Cohill is one of the two players with a pair of Player of the Week awards compared to Davis’ one. Cohill is third in the league with 18.2 points per game while also leading the Penguins with 4.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game. But arguably the most impressive part of his play this year is the efficiency with which he’s scoring. The 6-foot-2 guard’s 60.0% field goal percentage compares favorably to post players, and his 60.5% shooting from beyond the arc pushes his effective field goal percentage to an absurd 68.2. If Cohill can keep up that efficiency and YSU can live up to its current Horizon League leading NET ranking, he could easily end up winning Player of the Year.
Marques Warrick is the other player who finished non-league play with more Player of the Week awards than my current Player of the Year pick Davis. Warrick is second in the league with 19.8 points per game while shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range. Averaging just under 20 points per game on a team that seems to be in the mix for a competitive Horizon League season, Warrick is a no-brainer for First Team All-League today, though given that his status is almost entirely reliant on scoring it’s difficult to see him climbing higher unless he keeps it up and NKU runs away with the league while YSU and especially Detroit Mercy backslide.
Enoch Cheeks has easily been the biggest surprise of the season in the Horizon League. While many were expecting the Colonials to be more competitive in the Horizon League this year than the team has been since joining, the biggest factor in that was that the team had so many returning players. Few thought it would be Cheeks shouldering much of the load after heading into the season the team’s third leading returning scorer. But the 6-foot-3 guard has exploded into one of the best all-around backcourt players in the Horizon League. He’s averaging 16.8 points, 4.7 rebounds. 3.0 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.5 blocks per game as we prepare to re-enter league play. The Colonials were a couple shots away from a road sweep of Wright State and Northern Kentucky, so the team is off to the type of start they’ll need to have a First Team performer as well.
Jarred Godfrey is once again putting forward an incredible all-around season for Purdue Fort Wayne. The 6-foot-5 guard is leading the Mastodons with 15.7 points, 4.5 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. He’s also second on the team with 5.6 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game while the defending league co-champions currently sit in second place in the league with a NET ranking of 123. If the Mastodons come close to their 2022 results, Godfrey should be on his way to another First Team All-Horizon League season.
Second Team All-Horizon League
|Trey Townsend, F, Oakland||18.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG|
|Malek Green, F, Youngstown State||14.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG|
|Kahliel Spear, F, Robert Morris||13.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG|
|Trey Calvin, G, Wright State||17.1 PPG|
|Bobby Planutis, F, Purdue Fort Wayne||12.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG|
Trey Townsend has statistically played well enough to be First Team All-League, averaging an efficient 18.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. But Oakland is currently 1-11 against Division I competition and ranked in the bottom 30 of the NET rankings. Unless the Golden Grizzlies pick up their performance during league play, Townsend will have a cap to how high up the All-League team he can climb. A key to that climb would likely be the team’s health, particularly that of standout point guard Jalen Moore. If Moore heals and becomes the type of offensive threat he’s been since joining the Horizon League, it could open up opportunities for Townsend to keep his production up while the team’s performance improves.
Malek Green is another part of the reason Davis was the pick over Cohill for Player of the Year. The Canisius transfer and 2021 All-MAAC performer has at times been the best player on the court for Youngstown State, making it more difficult to argue for Cohill as the best player on the best team in the league despite the NET rankings. Green’s 14.5 points and 7.4 rebounds both rank Top 10 in the league, and he also gets the same benefit of the doubt for playing on an apparent league contender that Cohill does.
Kahliel Spear hasn’t been the go-to-guy for Robert Morris this year, but his production combined with RMU looking solid early is enough that he gets a spot on the midseason All-League Second Team. Like with Green, Spear is Top 10 in the league in both scoring and rebounding with 13.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. As a secondary option for a team that hasn’t shown signs of being a legitimate title contender, Spear might be the first guy on this list whose status could be heavily impacted by league play. If RMU stays around the middle of the league, finishing second team is obviously in play. If the Colonials drop down and end up in the bottom few spots, it’s more difficult to imagine Spear being better than a Third Team contender.
Trey Calvin is in a strange spot as far as All-League projections are concerned. He leads a Wright State team that’s still in the mix to compete in the Horizon League despite its 0-2 start in scoring with 17.1 points. On the other hand, initial reports were that Calvin was benched for his defensive performance. Scott Nagy has since gone on to say it’s because of a lingering injury despite Calvin averaging 30 minutes per game against Division I opponents off the bench. Regardless of the reason that Calvin is coming off the bench he’s the guy with the ball in his hands during key moments and he’s done a good job in that role, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Bobby Planutis is another player who makes the list as a secondary option on a team that looks like it will be in the thick of the Horizon League title race. The 6-foot-8 stretch forward is second on PFW with 12.8 points per game while averaging a career high 4.9 rebounds per game. He’s knocking down 45.5% of his 3-pointers on the year. Given that one of Purdue Fort Wayne’s biggest selling points was that so much of the roster was returning talent, this is actually a pick I could see changing for a different reason than some of the ones further down the list. Damian Chong Qui and Deonte Billups are both struggling to find their shooting stroke in non-league play, but have shown that they’re capable of scoring more efficiently against Horizon League opponents and could be due to pick it up offensively. While others down the list could be knocked off the list by opposing players stepping up, Planutis might find himself slipping down the list due to his own teammates performing more like we’re used to against Horizon League opposition.
|Adrian Nelson, F, Youngstown State||11.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG|
|Gerald Liddell, F, Detroit Mercy||*18.3 PPG, 14.3 RPG|
|Tristan Enaruna, F, Cleveland State||10.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG|
|Brandon Noel, F, Wright State||12.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 62.1 FG%|
|Josh Corbin, G, Robert Morris||13.4 PPG, 46.6 3-PT%|
Adrian Nelson is showing the All-League potential at Youngstown State that voters saw in him during his later years with Northern Kentucky. Now that he’s not splitting minutes, his per game rebounding average is back up toward the top of the league where it was expected to be. Adding to his case, Nelson’s scoring average is in double figures at 11.9 points per game. Being the Penguins’ third option will make it difficult for him to keep All-League status unless YSU makes a strong run at the Horizon League title, but at the stage of the season where some players are working out their roles he’s clearly a strong choice.
Gerald Liddell missed the first seven games of the season or his production would have him in the running for a First Team spot right now. The 6-foot-8 senior is averaging 18.3 points and 14.3 rebounds in his six games this year. Not only has he secured a double-double in every game of his Titans career so far, but the games he came closest to missing them were some of his best games he’s played. Liddell’s worst scoring performance came on a night where he had 13 points, but grabbed an astounding 18 rebounds. His worst rebounding night saw him pull down 12 boards and put in a career high 27 points. If Liddell can continue to produce like this and the Titans are in the mix for a league title, he’ll be one of the first handful of names on our postseason All-League squad.
Tristan Enaruna joining Cleveland State has been a major part of why the team currently looks likely to finish in the top half of Horizon League play after Dennis Gates’ departure led to massive roster turnover. As has frequently been the case for CSU recently, the team is performing well despite not having anyone whose stats jump off the page. Enaruna continues this trend while averaging 10.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game; leading the team in in all three categories. Cleveland State will need to stay in the mix in league play, and Enaruna will likely need to raise or maintain his scoring total in order for him to finish the year in contention for a spot on the All-League team.
Brandon Noel looks to be the early favorite for Horizon League Freshman of the Year, and the newest addition to Scott Nagy’s growing collection of redshirted post players who emerge as All-League talents. Noel is averaging 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Adding to the intrigue with Noel, his shooting numbers have been ridiculous. With three years of college eligibility following this season, he’s already scoring on 62.1 percent of his shots from the field and making 43.8 percent of his 3-pointers. If the 6-foot-8 forward gets more assertive as the season goes on, the only thing saving Horizon League fans from another monstrous Wright State post player could be if Noel takes a chance on a transfer up.
Josh Corbin was a respectable 3-point shooter prior to his time at Robert Morris, hitting 35.5 percent of his 3-pointers in three years at Winthrop. His best season came in 2021, when he knocked down 47 of 116 3-pointers, a 40.5 percent shooting clip. At the very least, he’s going to have a new career high in volume in 2023. Corbin has already made 48 of his 103 shots from long range on the season, an astounding 46.6 percent of his shots from deep. The end result is Andy Toole happily letting him fire away and Corbin is on pace to absolutely blow away his previous career high 6.6 points per game, currently averaging 13.4. Corbin has been a big part of RMU’s current 4-2 run, with his lone night under the minimum target 33.3 percent 3-point shooting being an 0-for-5 night in a 69-60 loss to a good Marshall team. It might be difficult for a player to keep hitting nearly half of his shots from 3-point range while still shooting enough to average over 13 points per game, but if Corbin can do it he’ll certainly be a strong contender for an All-League spot in my eyes.