Davis, Cheeks, Calhoun, Lowder, Noel earn HoriZone Roundtable honors
More than any year since the HoriZone Roundtable writers and podcast staff started picking Horizon League awards, this was a strange year to try to figure out winners. In most cases, the biggest issue was votes being split — either between two people or a half dozen — that resulted in the eventual winners shifting with every new vote tallied. In others, the issue — and likely discrepancies between our vote and the official results — was figuring out exactly who qualifies.
Here’s a look at who we selected for each of the Horizon League’s annual awards:
|Player of the Year||Antoine Davis, Detroit Mercy|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Enoch Cheeks, Robert Morris|
|Coach of the Year||Jerrod Calhoun, Youngstown State|
|Sixth Man of the Year||Drew Lowder, Cleveland State|
|Freshman of the Year||Brandon Noel, Wright State|
Player of the Year: Antoine Davis, Detroit Mercy
Antoine Davis is the HoriZone Roundtable pick for Player of the Year. The league’s official defending co-Player of the Year got the honor by a single point over Horizon League Champion Youngstown State’s star guard Dwayne Cohill. Davis’ candidacy was the most intense example of weighing individual success against team success that he’s had yet. Davis looks to become the first player to average over 28 points per game for a season since fellow small school star Chris Clemons did it when Davis was a freshman in 2019, with that average jumping to 30.1 per game in Horizon League play. The ridiculous scoring output provided exactly the push that Davis needed to sneak past Cohill, who has some ridiculous numbers of his own at YSU. Cohill averages 17.8 points, 4.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. But a big part of the strength in Cohill’s candidacy is his efficiency. Cohill’s Effective Field Goal Percentage of 59.2 compares favorably to post players in the league despite him playing guard. Cohill’s overall field goal percentage of 52.5% ranks third in the Horizon League behind forwards Brandon Noel and Malek Green, both of whom were named to our All-League teams. Ultimately, Davis’ crazy numbers won over just enough voters for us to give him the honor.
Defensive Player of the Year: Enoch Cheeks, Robert Morris
Like Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the year was a close race with the winner being decided by a single vote. Unlike Player of the year, it’s because there were so many candidates who received votes. Our pick for the award, Cheeks was the lone player to finish in the Horizon League’s Top 5 in both steals and blocked shots for the season. The 6-foot-3 guard finished third in the league with an impressive 1.9 steals per game, and astonishingly wound up third in the league with 1.2 blocks per contest.
Coach of the Year: Jerrod Calhoun, Youngstown State
Youngstown State clinched its first ever regular season conference title on Saturday, and Head Coach Jerrod Calhoun is our pick for Horizon League Coach of the Year. Calhoun’s work toward the award began when the team added a flurry of transfers that included HoriZone Roundtable All-League picks Adrian Nelson, Malek Green and Brandon Rush. The new faces combined with a returning All-League talent in Cohill helped set up the best season in YSU history, though obviously the Penguins’ sights are set on winning the upcoming Horizon League Tournament and getting the team out of the Never Made the Tournament Club. Calhoun DASH whose Penguins overachieved preseason fifth place expectations DASH beat out another pair of overachievers for both the league title and the award. Milwaukee and Cleveland State were picked eighth and ninth in our preseason poll, only to finish tied for second place one game back of YSU. As a result, Milwaukee’s Bart Lundy and CSU’s Daniyal Robinson were the other two coaches to receive COTY votes.
Sixth Man of the Year: Drew Lowder, Cleveland State
I know I’m supposed to be writing out the rationale for all of our picks, but this one is a little difficult for me. Sure, Drew Lowder was Cleveland State’s third leading scorer with 10.0 points per game. But he wasn’t really a sixth man? Lowder only started 11 of a possible 31 games, but 10 of those 11 starts came in the team’s 20 Horizon League contests. For all intents and purposes, Lowder was an extra option for the lineup rather than being the first guy off the bench. I definitely think his play did enough to warrant acknowledgement. I just think it did a little too much for this particular award.
Freshman of the Year: Brandon Noel, Wright State
Brandon Noel might have one of the more interesting candidacies for an obvious award winner I’ve ever seen. He’s in his third year on campus, a fact that caused many of our voters to have strange feelings about his candidacy for Freshman of the Year despite the league clearly acknowledging he’s a freshman. He didn’t have the dominating runs that players like Antoine Davis, Amari Davis and Marques Warrick did that led to questions about if he could break the record for Freshman of the Week awards. In fact, Noel wasn’t even first in the league in that regard. His three Freshman of the Week awards tied with IUPUI’s D.J. Jackson for second place behind the four won by Vincent Brady. But in part because IUPUI had a number of players taking turns going for the weekly award while Noel was steady as a strong contender every week, Noel was our lone overwhelming pick for an annual award. Noel finished the regular season 17th in the Horizon League in scoring and third in rebounding with 12.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. In league play, his rebounding jumped to a league-leading 10.1 per game. As a result, not only is Brandon Noel our Freshman of the Year, he found a spot on our All-League team.