For a Sunday Funday post, it seems appropriate to talk about some of the favorites in our conference and basically just have some good old fashioned praise. The season is getting more and more intense and difficult and you kind of just need those moments to sit back and go “Hey, these guys are awesome. It’s such a blessing to watch them, even when they’re making poor on-court decisions.”
It’s been well documented that “pets” definitely exist, so… We’ll just go with the usual order.
UAF: Almir. This isn’t really basketball related; he’s a decent player heading toward good, but the fact that he’s from the Balkans is amazing and as much as they’re not happy with each other, the FYR on the whole are awesome and have such a great culture and it’s great that we get to have a piece of it in our conference. Also love the fact that we have Ruben -he is Native American, which is so cool and yet another blessing. He’s out right now due to academics, but we look forward to getting him back next year; temporarily gone but definitely not forgotten and if he finds this: We still believe in you!
UAA: Brian McGill does so much for his team. Love his game, love his facial expressions as he’s running down the court, his mindset seems fantastic. He does everything in his power to procure a win and that means playing unselfishly. He’s awesome on the whole. Travis Thompson isn’t having the year that he wanted to have, but he’s still so valuable and after going through the mid-season all conference teams and looking at and comparing his stats this year and last and beginning to understand all of that… So proud of the kid. Derrick Fain should be mentioned because we give him crap all the time, but he’s starting to deserve less and less of it and we couldn’t be happier.
SFU: Sango -impossible not to love Sango. Does so much for his team, plays so unselfishly even though he’s got relatively little to work with. He’s in it. He’s another guy that we went back and compared his stuff from last year to this year to see where he’s at and they have made him even more useful and again: Just a good guy that’s easy to root for. Rod Evans-Taylor is becoming a pet with his awesome play and effort, but that’s as of late. Still love Michael Harper although he hasn’t been doing as much lately; same with Patrick Simon II -that kid has so much room for growth and can’t wait to see it over the coming few years.
WWU: ANYE. Anye is probably the biggest pet in the conference at this point, although Alex of NNU is starting to make a run for it. Anye graduates this year and it’s happy but sad. He’ll be moving onto better things and it’ll be good to keep an eye on him in Europe. His mindset is great, he smiles all the time, he works for his teammates, he gets the boards, he picks up fouls, and when knocks a guy down he picks them right back up. Such a blessing to watch. Love Mac, really excited for another year of him. He’s improving by the game and it’s great. He’s a massively different player than he was earlier this year and that’s awesome. Kyle Impero and Joey Schreiber are young and promising and are another couple of great guys to watch their development in. Been watching Joey for years now, even when he was at EC, and it’s exciting. It’s cool to see the development and he landed with such a great program in terms of top-notch D2.
SPU: Riley Stockton. It’s been amazing to watch him make the switch to point guard this year and watch him near the triple doubles and his fundamental understanding of the game is great. Matt Borton -another great forward, has aggression issues (meant in the best way possible), he does what it takes for his team, and between him and Anye… that is how basketball is supposed to be played. Mitch Penner. Psycho P. It’s been a growing process this year, but we have full faith that he’ll break out next year. Cory Hutsen, he’s right up with Austin Hudson and Mac Johnson in terms of favorite centers, and his play has finally been getting better lately, can’t wait for it to go further.
MSUB: Austin. Austin will not be forgotten. He was SO great and still a valuable part of our conference. MSUB is starting to be another program that has a zillion blog pets so-to-speak. Jace Anderson is improving, Antoine Hosley has his moments, MOMIR GATARIC; his game is getting better and better and he’s another FYR player! Those guys are bad to the bone.
CWU: Caleb is great. Will be interested to see what he does with his body; it needs major, major work on his part and not so much in the gym as in the kitchen, but the gym could be of some help too. Full faith that he’ll be one of our conference’s top centers by the time he’s done. Joe Stroud is great and getting better by the game and love his rebounding and his blocked shots are awesome and again -this is another guy that smiles while he does it, very approachable, just fun. Gary Jacobs is another guy that’s gonna be interesting to watch develop -he already does so much and will undoubtedly get better and better. Dom Williams is finally starting to be liked around here -it’s taken a lot, but very proud of Dom and his improving shot selection.
NNU: The entire team? It’s not even a matter of if they do anything during post season, just love their camaraderie. Alex is so great, even in his widdle frosh status, and it’s such a blessing that we’ll get to watch him for another few years, hopefully. Kevin -great attitude, team first mentality, gets the boards, smiles while he does it. He epitomizes the idea that you can be both aggressive and happy simultaneously; accidentally knocks you down, immediately reaches to pick you back up too. He plays a hard game of basketball, but jolly giant. Erik Kinney -needs some help and improvement, but another guy that’s awesome and we’re excited to see for another year. Bouna is one of those “there’s not necessarily any reason for this in terms of his game, he’s just great” and he’s a favorite. He’s smiley. NNU has lots of smiley people.
SMU: Trey Adams. He’s going through some growing pains, but can’t wait to see what he does next year. Tyler Idowu -sucker for smiley people and Tyler is that and does some good board work. Riley Carel, of course, bad decision maker in chief, but much as we give him crap all the time he’s a good baller. Tyler Copp -no clue where he’s disappeared to, but he’s been another favorite all year. Rising stars. Honestly, SMU is like NNU; that whole team is just fantastic. If only they could put it together. Ryan Rogers, Cameron Chatwin, Victor Ieronymides, Brent Counts, all are great.
WOU: JULIAN NICHOLS!! Favorite point guard, love his game, love his attitude, he’s come into our conference by storm, made WOU even better than expected and really elevated them -it’s been phenomenal. Lew Thomas -this is a weird one; he just is a favorite. He’s not that good, takes a lot of poor shots, turns the ball over more than any forward should, but he’s still a favorite, no clue why. Andy Avgi, he’s oddly enough not really a favorite, but maybe just because he’s so good that he’s hard to appreciate because you feel like you don’t have to; he’s just Andy, he does what he does, and he always does it. And that’s why even though he’s not a favorite we really should realize he is a favorite because just because someone’s consistent and does what they want, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be appreciated for it. Andy is awesome. Not sure what his speed and strength metrics are, but before heading for Europe, he might consider working out for a few NFL teams -at 6’6/260 you can’t teach size and he’s so good at shoving his way through -TE or DE may hold promise.
At times this blog is tough on guys and teams, but there’s no vindictiveness behind any of what gets written. All of these guys are such a blessing to get to watch so closely and that’s why it was important to cover the whole conference. It’s just not something that really happens on a D2 level; we mostly see school publications giving the highlights, and so when critiques get thrown out it can feel like a major affront when it’s not; it just happens rarely because writing a blog is a big commitment and we don’t really see that fan/community commitment on a D2 level.
Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be there. These guys are great; they absolutely get down night in and night out; they deserve attention; they deserve praise; and they deserve that fan and community commitment on a level to match D1. Engage the culture, change the world; a blog isn’t much, but it definitely is a way to engage the culture, and hopefully on some minute level change the world of at least someone. There’s the whole thing that “I Chose Division II” and yet for many it’s not that easy. There’s a feeling of failure that you ended up D2 and [potentially] unable to succeed on a D1 level; maybe if more people cared, some of that burden could be relieved.
Have a fantastic week, a NightLights post that should’ve gone up last night will go up tonight at about 11pm, usual POW stuff tomorrow.