In a little over 30 hours, WAC play begins. That’s right. Friday night, without a doubt, will be a huge relief for many people. Some schools won’t be playing this weekend. Look at the New Mexico State at Dixie State series. Chicago State opted out of the rest of the 2020-21 season prior to Christmas. The Tarleton State women had positive COVID tests and thus its WAC opening series at Grand Canyon is postponed.
But, there will be games. And with conference play beginning, it is time to take a look at the top candidates for WAC Player of the Year thus far. Yes, the sample size is small considering some teams played a lot more games than others. And this list is very likely going to change as the conference season progresses.
However, this is an early list and these are players to pay attention to throughout WAC play.
Darrion Trammell – Seattle U
The City College of San Francisco transfer has been huge for Jim Hayford and the Redhawks. Trammell is the reigning WAC Player of the Week after recording his first double-double of the season in an 84-68 win over Portland on Dec. 30. Trammell had 25 points and 13 assists in the contest. It was also the second win over Portland this season.
In his first season in the Pacific Northwest, Trammell is averaging 17.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. Trammell is shooting 43.5 percent from the field and is an 84 percent free throw shooter.
Fardaws Aimaq – Utah Valley
The Utah Valley big man is having a monster start to the 2020-21 season. Aimaq is averaging a double-double with 15.9 points and 15.3 rebounds per game. The 15.3 rebounds per game is tops in the nation for a player who has played more than one game.
Aimaq set the UVU single-game record for rebounds with 20 against Wyoming on Dec. 12 at the UCCU Center. And, Aimaq pulled down 20 more rebounds on Jan. 2 in a loss at Weber State. In five of seven games, Aimaq has pulled down 15 or more rebounds. All this while averaging nearly 32 minutes per game. And it should be noted that Aimaq is shooting 50 percent from the floor, as well.
Jovan Blacksher Jr. – Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon’s sophomore guard averages 13.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, shooting 48% from the field. Blacksher Jr. has probably had to face some high quality guards such as Arizona State’s Remy Martin and Colorado’s McKinley Wright.
Blacksher Jr. is the floor leader for the Lopes. His best game came against Martin and crosstown foe Arizona State on Dec. 13. Blacksher Jr. had 21 points, five assists and four steals in the near upset. All this while playing 39-plus minutes and having to guard one of the best guards in America.
Blacksher Jr. is second in the WAC in steals with 12 and second in the WAC in assists behind Seattle U’s Darrion Trammell.
Sean Rhea – UTRGV
Coming into the 2020-21 season, UTRGV head coach Lew Hill believed that big man Sean Rhea was going to be very good for the Vaqueros.
And, Rhea has made sure his head coach’s belief was correct.
Rhea is averaging 16.0 points and 6.3 rebounds to go along with 9 blocks. Rhea has been a catalyst with Stony Brook transfer Jeff Otchere out with an injury and floor leader Javon Levi dealing with a foot injury.
Last time out for UTRGV, Rhea had a season-high 25 points against Sam Houston State on Dec. 21. In that contest, Rhea went 13-15 from the charity stripe and also pulled down 11 rebounds. The double-double earned him WAC Player of the Week honors. Rhea is third in the WAC in scoring, ninth in rebounds and fourth in blocks with 9.
UTRGV went 5-3 in non-conference play and Rhea was a big part of that early season success.
Riley Grigsby – Seattle U
In all reality, Riley Grigsby has been the most consistent player in non-conference play. The senior forward leads the WAC in scoring at 18.1 points per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point land. Grigsby is sixth in the WAC in rebounds and first in total points scored.
Seattle is 6-5 and has not missed a game due to COVID issues in 2020-21. Coming into the 2020-21 season, head coach Jim Hayford said he expected a lot of Grigsby who has done everything right since coming to Seattle.
Grigsby earned the first WAC Player of the Week honor after leading Seattle to a 3-0 start by averaging 18.3 points per game in wins over Portland, William Jessup and Air Force. In the season-opener against Portland, Grigsby had a career-high 28 points to go along with six rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Cameron Gooden – Dixie State
Asbjørn Midtgaard – Grand Canyon
Jamison Overton – Utah Valley
Reed Nottage – California Baptist