The WAC Player of the Year award is up for grabs now that conference play has begun. Utah Valley’s Fardaws Aimaq is the reigning WAC Player of the Year. In 2020-21, Aimaq averaged a double-double and did something no play has done in 40 years. The big man from Vancouver averaged 15.0 rebounds for the Wolverines. And, in doing so, led Utah Valley to a share of the WAC regular season crown.
Now the question becomes: will Aimaq repeat? The last time a player won WAC Player of the Year multiple times was when Nevada’s Nick Fazekas won the award three straight times from 2004-05 to 2006-07. So let’s take a look at the leading candidates as of Jan. 7.
Disclaimer – this is in no specific order.
Fardaws Aimaq – Utah Valley
Aimaq is averaging 19.6 points and 13.6 rebounds for the 10-4 Wolverines. Aimaq had a monster 24-point, 22-rebound game in a win over then-No. 12 BYU on Dec. 1. And despite being the focus of most defenses, continues to put up big numbers. What is even more impressive is when a 15-point, 15-rebound performance is considered a ‘quiet night’ by some.
Utah Valley is off to its best start since joining the Division I ranks. And the one they refer to as ‘Big Maple’ is a big reason why.
Jovan Blacksher Jr. – Grand Canyon
In 2020-21, GCU relied on its big men in Asbjørn Midtgaard and Alessandro Lever. So, Jovan Blacksher Jr. flew under the radar. That was, until a big time showing at the WAC tournament to help lead GCU to its first-ever WAC tourney win and NCAA appearance. Now, in his third year at GCU, Blacksher Jr. has taken on more of a scoring role and run with it.
Blacksher Jr. is fifth in the WAC in scoring at 16.8 points per game. The shifty guard is shooting 43 percent from 3-point land and is averaging a little over four assists per game. GCU is off to a 12-2 start and Blacksher Jr. has played a significant role in that start.
Teddy Allen – New Mexico State
When it was announced Teddy Allen was joining the Aggies, there was a ton of buzz. And why not? Allen had just averaged nearly 17 points per game on a bad Nebraska squad. So, it was instantly assumed ‘Teddy Buckets’ would be a Player of the Year candidate in the WAC. And yes, Allen is averaging 17.4 points per game, third in the WAC.
But, it’s the intangibles that have changed Allen’s game. Playing defense, rebounding and being much more aggressive as an Aggie. Coming to New Mexico State has made Teddy Allen a complete player. And the worst part for WAC teams is Allen hasn’t shot it well yet, especially from deep. Scary to think what will happen when Teddy Allen really ramps up the offensive game.
Gavin Kensmil – Stephen F. Austin
If Gavin Kensmil could get a call in the paint, he might be leading the WAC in scoring. But, that’s not the case. However, SFA’s big man is averaging 15.9 points per game and 7.6 rebounds. Fighting through double teams and triple teams, Kensmil is a load in the paint. At 6-7, 260 pounds, Kensmil is strong around the rim, creates mismatch problems and has the ability to pass from the top of the key.
And he does it all while getting hammered in the paint. If you didn’t watch the Kansas game or the ACU game, you wouldn’t understand. But one thing to understand is that Kensmil has been the most consistent player for the Jacks in 2021-22 thus far.
Savion Flagg – Sam Houston
Savion Flagg is arguably the best player in the WAC. There is really no denying that. Yes, Flagg had zero points in the first half at Tarleton on Thursday. But, he also finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. That is how quick he can score. Flagg is tied with Fardaws Aimaq at 19.6 points per game, tops in the WAC. The Texas A&M transfer is also second in the WAC in rebounds at 8.6 per contest.
A shot clock violation leads to this great hustle play by Flagg! Kats trail 61-51.#EatEmUpKats
— Sam Houston Men's Basketball (@BearkatsMBB) January 7, 2022
There are perhaps two arguments against Flagg on this list. First is that his free throw shooting has to improve. Flagg is shooting just 45 percent from the charity stripe. Second, is that Sam Houston is a little lower on the totem pole in the standings than the other four in this list. If somehow Sam Houston finishes in the top-3 or top-4 of the league, Flagg will be Player of the Year.
Taran Armstrong – CBU
Darrion Trammell – Seattle U
Jabari Rice – NMSU
Justin Johnson – UTRGV
Tahj Small – Tarleton
Monte Gipson – Tarleton