Justin Harmon has been the most consistent Wolverine in 2022-23. Courtesy UVU Athletics.

MBB: Player of the Year Candidates as League Play Approaches

League play is upon us. Three days to be exact. That is the good news. We finally get to see what WAC schools do against each other. All other comparisons go out the door in league play. Games aren’t won on paper. And it all tips off on Wednesday night in Las Cruces.

Newcomer Southern Utah takes on New Mexico State on Wednesday night at the Pan Am Center to open up league play.

The following night has some big games on the slate. ACU at Stephen F. Austin. California Baptist at Grand Canyon. And the big one in Orem when Sam Houston takes on Utah Valley at the UCCU Center.

Other games taking place on Thursday night are UTRGV at Utah Tech and UT Arlington at Tarleton.

With that being said, and considering non-conference play is complete, it is time to take a look at the Player of the Year candidates.

Cameron Tyson – Seattle U

The Redhawks are 9-4 after taking seventh place at the Diamond Head Classic. And while the finish wasn’t what Seattle U had in mind, Tyson held up his end of the bargain. The redshirt junior averaged over 23 points in three games as the Redhawks finished 1-2 in their Christmas MTE.

Tyson is averaging 20.5 points per game, second in the WAC and shooting 40 percent from the field. Along with that, Tyson is the only Redhawk averaging 30-plus minutes per game So, that makes what Tyson is doing even more impressive. He is the focal point of every defensive game plan. And he plays the most minutes. So, there is an extremely heavy load on his shoulders. And yet, Tyson responds night in and night out.

The Redhawks are off until Saturday when they host California Baptist in their league opener.

Justin Johnson – UTRGV

The senior guard was one of the top scorers in the WAC last season at 17.1 points per game. And, in his final season in Edinburg, Johnson has started right where he left off. Johnson is averaging around 21 points per game, tops in the WAC, and has led the Vaqueros to eight non-conference wins.

In UTRGV’s win over Western Illinois on Nov. 21, Johnson had 34 points, second-highest output in the WAC in 2022-23. In his last four contests, Johnson has scored 20-plus points. Against Houston Christian to end non-conference play, Johnson went for 29 points, was 8-14 from the field and 12-19 from the free throw line.

Johnson is a slasher and can knock down a perimeter shot. It makes him dangerous in the open floor. And we all know UTRGV likes to get up and down the floor in transition.

Keep an eye on Johnson as league play gets underway on Thursday when the Vaqueros take on Utah Tech in St. George.

Tevian Jones – Southern Utah

It is no surprise that Southern Utah guard Tevian Jones is on this list. In fact, Jones was one of the names on the preseason Player of the Year list. This new member of the 1,000-point club is averaging a team-best 19.8 points per game and has multiple 20-plus point performances already this season.

Jones opened the 2022-23 season with a 28-point performance in 24 minutes in a loss at New Mexico. And against Northern Arizona on Dec. 17, Jones had a season-high 31 points. With his combination of athleticism and shooting ability, Jones can be a matchup problem.

At Kansas on Nov. 18, Jones worked his magic to keep SUU in the ball game. With a little over a minute left to play, Jones tied the game with a driving layup and a free throw. Unfortunately, SUU couldn’t complete the upset. But, head coach Todd Simon relies on Jones to make plays late in ball games.

The T-Birds open league play at New Mexico State on Wednesday. And Jones will have to have another big game if the T-Birds are to open their first season in the WAC with a win.

Cameron Gooden – Utah Tech

There were some who said that Cam Gooden was going to be a Player of the Year candidate at the end of the season. Well, the Utah Tech point guard is living up to those expectations. The senior guard is shooting nearly 48 percent from the floor and averaging a team-leading 16.2 points per game.

Gooden also has a team-high 48 assists and is shooting just under 40 percent from 3-point land. The Trailblazer point guard has scored in double figures in all but two contests in 2022-23. In a road win at Idaho, Gooden went for 27 points, five rebounds and four assists.

In Logan, against undefeated Utah State, Gooden had a team-high 29 points as well as five assists. It was Gooden who kept the Trailblazers in the ball game, hitting big shots when it looked like Utah State was going to pull away.

Gooden and the Trailblazers open league play at home against UTRGV on Thursday.

Ray Harrison – Grand Canyon

For the Presbyterian transfer, the first two weeks in a new home were pretty tough. Thru the first six games of the 2022-23 season, Ray Harrison scored in double figures once. Harrison had 25 points in a win over Grambling.

But, since that win on Nov. 19, Harrison has been as consistent as advertised when he signed with the Lopes. Outside of a 13-point performance against Benedictine Mesa, Harrison has scored 17 or more points over his last six games. Harrison’s best game in that stretch was a 23-point performance against North Texas on Dec. 10.

Harrison also went for 18 points and six assists in a win over Idaho State to end non-conference play. Coming into 2022-23, there were a lot of expectations for the Presbyterian transfer. Harrison averaged over 17 points per game in 2021-22 and it was the expectation that he would fill the void left by Holland Woods.

Well, in the second half of non-conference play, that seems to be the case.

Harrison and the Lopes host California Baptist on Thursday to open league play.

Justin Harmon – Utah Valley

It might surprise people to see Justin Harmon on this list. But, the reason Harmon is on this list over Trey Woodbury or perhaps Aziz Bandaogo is because Harmon has been the most consistent Wolverine in 2022-23.

Harmon has scored in double figures in all but two contests. And, during a 3-game stretch in games against Boise State, Long Beach State, and BYU, Harmon had 19 points in all three contests.

With so much emphasis put on stopping Trey Woodbury and now Aziz Bandaogo, the Wolverines have needed someone else to step up. And Harmon has done without much attention or acknowledgement.

Harmon simply goes to work, whether that is off the dribble or knocking down a perimeter shot. Utah Valley’s leading scorer at 14.8 points per game also pulls down 4.8 rebounds per contest. And Harmon has had some highlight reel dunks in 2022-23.

Utah Valley hosts Sam Houston on Thursday to open WAC play.




About the author

Kyle McDonald

Love everything about WAC Hoops so decided I wanted to write more about it and cover this amazing conference that just keeps getting better. Follow us on Twitter @wachoopsdigest for information, game analysis and much more.

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