People might be a little shocked to know that men’s basketball in the Western Athletic Conference is going to be good in 2019-20. This is especially true at the guard position. New Mexico State and GCU have talented and experienced guards. Jim Hayford features a pair of guards at Seattle. Mark Madsen has a relative unknown in Brandon Averette but the junior guard is capable of shocking people. Lew Hill returns his star guard who earned WAC Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. Rick Croy returns an NBA prospect who might have won WAC Player of the Year last season had the Lancers finished higher in the WAC standings.
The WAC will be a guard-heavy league and the WAC Player of the Year candidates will prove that. So, let’s take a look.
Javon Levi – G – UTRGV
Like it was stated, Lew Hill returns the WAC Defensive Player of the Year in Levi. The junior guard averaged 9.9 points, 5.7 assists and 2.9 steals per game in 2018-19. Levi also averaged 3.9 rebounds. So, it is safe to say Levi can fill up a stat sheet. Levi was the only payer in the NCAA to average 5.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.1 turnovers or less per game. With 109 steals on the season, Levi ranked second in the NCAA and first in the WAC in total steals. Levi also broke the WAC record for steals with 54 in WAC play. If UTRGV is going to play with the big boys and continue to grow under Lew Hill, Javon Levi is going to be a huge part of it. If they Vaqueros finish third or higher in the WAC, remember the name Javon Levi.
Carlos Johnson – G – Grand Canyon
If anyone needs refreshing as to why Johnson is on this list, look no further than the 2019 WAC Semifinals. Johnson poured in a game-high 35 points on 12-22 shooting and was 6-8 from beyond the 3-point line. Johnson also added nine rebounds and four assists in the 78-74 win over Utah Valley. The junior guard is the second-highest returning scorer in the WAC from 2018-19, just behind California Baptist’s Milan Acquaah. Along with his 35-point night against Utah Valley, Johnson poured in 31 points the night before against Seattle. Johnson was only one of six Division I players to have 30-point games on successive nights in 2018-19. Perhaps the one thing to keep an eye on is how involved Johnson will be in the GCU offense. The ‘Lopes have a lot of guards on the roster so it may cut into Johnson’s productivity. It will remain to be seen how Dan Majerle will get his best returning player the ball.
Milan Acquaah – G – California Baptist
The leading scorer in the WAC returns. Acquaah thought about testing the NBA Draft waters after a solid sophomore season. However, the WAC Newcomer of the Year returns to California Baptist looking to build on 2018-19. Acquaah led the WAC in points per game at 19.0. Acquaah also led California Baptist in assists and steals per game at 3.4 and 1.6, respectively. The junior from Bakersfield shot 85 percent from the free throw line, 42 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Acquaah also averaged 5.0 rebounds per game to go along with his 19 points per game. New Mexico State remembers Acquaah who put up a game-high 36 points against the Aggies in the WAC opener for both teams on Jan. 3, 2019. It was also the only conference loss New Mexico State had on the season. Acquaah was also a perfect 13-13 from the charity stripe in that game. With his physicality, athleticism and ability to hit big shots, Acquaah will be on everyone’s radar in 2019-20.
Terrell Brown – G – New Mexico State
Arguments will be made that perhaps Brown shouldn’t play at all due to a legal issue stemming from an incident in California. Well, according to New Mexico State’s student newspaper, The Round Up, “Brown is in good standing as a student of the university and is eligible to play basketball this year.” This was after a review hearing done by NMSU Dean of Students Ann Goodman. So, with that being said, the first-team All-WAC member who finished tenth in WAC play in scoring at 12.9 points per game, is a candidate for WAC Player of the Year honors.
Brown and the Aggies are the favorites to win the WAC so this puts Brown ahead of nearly everyone on this list. Brown averaged 11.3 points per game on the season while shooting 42 percent from the field and beyond the 3-point line. The senior guard may have some competition from a teammate for this award and it remains to be seen who will be the focal point of the New Mexico State offense this upcoming season.
Trevelin Queen – G – New Mexico State
Get used to hearing Trevelin Queen’s name called. The senior guard only averaged 7.8 points per game when he became eligible midway through the 2018-19 season. However, earned WAC Tournament MVP honors after posting a season-high 27 points against Grand Canyon in the WAC Championship Game. Followed that up with a 14-point, five-rebound, six-assist game against 5th-seeded Auburn in the NCAA Tournament. Queen narrowly missed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that would have knocked off Auburn. At 6-6, Queen is bigger than your average guard and his length is difficult for opponents to defend. Don’t sleep on Trevelin Queen or else he will do what he did to CSU Bakersfield and shock you with a buzzer-beating, game-winning three pointer.
There will be more discussion on players to be considered for this award in other articles. This is just a list of the top candidates for the WAC Player of the Year at this point in the preseason. The list will spark debate and that is good. There are a lot of high-quality players in the WAC in 2019-20. And we will discuss more of them at length as we move forward to tipping off the 2019-20 season.