Top 5 Players Returning to the WAC in 2022-23

2022-23
CBU guard Taran Armstrong is one of the best players returning to the WAC in 2022-23. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

Looking ahead to the 2022-23 season is going to be difficult. At least over the next few months. The transfer portal has created this mess. Just look at the news that came out on Tuesday. New Mexico State guard Sir’Jabari Rice put his name in the transfer portal.

Rice adds his name to a growing list of WAC players in the portal. So, who knows what rosters will look like in the WAC in 2022-23. And this doesn’t even add in the other part of the 2022-23 equation. Incarnate Word, Southern Utah and UT-Arlington will be joining the WAC for the 2022-23 season.

With that being said, here is a way-too-early look at the top-5 players returning to the WAC. This list does not count those in the transfer portal at the current time. And let’s be clear…those in the transfer portal could return to the WAC as most have left that option on the table for 2022-23.

1 – Trey Woodbury, Utah Valley

The 6’4 guard out of Las Vegas missed the entire 2021-22 regular season due to a knee injury. But, Woodbury decided to burn one of his two seasons of eligibility when he took the floor at WAC Vegas. And in Utah Valley’s two games in Las Vegas, Woodbury averaged 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Woodbury is a matchup problem with his size and athleticism. Plus, he can knock down the 3-ball.

In his first season at Utah Valley, Woodbury was tied with Jamison Overton for the team-lead in points at 15.6 points per game. Woodbury also led the team in assists and averaged just over four rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the field.

2 – Jovan Blacksher Jr., Grand Canyon

The shifty guard had to switch gears a bit this season and become more of a scorer. And the transition was near flawless. Blacksher Jr. averaged 15.8 points, 7th in the WAC, and shot 42 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from 3-point land. All this while still averaging nearly 4.0 assists per game. Blacksher Jr. was the focal point of the GCU offense along with backcourt mate Holland Woods. The dynamic duo were the only Lopes to average in double figures in 2021-22. Blacksher Jr. also racked up 53 steals on the season. In 2022-23, it will be the Blacksher Jr. show again on a relatively young squad at GCU.

3 – Taran Armstrong, California Baptist

Prior to coming down with an illness in the WAC opener at Chicago State, Taran Armstrong was the clear cut favorite for WAC Freshman of the Year. Then the Tasmania native missed five weeks due to that illness. And even after missing those five weeks, was still selected as WAC Freshman of the Year. In 2021-22, Armstrong averaged 10.2 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game.

Armstrong also had a triple-double, the first in CBU history, when the Lancers beat San Jose State on November 18 in Riverside. Look for big things out of the 6-5 point guard that has some NBA scouts excited about his future in 2022-23.

4 – Justin Johnson, UTRGV

Yes, UTRGV struggled in its first season under Matt Figger. But, junior guard Justin Johnson quietly had a really good season for the Vaqueros. The Southern Miss transfer averaged 17.7 points, fourth in the WAC, 6.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. At California Baptist on Feb. 12, Johnson had a season-high 38 points while shooting 61 percent from the field. Johnson’s size and quickness create issues for defenders. The big question for Matt Figger in 2022-23 is who can they get to help Johnson offensively?

UTRGV has a good deal of its 2021-22 roster in the transfer portal right now. Johnson will once again be the focal point in 2022-23. It’s just a matter of getting him some help.

5 – Cameron Tyson, Seattle U

The First Team All-WAC selection is one of the deadliest shooters from distance in the WAC. Just look at his game at UTRGV in February. Tyson knocked nine 3-pointers and had 30 points in the contest. Tyson averaged 14.7 points, second on the team, while shooting nearly 38 percent from 3-point range. And in his first season at Seattle U, the Redhawks earned a share of the WAC regular season title and the no. 2 seed at the WAC Tournament. The only issue with Tyson is the consistency. We saw that struggle in games against NMSU, GCU and so forth. But, when Tyson gets going, he can light it up in a hurry.

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