WAC basketball media day is on Wednesday, Oct. 9 in Denver. With it comes preseason accolades and polls put forth by coaches and the media. So, WAC Hoops Digest has put together its preseason awards and preseason poll that it submitted to the WAC.
Player of the Year – Trevelin Queen – G – New Mexico State
The senior guard put on an offensive show in the WAC Tournament Championship game. Queen scored a season-high 27 points to help NMSU beat Grand Canyon and win the conference’s auto berth to the NCAA Tournament. Queen earned Tournament MVP honors for his effort. Despite only playing in 24 games, Queen made his presence felt. Queen hit a buzzer-beater to knock off CSU Bakersfield in the Icardo Center. He scored in double figures over a three-game stretch in February, averaging 13.1 points against Utah Valley, Seattle and Texas A&M International. In the final regular season game, Queen dropped 19 points in a home win against California Baptist.
Had a three-point attempt at the buzzer gone in, Queen would have been the hero in what would have been a massive upset over 5th-seeded Auburn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The length, athleticism and size is what can set Queen apart. Yes, Queen only averaged 7.8 points per game. But, Queen also only played 15.2 minutes per game. Can you imagine what he would have done had he played 25-30 minutes per game? That is just how good and deep New Mexico State is. If Queen doesn’t win this award, it will be due to the depth the Aggies have just like it was in 2018-19 when guard Terrell Brown got passed over for the award. Keep your eye on no. 21 in the crimson and white.
Preseason All-WAC Selections
Milan Acquaah – G – California Baptist
Terrell Brown – G – New Mexico State
Carlos Johnson – G – Grand Canyon
Javon Levi – G – UTRGV
An article was written talking about each one of these players and what they bring to the table. Read about it here.
1 – New Mexico State
This is a pretty easy selection. New Mexico State returns nearly everyone from its program-best 30-win season in 2018-19. A.J. Harris, Terrell Brown, Shunn Buchanan, Trevelin Queen, Johnny McCants, C.J. Bobbit, Jabari Rice and Ivan Aurrecoechea among others all return. Add in ECU transfer Shawn Williams and Clayton Henry who appeared in all 35 games a season ago, and depth shouldn’t be a problem for the Aggies. The goal for 2019-20 is to win games in the NCAA Tournament. This New Mexico State team has the pieces in place to do just that.
2 – Grand Canyon
Yes, we know that some New Mexico State fans will read too much into this next statement but Dan Majerle might have his best squad yet at GCU. TCU transfer Jaylen Fisher received a waiver and is eligible to play immediately. The former 4-star recruit initially entered his name into the 2019 NBA Draft before withdrawing and deciding to transfer to GCU. GCU’s two leading scorers from a season ago return in Alessandro Lever and Carlos Johnson. And perhaps GCU’s most experienced player returns as senior forward Oscar Frayer takes the court for one last run. Add in guards Isiah Brown (Northwestern transfer) and true freshman Jovan Blacksher Jr. and the ‘Lopes look really good on paper. It might not be enough to knock off the defending champs. However, in a guard-heavy league, GCU has enough depth at the position to compete and stay in the top tier of the WAC.
3 – Seattle University
In 2018-19, Seattle finished its non-conference slate with a 12-3 record. The Redhawks capped off that solid start with an 82-73 win over Cal of the PAC-12 Conference. However, injuries and a horrible start to conference play overshadowed that good non-conference record. Seattle got off to an 0-5 start in WAC play and struggled through all of January and through mid-February. But, toward the end of the season, things clicked again. Seattle won five of its final six games including overtime wins over CSU Bakersfield and Grand Canyon.
With that said, watch out for Seattle in 2019-20.
Morgan Means and company are on a mission. If Seattle stays healthy, they will make noise in the WAC. Potential All-WAC performers Myles Carter and Terrell Brown are back. Brown averaged 16.3 points per game in WAC play. Riley Grigsby, Delante Jones, Mattia Da Campo, and Aaron Nettles are among the experienced Redhawks returning for Jim Hayford. Seattle’s roster is built similarly to every other team in the WAC. It is guard heavy, lacks a true center, and will rely on a 6-9 beast in Myles Carter to protect the paint.
4 – UTRGV
For the first time in 17 years, UTRGV won 20 games. Adding to that, the Vaqueros advanced to the second round of a postseason tournament for the first time in 51 years. What Lew Hill is doing in Edinburg, Texas is nothing short of impressive. And with WAC Defensive Player of the Year Javon Levi back, the Vaqueros are ready to compete with the big boys. Jordan Jackson returns as does Leslie Varner II. Hill also brings in a couple of high-caliber junior college guards in Chris Freeman and Rob McClain Jr. Freeman averaged 17.7 points and 5.0 rebounds for Northwest Kansas Technical College. McClain Jr. was a JUCO All-American after averaging 23.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game at United Tribes Technical College.
But everything runs through Levi. In a breakout sophomore season, Levi was the only player in the NCAA to average at least 9.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Levi set the second-highest steals total in WAC history with 109 in 2018-19. Lew Hill loves to full-court press and keep the pressure on. And he has the athletes to create even more havoc in 2019-20.
5 – California Baptist
This was a difficult decision. Head coach Rick Croy returns Mr. Everything in guard Milan Acquaah. The junior guard led the WAC in scoring at 19.0 points per game in earning WAC Newcomer of the Year honors. Croy also brought in Australian Tre Armstrong who averaged 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in Australia’s NBL1 League.
California Baptist might have the most size in the WAC. 6-11 center Zach Pirog returns. Pirog was second in the WAC in blocked shots with 51. 6-7 senior forward De’Jon Davis returns after averaging nearly a double double with 10.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Croy also has two other 6-10 forwards he can run out at any time in junior Tristan Forsyth and sophomore Glenn Morison. With a leader like Acquaah running the floor, the size advantage will come in handy for the Lancers in their second season at the NCAA Division I level.
6 – Utah Valley
WAC Player of the Year – gone. WAC Freshman of the Year – gone. Perhaps the best big man on the roster in 2018-19 – gone. A coach who led the program to back-to-back 20-plus win seasons – gone. Welcome to Utah Valley men’s basketball for the 2019-20 season. First year head coach Mark Madsen has 11 new faces on his roster, and entirely new coaching staff and lots of reasons why there could be some growing pains in Orem. However, the cupboard isn’t all bare. Oklahoma State transfer Brandon Averette is legit and will create havoc. Fordham transfer Ege Havsa might be one of the best passing guards in the WAC. Isaiah White and Tj Washington both return to the UVU lineup. Add in UNLV transfer and 4-star recruit Trey Woodbury along with Palm Beach State College transfer Zach Mogbo and Madsen might be able to work some magic.
UVU lacks some size as Connor MacDougall suffered a career-ending knee injury over the summer. However, 7-footer Brandon Morley and Akron grad transfer Emmanuel Olojakpoke could provide some rim protection. Casdon Jardine and Jamison Overton round out the UVU roster that, like other WAC teams, is guard heavy.
7 – CSU Bakersfield
Losing three of your top scorers is not a recipe for success. Jarkell Joiner, Rickey Holden and Damiyne Durham are all gone. So head coach Rod Barnes will lean on Taze Moore, Justin Edler-Davis, Greg Lee and Justin McCall to keep the Roadrunners competitive in their final season in the WAC. Another name to keep an eye on is Richmond transfer De’Monte Buckingham, who sat out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. Buckingham averaged 9.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game during his freshman season for the Spiders.
And as the theme goes, CSU Bakersfield is going to lean heavily on its guards. The ‘Runners have one player at 6-10 and two others at 6-9. So, not a ton of size in the Icardo Center. But, as most teams have experienced, you better come prepared to play a Rod Barnes-coached team.
8 – Kansas City
Similar to Utah Valley, it’s a whole new ball game in Kansas City.
Billy Donlon takes over for Kareem Richardson who was fired after the ‘Roos lost to Utah Valley in the first round of the WAC Tournament. Gone is pesky point guard Xavier Bishop among others who left the program. But Donlon re-recruited a couple of players that will have significant impact in 2019-20. Jordan Giles and Brandon McKissic both elected to stay at Kansas City. Same goes for Rob Whitfield, Marvin Nesbitt Jr. and Brandon Suggs. In fact, Kansas City returns 53 percent of its offense from the 2018-19 season. Plus, McKissic was a WAC All-Defensive Team selection in 2018-19.
Donlon also added graduate transfer Jahshire Hardnett to run the point. Hardnett averaged 7.4 points, 1.9 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game in 55 games played at BYU.
Donlon has experience at Big Ten schools Northwestern and Michigan and was 109-94 in six years at the helm of Wright State. The last time Kansas City had a winning record was the 2016-17 season. And, unfortunately, that might not change in 2019-20. However, strange things happen. And considering it is the final season Kansas City will compete in the WAC, who knows what Donlon and the ‘Roos have in store.
9 – Chicago State
Perhaps we will find out more information at WAC Media Day on Wednesday. But, nothing on the Chicago State men’s basketball site has been updated. What we do know is that leading scorer Anthony Harris is gone. Harris was ninth in the WAC in scoring at 13.7 points per game. Guard Rob Shaw is gone after graduating. Shaw was third on the team in scoring at 10.3 points per game. Other than that, not much to write about here as head coach Lance Irvin looks to win more than three games in his second season at Chicago State.