NAIA Men's - End of Season Recap - Players Of Year
A terrific, wide-open National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics men’s basketball season brought plenty of outstanding team and individual performances, as the COVID-19 pandemic has been able to do little to slow down play at the NAIA level. The NAIA was a leader among small college levels last season in continuing to prioritize playing games in a safe manner, and with the exception of some brief in-season disruptions, this year went largely as planned in the NAIA, a testament to the teams, student-athletes and administrators at this level. That didn’t necessarily make picking an All-American team easy, not with many excellent candidates, but it did provide a fairer and larger sample size for all teams. We compiled an All-American team for Basketball Times magazine last year with this same format of three players on first, second and third teams, and we added honorable mention picks this year. Five players are repeat performers on the team, including our national player of the year moving up from third team to first, and two first-teamers repeating the same honor. Our NAIA Player of the Year is Alex Gross of Olivet Nazarene (Ill.). The 6-foot-10 senior was simply as statistically dominant as could be almost imagined. He led the country in rebounding, finished second in the nation in blocked shots, fifth in scoring and eighth in assists. Gross led the Tigers to a 31-4 record, with a marvelous season ending in a hard-fought loss to Grace (Ind.) in the second round of the NAIA Tournament. It was a close call here between Gross and Zach Wrightsil of Loyola of New Orleans for the top honor nationally. The versatile 6-7 Wrightsil led a loaded Wolf Pack team that went 37-1 and rolled through the first-ever 64-team NAIA Tournament to win the national championship. Wrightsil averaged 18.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and over two steals per game and shot 62.0% from the floor on his way to Southern States Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors. Jaylon Scott led Bethel (Kan.) to another outstanding season, with the Threshers’ campaign ending in Kansas City in the round of 16 in the NAIA Tournament for the second straight year. The 6-foot-5 wing averaged 19.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.6 steals and piled up 20 double-doubles in Bethel’s 27-7 season. Scott can be spectacular in so many ways, with single-game highs of 35 points, 22 rebounds and 14 assists, the latter two coming in the same game against Oklahoma Wesleyan.
Ryan Batte helped Thomas More (Ky.) to the top of the tough Mid-South Conference and into the NAIA’s national semifinals in Kansas City with a big year. The 6-6 center averaged 21.5 points and more than seven rebounds per game as the Saints rolled to the conference regular season crown by 3.5 games and then ran to the Fab Four before losing an overtime heartbreaker to Talladega (Ala.). William Penn forward Kevion Blaylock was as consistent as they come, averaging 20.8 points and 10.2 rebounds and scoring in double figures every game to join Scott on our All-America first team for the second straight year. Blaylock shot 58.2% from the field and accumulated 14 double-doubles for the Statesmen, who spent a good part of the regular season ranked No. 1 before being stunned by Indiana-Kokomo in the second round of the NAIA tourney. Our Coach of the Year is Stacy Hollowell of Loyola. Hollowell built a fast-paced juggernaut on both ends that finished second nationally in scoring (89.3 ppg) and led the nation in steals by a country mile (13.7 spg, nearly three more per game than any other NAIA team). The Wolf Pack faced adversity even before the season when Hurricane Ida damaged the team’s home court, forcing the team to practice in Dallas in the preseason and play its home games at Tulane’s Devlin Fieldhouse until a temporary floor could be put in place to finish the regular season at home. Loyola still went on to beat opponents by an average of more than 20 points per game in the regular season, and then won six games by an average of 20 points in the NAIA Tournament, too, including defeating conference rival Talladega for the fourth time this season in the national championship game to win their first NAIA national title since 1945.
Player of the Year: Alex Gross, Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)
Coach of the Year: Stacy Hollowell, Loyola (La.)
First Team Ryan Batte, C, 6-6, Jr., Thomas More (Ky.) 21.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.9 apg Kevion Blaylock, F, 6-7, Sr., William Penn (Iowa) 20.8 ppg, 10.2 rpg Alex Gross, C, 6-10, Sr., Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) 23.8 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 5.6 apg, 3.2 bpg Jaylon Scott, G, 6-5, Sr., Bethel (Kan.) 19.2 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 5.7 apg, 2.6 spg Zach Wrightsil, 6-7, Sr., Loyola (La.) 18.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, 2.1 spg Second Team Myles Burns, G/F, 6-6, Sr., Loyola (La.) 15.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.4 apg, 4.1 spg Antwaan Cushingberry, G, 5-8, Jr., St. Francis (Ind.) 21.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.6 apg Riley Minix, F, 6-7, Jr., Southeastern (Fla.) 22.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg Alex Van Kalsbeek, F, 6-6, So., Northwestern (Iowa) 23.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.5 apg Mason Walters, F, 6-9, Jr., Jamestown (N.D.) 24.2 ppg, 11.5 rpg
Third Team Darryl Baker, G, 6-4, Sr., Talladega (Ala.) 17.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg
Seth Maxwell, C, 7-0, Sr., Indiana Wesleyan 17.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.7 bpg Karmari Newman, G, 6-4, Sr., William Penn (Iowa) 18.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 101 3-pt FG made Matt Simpson, G, 6-0, Sr., Florida College 21.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.1 apg Jovan Sljivancanin, F, 6-5, Sr., Carroll (Mont.) 19.5 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 3.3 apg Honorable Mention Kae’ron Baker, G, 6-2, Sr., Louisiana College 24.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.2 apg Brandon Beavers, G, 6-2, So., Lawrence Tech (Mich.) 20.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.0 apg, 2.6 spg Derrin Boyd, G, 6-4, Fr., Georgetown (Ky.) 16.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.1 apg Anthony Brown, G, 5-11, Sr., MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) 18.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.6 spg Cade Coffman, G/F, 6-5, Sr., Evangel (Mo.) 15.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg Frankie Davidson, F, 6-7, So., Grace (Ind.) 18.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.3 apg Brandon Davis, G, 6-1, So., Loyola (La.) 14.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.3 apg Jaja Davis, C, 6-5, Sr., Montreat (N.C.) 18.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg Josiah De’laCerda, F, Jr., Ottawa-Arizona 17.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg Sindou Diallo, G, 6-3, Sr., Montana Tech 15.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.3 apg David Ejah, F, 6-7, So., St. Francis (Ind.) 19.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg Jacob Fierst, C, 6-6, Jr., Clarke (Iowa) 19.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg KiAndre Gaddy, F, 6-5, Jr., Walla Walla (Wash.) 20.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg Zach Goodline, G, Huntington (Ind.) 18.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.5 apg Desean Hampton, F, 6-5, Sr., Indiana-Kokomo 12.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.7 bpg Trent Hilbrands, G, 6-0, Sr., Northwestern (Iowa) 18.1 ppg, 109 3-pt FG made Cameron Hines, G, 5-10, Sr., Science & Arts (Okla.) 18.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 93 3-pt FG C.J. Hines, G, 6-1, Fr., Faulkner (Ala.) 16.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.7 apg Jason Hubbard, F, 6-6, Jr., Taylor (Ind.) 23.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.7 apg Angelo Johnson, G, 5-8, Sr., Arizona Christian 12.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.1 apg Jared Johnson, F, 6-5, Jr., Indiana-Northwest 16.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 4.5 apg Coby Jones, G, 6-3, Sr., Johnson (Tenn.) 24.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg Kyran Jones, F, 6-5, So., Georgetown (Ky.) 14.4 ppg, 11.3 rpg Carter Kent, G, 6-2, Jr., Concordia (Neb.) 15.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.2 apg Tavon King, G, 6-0, Sr., Cumberland (Tenn.) 17.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Jaden Lietzke, C, 6-7, Fr., Oklahoma Wesleyan 12.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg Kortland Martin, G, 5-11, Sr., Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) 20.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.1 apg Nykolas Mason, G, 6-6, Sr., SW Assemblies of God (Texas) 17.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.2 apg Mascio McCadney, G, 6-3, Sr., Montana State-Northern 18.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.1 apg Ryan Miller, G, 5-11, Sr., Grand View (Iowa) 20.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg Jalon Perry, G, 6-2, Sr., Faulkner (Ala.) 18.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg Spencer Piercefield, G, 6-0, Jr., Indiana Wesleyan 13.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.1 apg Cam Potts, G, 6-1, Sr., Talladega (Ala.) 9.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.7 apg Kobe Powell, G, 5-9, Jr., Texas A&M-Texarkana 16.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.5 apg A.J. Rainey, G, 5-10, Jr., LSU Alexandria 18.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.6 apg Makye Richard, G, 6-2, Sr., Xavier (La.) 16.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.8 apg Christian Rodriguez, G, Cornerstone (Mich.) 21.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 5.2 apg Tyler Schmidt, G, 6-4, So., Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) 20.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.8 apg Trequan Spivey, G, 6-1, Sr., Indiana-Kokomo 17.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.5 apg Christian Stewart, G, 6-0, Sr., Marian (Ind.) 18.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.4 apg Ricardo Time, G, 6-2, Sr., College of Idaho 12.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg Markelle Turner, G, 6-2, So., Union (Ky.) 22.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.9 apg Leondre Washington, G, 6-0, Sr., LSU Shreveport 16.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.1 apg Cashemin Williams, G, 6-3, Jr., William Jessup (Calif.) 18.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 5.6 apg
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