All-Horizon Third Team: a long time coming

It’s been about six months since the All-Horizon League teams came out for basketball, and my small circle of friends has been talking about them ever since.  Not that we necessarily disagree with the teams; I’ll admit, a fair share of my Panther brethren are steaming that Matt Howard was awarded the first team spot, but we as a group are more concerned with another, more general problem that all members of the Horizon League can agree with.

The Horizon League needs an All-Conference Third Team.

For too long, the conference has been operating under the notion that an All-Conference team would get pretty shaky if you went past the tenth man, or at least as far as 15.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  And all I need is the 2009-10 season to prove it.

As a refresher, these are the All-Horizon League teams for last season:

First Team
Gordon Hayward
Matt Howard
Norris Cole
Shelvin Mack
Rahmon Fletcher

Second Team
Vaughn Duggins
Ricky Franklin
Cory Johnson
Brandon Wood
Chase Simon

On any given night, there are more than ten players in the conference who deserved All-League honors of some sort.  I’m not here to argue who deserves to be on what team, but I do believe Matt Howard should have finished either on the second team or my personal third team, depending on if Cory Johnson and/or Eli Holman were more deserving.

Some players deserved mention and were completely ignored because we only honor ten players as All-Conference.  Defensive teams and Newcomer teams are put together under different criteria, and shouldn’t be used to give honors to players who deserve to be on All-League teams that you’d like to shunt aside.

Individual players made strong cases and were denied.  I’ll take a few and state my case.

Ronald Nored, Butler – Half of the game is offense, the other is defense.  How can a player who was voted as the best player in the conference on one side of the ball be denied a spot on the All-Conference team?  Is the best defensive player in the Horizon League no better than the 11th-best player if he’s not particularly offensive-minded?  I find that really hard to believe.  Nored was a huge part of the Final Four run for Butler, perhaps just as important as Matt Howard.  I would argue that Nored was even more important in keeping the Duke guards in check in the title game.

Robo Kreps, UIC – Domo Arigato spent the season operating in relative obscurity at UIC while the Flames tanked once again in Jimmy Collins’ final season.  It’s too bad, because as an individual player, Kreps was outstanding.  He was the Flames’ top perimeter defender, but led the Horizon League in minutes per game, a monster performer that was in the top ten in scoring (15.2 ppg, sixth) and free throw percentage (84.7%, third).

James Eayrs, Milwaukee – 12.6 points per game and top ten in rebounding, you’d think, would put you on an All-Conference team.  It didn’t in the case of Big Lumber, who toiled through his last Horizon League season on ever-worsening knees and still was top ten in the conference in blocks.  It’s too bad he wasn’t 80 pounds lighter, because his body broke down over the course of the season, but he was an absolute warrior and deserved mention.

Todd Brown, Wright State – Here’s a fun fact.  Did you know that Todd Brown ranks in the top ten in Horizon League history in scoring?  No, you didn’t, because it’s not true.  But there’s no one that has spanned Wright State’s greatest years as Robin to someone else’s Batman better than Brown.  Despite playing on the wing, he was second on the team in rebounding with 4.4 rpg last season, scored over 1,000 points in just his first three seasons and 1,469 in a storied career.  He graduated as the winningest player in Wright State history.  This is a program that has won twenty games each of the last four years, with him as the best (2008-09), second best (07-08 and 09-10), or third-best player (06-07).  Simply put, without Brown, Wright State doesn’t win a conference championship in 2006-07, or come as close as they have the last three years.  Brown deserves recognition for being such a star, but all he has is a Horizon League All-Conference second team honor in 2008-09, when Duggins was out for most of the season.

D’Aundray Brown, Cleveland State – This guy, more than most, has a bone to pick with the conference.  He only scored 8.6 ppg last season, just fourth on his own team.  But Brown led the conference in steals with a wicked 2.5 per game.  If you really need to see the effect that D’Aundray Brown had on the CSU program last season, just look what happened when he didn’t play against Milwaukee.  A traditionally stout defense gave up 82 points, ending their season.  Would they have beat Milwaukee with him in the lineup?  Who knows.  But this guy forced three turnovers per game by himself last season.

At the very least, the Horizon League should be looking at adding Honorable Mention to get these guys All-Conference honors, as well as players like Anthony Hill, Bryquis Perine, Eli Holman and Tommy Kurth.

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