It’s time to reveal the final five…
5. Tai Odiase (UIC, Junior): Odiase shot 50% from the field last season, but it is on the defensive end where he has made a name for himself. With Valpo star Vashil Fernandez having graduated, Odiase has become the clear-cut frontrunner for Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. With college basketball becoming such a guard-oriented game, it is refreshing to see such a talented big man.
4. Jalen Hayes (Oakland, Junior): This ultra-reliable forward patrols the paint as well as anyone in the league. An All-League Second Team selection last season, Hayes will be the clear leader for the Golden Grizzlies this season. Even though he may be a bit undersized at the four-spot in college basketball, Hayes plays bigger than he really is. He is a strong rebounder and very adept low-post scorer.
3. Dikembe Dixson (UIC, Sophomore): Nobody in the Horizon League got to the free throw line more per game last season than Dixson, who averaged 8.5 attempts. That shows he is a very active player, who is difficult to guard and not afraid of contact. If he can become more efficient offensively and reduce turnovers, then he will go from being a very good college player to a great one.
2. Cameron Morse (Youngstown St., Junior): The Horizon League’s leading returning scorer, Morse
could end up being the best player in school history. With how good of a shooter he is, he will be relied upon to be a lot of his team’s offensive output this season. For handling the basketball so often, Morse takes care of it very well by not committing many turnovers. He really had the room to flourish last season after guard Marcus Keene transferred. His overall game has very few weaknesses.
1. Alec Peters (Valpo, Senior): He is the only Horizon League player who currently has the talent to be on an NBA roster at this moment. Peters is so dangerous because he has the size of a power forward, and the proven skills and finesse to be a very effective perimeter player. He has improved every season in college. Expect him to be in the running for the Naismith and Wooden Awards at the end of this one.