Here is it…another WAC Player of the Year article. On August 11, I posted six names to consider for WAC Player of the Year honors. And the feedback was as expected.
“You didn’t put so and so.”
“Throw so and so in the mix.”
“So and so is the big miss here.”
“So and so snubbed.”
“Bulletin board material”
“So and so greater than everyone else.”
And on and on it went. I got the laughing emoji in a response from one of the players in the WAC. And it was to be expected. The WAC is deep in 2022-23. So narrowing it down to just five at this point is difficult. As specified in the initial article/tweet, I am going to put out five names on Sept. 11 and Oct. 11 before narrowing it down on Nov. 1.
So, let’s get to the second five names to consider.
Entire New Mexico State Roster
Okay, perhaps five names was not enough. Per the responses on the initial article, Xavier Pinson, Deshawndre Washington, James Beck were names thrown out. Others have said DaJuan Gordon. So why don’t we throw in the whole lot of the Aggie roster?
On the real, though. Xavier Pinson and DaJuan Gordon will be in consideration at the end of the regular season. And Deshawndre Washington will be, as well. The thing working against any of these names being called as WAC Player of the Year is the team mentality. Even NMSU broadcaster Adam Young made note of the fact that on any given night, any of the Aggies could go for 20 points. One night it may be Washington. The next night it could be Pinson. There is no Teddy Allen-type players at New Mexico State this year. And what I mean by that is the offense won’t be build solely around one guy like it was in 2021-22 around Allen.
There are multiple scorers and playmakers on the Aggie roster. And if we are being honest, there are 12-13 guys, maybe more, that will play significant minutes in 2022-23. So, this may cause an issue in terms of winning Player of the Year honors.
Airion Simmons – Abilene Christian
If you haven’t watched the 6-5 forward from Little Rock play, you need to. The 264-pound senior gets after it, diving for loose balls, coming up with rebounds, taking defenders off the dribble and, at times, hitting a nice pull-up jumper.
Simmons averaged 11.9 points and 4.6 rebounds for ACU in 2021-22 while starting all 34 games for the Wildcats. Shooting nearly 48 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point land were an added bonus. And with the departures of Coryon Mason, Mahki Morris and Reggie Miller, Simmons’ role will increase significantly.
Roti Ware – Stephen F. Austin
Injuries suck. Especially to players with star potential. And especially to a veteran and one of the most exciting and athletic players in the WAC. But, a season-ending knee injury is exactly what happened to SFA guard Roti Ware on Dec. 11 in SFA’s win over Liberty.
But, the 6-3, 187-pound guard is back and has a massive chip on his shoulder. Per his head coach Kyle Keller, Ware is on schedule and has been cleared for full practices. Keller is trying to take it slow. But, Ware is super competitive and wants to be on the floor. It is an interesting dilemma.
Ware has started 59 of the 60 games he has played in at SFA. And his scoring has increased each season. Keep an eye on the hesitation and if there is any. That will be a tell if Ware fully trusts his knee. SFA is hoping their team leader will stay healthy. It may lead to another WAC title.
Taran Armstrong – California Baptist
“He’s NBA ready.” “Taran Armstrong is one of the best guards in the country.” And so it went during Armstrong’s debut at the Division I level. The freshman from Tasmania has court vision that is not seen at this level, especially in the WAC. Add in the size at 6-6 and length and Taran Armstrong has the tools. The WAC Freshman of the Year averaged 10.5 points, 6.3 assists and 5.2 rebounds for the Lancers in 2021-22. In a win over San Jose State on Nov. 18, Armstrong had the programs first triple-double. Armstrong went for 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the win over the Spartans.
And now with shooters all over the floor in 2022-23, Armstrong’s assist numbers should increase. The ball will be in his hands the majority of the time and thus should have opportunities to prove he belongs at the highest levels. Add in that CBU is deep and talented in 2022-23 and you can see why Armstrong will be in consideration at the end of the regular season.
Rayshon Harrison – Grand Canyon
If there was a newcomer that could come in and win WAC Player of the Year, Harrison may be the guy. Lopes fans and others around the WAC remember what Holland Woods did in 2021-22 for the Lopes.
Well, Harrison may be better. Harrison has better size and the athleticism is off the chart. Add in that Harrison averaged over 17 points per game at Presbyterian and you can see the potential here. GCU relies heavily on its guards as we saw in 2021-22 with Woods and Jovan Blacksher Jr. And GCU is normally in the top 3-4 in the WAC which creates more opportunity. The other thing is the chip on Harrison’s shoulder. If you missed it, Harrison recently put out the following tweet.
“This chip on my shoulder get bigger and bigger by the day. If you ever at one point thought I wasn’t all that, ima help you out and guarantee that you don’t make that mistake again.”
Keep an eye on this 6-4, 180-pound guard from Greenville, South Carolina.