The 2023-24 college basketball season is right around the corner. Okay, so there are almost four months until tip-off of a new season. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t stir the pot a little bit and get your. minds rolling. Once again, in the Western Athletic Conference, the WAC Player of the Year will not be returning to the league. Two years ago, it was Teddy Allen from New Mexico State. Last season, it was Qua Grant from Sam Houston. It’s ironic that both teams are no longer members of the WAC. Oh well, it is what it is.
So, with that being said, who will win WAC Player of the Year in 2023-24? In all reality, at least as of this writing, there are two clear cut favorites. One might have a bit of a chip on his shoulder by feeling like he got snubbed in 2022-23. The other is a scoring machine. Both players tested the NBA Draft waters this offseason. So, you can probably already guess who one and two are. After these two, the field is somewhat wide open.
For the purpose of this write-up, we will give you three others to make a top-5 list plus a few honorable mentions. Along with this, the list is based on returners. We will have another article featuring newcomers that could grace this list, as well.
1 – Ray Harrison, GCU
Let’s be real…it is Ray Harrison’s world and we are all living in it. At least in the WAC. Had GCU finished a little higher in the standings, Harrison would most likely have been the Player of the Year in 2022-23. Harrison averaged 17.8 points per game, shot 44 percent from the field, led the team in assists, and basically had the ball in his hands the majority of the time. Sure, Harrison got a slow start in the desert. However, the Presbyterian transfer was nearly unstoppable all season. And when Jovan Blacksher Jr. went down with an ACL injury in early January, Harrison took on an even bigger role. The WAC Tournament MVP nearly had a triple-double in the WAC title game with 31 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists. GCU is going to be the preseason favorite. There is no doubt of that. So, Harrison is at the top of the list.
2 – Cam Tyson, Seattle U
If there is anyone, at least as of now, that could give Ray Harrison a run for his money, it is Cam Tyson. The sharpshooter returns to the Redhawk lineup and most of the offense will run through him in 2023-24. Yes, Alex Schumacher is dangerous and Chris Victor returns quite a bit from a 20-win squad in 2022-23. But, Tyson is going to be the motor that makes everything run. Tyson was second in the WAC in scoring at 18.6 points per game and shot just shy of 34 percent from the perimeter. There will be a high volume which allows Tyson to score at a high clip. But, along with the perimeter shooting, Tyson showed that he can finish at the rim and has a sweet pull-up jump shot in his arsenal. Seattle U will be another team to keep an eye on in 2023-24 and Tyson is going to be a huge part of that in his third season in the Pacific Northwest.
3 – Day Day Hall, SFA
After thinking about and talking with others, Day Day Hall makes this list. Did you realize that the 6-5 junior averaged 13.8 points and 6.8 rebounds all while playing with a torn labrum in 2022-23? Yeah, and if that isn’t enough, it could be said that Hall was outsized most nights. Don’t let that fool you. The motor on Hall is always going. When the Jacks were in a funk offensively, something was run through Hall in the post. With his quickness, athleticism and ability to defend multiple positions, a healthy Hall will be very, very dangerous for a Jacks squad looking to rebound from a challenging 2022-23 season.
4 – Jakorie Smith, Tarleton
With the departures of Freddy Hicks, Shamir Bogues, Shak Daniel and Javontae Hopkins, Jakorie Smith’s role is about to get a lot bigger. The 6-6 forward who plays like a guard scored in double figures in his final five games of 2022-23 including a 26-point outburst against UTRGV in Tarleton’s first-ever Division I postseason win. Smith has size and quickness that can make him a threat from multiple positions on the floor. With a lot of new faces in Stephenville, Smith will take on a leadership role. It should provide even more opportunities to put up big numbers.
5 – Shemar Wilson – UT Arlington
Sure, a new coach, new system, and some added size could play a factor at College Park Center. However, Wilson is one of the best rebounders in the WAC and nearly averaged a double-double in 2022-23 before being sidelined with an injury down the stretch. The 6-9 junior averaged 10.9 points and 7.8 rebounds prior to missing the final eight games of the season. Length, athleticism, high basketball IQ, and a motor that doesn’t stop. How will Wilson fare under KT Turner? That remains to be seen. But, it also says a lot that Wilson stayed at UTA despite the coaching change. If the Mavericks can be better in 2023-24, Wilson may have a shot to shock the world.
Airion Simmons – ACU
With departures comes big opportunity. The biggest key will be staying focused night in and night out. When Simmons is on, he’s nearly unstoppable. ACU has some key pieces returning and Simmons is arguably the biggest one.
Drake Allen – Utah Valley
Todd Phillips wants to play fast. Sure, the Wolverines have a 7-footer in Utah State transfer Trevin Dorius. But, the Wolverines are gonna rely on quickness, athleticism and the transition game. This is where Drake Allen should flourish. But, can the Wolverines keep pace in the race for another WAC regular season crown?
Hunter Goodrick – California Baptist
Talk about guys with a high motor and you can put Hunter Goodrick’s name in the mix. About the only thing Goodrick needs to adjust to is when defenses realize he doesn’t go right often. The left-handed forward can finish at the rack and showed an ability to knock down a perimeter shot.
Gabe McGlothan – GCU
It’s kind of crazy to think that Gabe McGlothan has ANOTHER year of eligibility. But, the leader of the Lopes is back. With his rebounding prowess, knack for playing above the rim and an improved shot from the perimeter, McGlothan is always a threat on the floor for the Lopes.
Alex Schumacher – Seattle U
The Seattle U point guard had some big shoes to fill in 2022-23. It’s safe to say that Alex Schumacher filled those shoes really well. Now, with Riley Grigsby gone, Schumacher’s role will increase even more. With Cam Tyson next to him, this could be a very dynamic duo.