INDIANAPOLIS – After winning the conference’s Player of the Year award last season, and opening this year as the preseason Player of the Year, Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes proved the prognosticators right as he finished the 2014-15 season as the Horizon League’s Player of the Year in voting of the League’s coaches, sports information directors and media.
In repeating as Player of the Year, Sykes became the first player to accomplish this feat since Detroit’s Rashad Phillips (1999-2000, 2000-01).
After winning the Horizon League regular season for the third time in four seasons, Valparaiso boasted a handful of award winners. Senior center Vashil Fernandez was chosen the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, while sophomore forward Jubril Adekoya was selected the Sixth Man of the Year, and Bryce Drew was tabbed the Coach of the Year in the Horizon League.
Detroit’s Paris Bass was chosen as Freshman of the Year after a stellar rookie campaign.
Sykes led the League in scoring at 18.5 points per game and also finished the regular season in the top-five in assists (4.2 per game) and steals (1.7 per game). He upped his scoring to 19.7 points per game in 16 conference contests. The Chicago, Ill., native closes his career with 13 Player of the Week honors, the most of any player in Horizon League history.
Sykes is the first senior to win the Player of the Year award since Cleveland State’s Norris Cole won the honor following the 2011 season.
Fernandez led the conference and set a school single-season record with 90 blocked shots for an average of 2.9 per contest. He ranks 10th in the country with his 2.9 blocks per game average. The Kingston, Jamaica native had double the amount of blocks of any player in the League this season as the player with the second-most blocks in the conference finished the regular season with 45. Fernandez paced a defense that led the Horizon League and ranked 28th in the country in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score just 59.9 points per game.
Adekoya won Sixth Man honors after coming off the bench in 25 of the 29 games he played in this season. He averaged 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in league play, while shooting at a 59.3 percent clip from the field.
Bass closed the regular season leading all freshmen in scoring at 12.5 points per game, rebounding at 5.8 per contest and blocked shots at 1.0 per game. He tied for the most steals by a rookie, while his 46.2 percent field goal shooting was second-best of any freshman in the conference.
Sykes was the lone senior on the First team as he was joined by Oakland sophomore Kahlil Felder, Valparaiso sophomore forward Alec Peters and Cleveland State teammates Anton Grady and Trey Lewis.
Felder led the Horizon League and country in assists per game, averaging 7.7 per contest. He finished the regular season third in the conference with a 17.4 points per game scoring average and second with 62 steals.
Peters leads the regular season champion Crusaders in scoring and rebounding. The Washington, Ill., native averaged 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game this season and is the only player in the Horizon League to average over 15 points and five rebounds per game this season.
Grady recorded a League-best eight double-doubles in conference play. He averaged 15.5 points per game and led the conference with 9.4 rebounds per contest in 16 League games. The CSU junior was also the lone player on the All-League First and Second Team to be voted onto the All-Defensive Team.
Lewis rounded out the first team. The junior guard led the Vikings in scoring at 16.9 points per game and led the Horizon League by connecting on 2.9 three-point field goals per game.
The All-League Second Team was led by Detroit’s Juwan Howard Jr., and Oakland’s Corey Petros who are both repeat selections on the Second Team. Howard Jr., ranks second in the conference in scoring at 17.8 points per game, while Petros averaged 14.5 points per game and led the Horizon League in rebounding with an average of 8.4 per game and also led the League with 10 double-doubles on the year.
Mays garnered Second Team accolades after scoring 15.4 points per game on 53.1 percent shooting in conference play.
Milwaukee teammates Steve McWhorter and Matt Tiby rounded out the Second Team. McWhorter led the Panthers in scoring and assists on the year, finishing with season averages of 14.2 points per game and 4.6 assists per game. McWhorter’s 2.01 assist:turnover ratio on the year was second-best in the conference. Tiby, the lone junior and on a Second Team that has four seniors, was the only player to rank in the top-five in conference games in both scoring (5th, 15.8 ppg.) and rebounding (3rd, 8.7).
Bass was joined on the All-Freshman Team by Valparaiso’s Tevonn Walker, Wright State’s Grant Benzinger and Oakland teammates Jalen Hayes and Nick Daniels. Walker averaged 10.7 points per game for the Crusaders and tied with Bass to lead all freshman in the conference in steals. Benzinger was one of the top marksman in the conference this season as he connected on 57 three-pointers and shot 42.5 percent from long distance. Hayes picked up Freshman of the Week accolades six times this season and led all freshmen in the League in rebounding (6.3) and steals (1.4) in conference play, while averaging 11.2 points per game. Daniels closed the regular season as the top three-point shooter in the conference as he hit 33-of-67 three pointers (49.3%) from long distance.
Joining Bass and Grady on the All-Defensive team were Jordan Fouse from Green Bay, Oakland’s Dante Williams and Grady’s teammate, Charlie Lee. Fouse is on the All-Defensive Team for the second consecutive season. The junior closed the season leading the League in steals with 63 and 2.1 per game. He ranked fifth in the League with 1.1 blocks per game. Fouse and Grady were the only two players in the League to rank in the top-five in both blocks and steals. Williams often guarded the top-scorer on the opposing team and held All-League selection Howard Jr., Lewis and Peters well below their season averages when they played against Oakland. Lee manned the point for the second-best scoring defense in League games as the Vikings held their HL opposition to 61.4 points per game and just 41.8 percent shooting.
The 2015 Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship will tip-off on Tuesday, March 3, with two first round games on campus sites -- No. 8 Youngstown State at No. 5 Detroit; and No.7 Wright State at No. 6 UIC. Both games will be streamed on ESPN3.
Top-seeded Valparaiso and No. 2 seed Green Bay earned byes into the semifinals, while No. 3 Oakland awaits the winner of the Wright State-UIC game and No. 4 Cleveland State meets the winner of Youngstown State-Detroit in the second round. Second Round games will be played on Friday, March 6, at the Athletics-Recreation Center in Valparaiso, Ind., with semifinals taking place on Saturday, March 7, on ESPNU. The Horizon League title game will be played at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, March 10, on ESPN.
2015 HL Awards
Player of the Year: Keifer Sykes, Green Bay (Sr., G)
Defensive Player of the Year: Vashil Fernandez, Valparaiso (Sr., C)
Freshman of the Year: Paris Bass, Detroit (G/F)
Sixth Player of the Year: Jubril Adekoya, Valparaiso (So., F)
Coach of the Year: Bryce Drew, Valparaiso
All-League First Team
Keifer Sykes, Green Bay (Sr., G)
Kahlil Felder, Oakland (So., G)
Alec Peters, Valparaiso (So., F)
Anton Grady, Cleveland State (Jr., F)
Trey Lewis, Cleveland State (Jr., G)
All-League Second Team
Juwan Howard, Jr., Detroit (Sr., F)
Corey Petros, Oakland (Sr., C)
Greg Mays, Green Bay (Sr., F)
Matt Tiby, Milwaukee (Jr., F)
Steve McWhorter, Milwaukee (Sr., G)
Paris Bass, Detroit (G/F)
Tevonn Walker, Valparaiso (G)
Jalen Hayes, Oakland (F)
Grant Benzinger, Wright State (G)
Nick Daniels, Oakland (G)
Vashil Fernandez, Valparaiso (Sr., C)
Jordan Fouse, Green Bay (Jr., F)
Dante Williams, Oakland (Sr., F)
Anton Grady, Cleveland State (Jr., F)
Charlie Lee, Cleveland State (Sr., G)