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« Penguin Insider

Does Slocum deserve HL coach of the year? (Updated with voting results)

By Joe Scalzo (Contact)


Published February 24, 2012

Untitled document

At this time last year, Youngstown State men's basketball coach Jerry Slocum was entering his option year coming off back-to-back 2-16 Horizon League seasons. Five players had left the team after the 2009-10 season. One had left during the 2010-11 season and two more would leave afterward.

The question wasn't, "Would Slocum be in the mix for Horizon League coach of the year in 2012?" It was, "Would Slocum be back in 2012, and beyond?"

A year later, we know the answers: yes, yes and yes.

Despite getting little from his bench — particularly offensively — Slocum has guided the Penguins to their best record since joining the Horizon League in 2001-02. YSU (15-13, 10-7) is guaranteed to finish above .500 in conference play for the first time. The eight-game improvement is the best in the Horizon League since the league expanded to 10 teams. (Cleveland State had a nine-game turnaround from 2006-07 to 2007-08). With a win over Detroit on Saturday, the Penguins would be in the mix for the league's third spot.

And, quietly, YSU athletic director Ron Strollo extended Slocum's contract for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

Just before camp started in October, with four of his five starters returning, Slocum predicted his team could finish in the top third of the conference. It was a bold claim and I wasn't sure it was realistic, particularly since 16 of his first 27 games were on the road.

So, I voted the Penguins fifth in the preseason poll and the league picked them seventh. With one game left, they're in a three-way tie for fourth with Detroit and Milwaukee. (The Penguins are 3-0 against those two teams this year.)

Slocum's biggest competition for coach of the year honors comes from Valparaiso's Bryce Drew, who took over for his father, Homer, in the offseason and whose best player, guard Brandon Wood, transferred to Michigan State for his senior year. Valpo was voted fifth in the preseason poll and will finish as regular season champions.

I'm one of three Youngstown media representatives with all-league votes — radio broadcaster Robb Schmidt and TV play-by-play man Chad Krispinsky — and I haven't decided between Slocum and Drew. I won't make my pick until after Saturday's game.

On Thursday night, I asked sophomore guard Kendrick Perry (a player of the year candidate and a lock for first-team all-conference honors) if he felt Slocum deserved coach of the year.

"In my eyes, definitely," Perry said. "He's been through the ups and downs. He's been the toughest out of all of us mentally."

Added junior forward Damian Eargle, "I think he does deserve it. He should be up there as one of the competitors for it."

Stay tuned.

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UPDATE

Here's a look at how I voted following Saturday's Horizon League finales.

Player of the year: Ryan Broekhoff, junior, Valparaiso. Entering the final games, Broekhoff was fourth in the league in scoring (14.8 ppg), first in rebounding (8.4 per game), ninth in steals (1.3 per game), fifth in free throw percentage (.784), sixth in 3-pointers made (2.0 per game) and ninth in 3-point percentage (.396). Add in the fact that Valpo won the league title and you also have the "best player on the best team" angle.

Coach of the year: Bryce Drew, Valparaiso. I came very close to voting for Slocum but the fact that YSU finished sixth in the league standings proved to be the difference. Yes, Drew has more talent and oversees a more established program but to win the Horizon League in his first year as head coach is impressive. And the Crusaders weren't THAT talented.

All-league voting (in order):

First team

1. Broekhoff.

2. YSU sophomore guard Kendrick Perry. Led the league in scoring and finished second in steals and third in assists. Also led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.0) and minutes played (34.7). Plus, he's a terrific kid with tremendous leadership skills and makes one or two "Did you see that?" plays per game. Needs to get stronger and improve his free throw shooting (70 percent) but you could easily make a player-of-the-year case for him.

3. Detroit sophomore guard Ray McCallum. Third in the league in scoring, fourth in assists, fifth in steals. Probably not as dominant as he should be but the Titans' talent could be a reason, since he doesn't need to do as much as Perry. After watching Detroit on Saturday, I kept thinking, "How did this team not win 20 games?" Clearly the league's most talented squad.

4. Valparaiso junior Kevin Van Wijk. Fifth in scoring, first in field goal percentage (.626) and a matchup nightmare for YSU. He missed the second game against the Penguins and Valpo got run off the floor.

5. Butler senior guard Ronald Nored. Second in the league in assists, third in steals, second in assist-to-turnover ratio. Also an Academic All-American. Terrific defender and leader.

Second team

6. Cleveland State senior guard D'Aundray Brown. The Ursuline High graduate was one the league's best defenders. He missed six games with a groin injury, a major reason for CSU's five-game losing streak late in the season. Led the league in steals and was 14th in scoring.

7. Milwaukee senior guard Kaylon Williams. Was 13th in scoring, first in assists and fourth in steals.

8. Green Bay sophomore center Alec Brown. Finished seventh in scoring, second in rebounds and second in blocks.

9. Loyola junior forward Ben Averkamp. Yes, Loyola stinks but that's not Averkamp's fault. He was second in the league in scoring, fourth in rebounding and eighth in blocks.

10. Wright State junior guard Julius Mays. He was invisible against YSU at Beeghly but played well all year. Finished sixth in scoring, sixth in steals and second in free throw percentage (.837).

All-newcomer team

(Quick confession: Whenever I have to vote for newcomers, I have this nagging fear that I missed someone. So, I don't have as much confidence in these votes.)

1. Mays

2. Butler forward Roosevelt Jones.

3. Cleveland State forward Anton Grady.

4. Green Bay center Brennan Cougill.

5. UIC guard Gary Talton.

Note: Media members and SIDs do not get a vote for the all-defensive team, defensive player of the year or sixth man of the year. That's left to the coaches. That said, I think YSU junior forward Damian Eargle deserves defensive player of the year. Eargle set the conference record for blocks in a season, finished third in rebounds and is athletic enough to guard all five positions. He's not quite good enough offensively to merit all-league consideration but that's a quibble. He's a terrific player.

---

UPDATE II

Sure enough, I missed someone on the all-newcomer team — Green Bay guard Keifer Sykes. He made the team anyway.

Here's the complete list of winners.

FIRST TEAM

Ryan Broekhoff, Jr., F, Valparaiso

Ray McCallum, So., G, Detroit

Kendrick Perry, So., G, Youngstown State

Kevin Van Wijk, Jr., F, Valparaiso

Alec Brown, So., C, Green Bay

SECOND TEAM

Kaylon Williams, Sr., G, Milwaukee

Trevon Harmon, Sr., G, Cleveland State

Julius Mays, Jr., G, Wright State

Ben Averkamp, Jr., F, Loyola

Ronald Nored, Sr., G, Butler

ALL-NEWCOMER

Julius Mays, Jr., G, Wright State

Keifer Sykes, Fr., G, Green Bay

Anton Grady, Fr., F, Cleveland State

Roosevelt Jones, Fr., F, Butler

Gary Talton, Jr., G, UIC

ALL-DEFENSIVE

Ronald Nored, Sr., G, Butler

Damian Eargle, Jr., C, Youngstown State

D’Aundray Brown, Sr., G, Cleveland State

Trevon Harmon, Sr., G, Cleveland State

Ryan Allen, Sr., G, Milwaukee

Player of the year: Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso

Newcomer of the year: Julius Mays, Wright State

Defensive player of the year: Ronald Nored, Butler

Sixth man of the year: Eli Holman, Detroit

Coach of the year: Bryce Drew, Valparaiso


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