For its preseason accolades, Conference USA refrains from selecting a preseason player of the year. Not a bad year to go that route since a handful of players could make a claim to be the league’s best. Bottom line: the talent in Conference USA this year will be worth watching, especially come league tournament time in Frisco, Texas, in March.
Player of the Year: Jon Elmore, Guard, Marshall
The Charleston, West Virginia, native and Virginia Military Institute transfer did it all for the Thundering Herd last season. During his junior season, he led the conference in points per game (22.7), minutes per game (38.2), free throws made (232) and total assists (244). Then he sent and showed off and finished in the top 10 in seemingly every other category. So it should come as no surprise that Elmore and the Thundering Herd dispatched of Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament. That just begs the question: What does Elmore have in store for an encore?
Newcomer of the Year: Charles Bassey, Forward, Western Kentucky
Sorry, Reggie Scurry of Middle Tennessee State who would have likely been the go-to here. But it has to be Charles Bassey, a McDonald’s All-American who opted for Conference USA over any other major conference options. At 6 feet, 11 inches and 245 pounds, Bassey will be a chore for any other big men in Conference USA. Even with his imposing size, Bassey can light it up from the outside after shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in his final high school season. While doing that, Bassey recorded 19.4 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. Bassey had a chance to be special.
Dark Horse Team: North Texas
If Roosevelt Smart takes a star turn, the Mean Green could be the Marshall of last season. Smart fills up the stat sheet, and he’s got trusty sidekicks in Ryan Woolridge and Zachary Simmons. Don’t be surprised if Grant McCasland’s team pulls off a stunning victory or two during a December stretch that includes games against Oklahoma, Indiana State, Texas-Arlington and New Mexico.
Jon Elmore — Senior, Guard, Marshall
Roosevelt Smart — Junior, Guard, North Texas
Ahmad Caver — Senior, Guard, Old Dominion
Jhivvan Jackson — Sophomore, Guard, UTSA
Charles Bassey — Freshman, Center, Western Kentucky
Jon Davis — Senior, Guard, Charlotte
Daquan Bracey — Junior, Guard, Louisiana Tech
B.J. Stith — Senior, Guard, Old Dominion
C.J. Burks — Senior, Guard, Marshall
Taveion Hollingsworth — Sophomore, Guard, Western Kentucky