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Big South Player of the Year Race: Jerome Hill Leads the Way

The Big South may be the country's tightest conference at this point but the race for Player of the Year may be even tighter.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

The only thing tighter than the Big South standings right now might be the conference's Player of the Year race. While that may be true to an outside observer, it's a bit unfortunate that the race could be a runaway for High Point's John Brown due to name recognition alone. I'm here to tell you that Brown has not been the best player in the conference this year and there should be some serious looks at a myriad of other guys in the conference.

I'll start with Brown as we examine the race. Right now the redshirt junior is wrapping up what is expected to be his last year as a Panther. Currently he's tie for fourth in the conference in scoring with 18.2 points per game and he's averaging 5.9 rebounds per contest. Brown is down from last year in every statistical category and is even down in rebounds and steals from his freshman campaign. This isn't a situation where he's sharing the ball more or anything like that, he's just not getting it done at such a high rate as last year. Brown came into this season with 11 career double-doubles and he's still at that mark right now as he's failed to register double-digit rebounds all year.

Brown is still a phenomenal player, don't get me wrong, but he's not a runaway for POY. There is also the mysterious situation of why Brown was suspended earlier this year and has come off the bench in three of his 22 games this year instead of starting. Migraines have been cited but Scott Cherry has also hinted at "team violation" issues.

The guy that should be the frontrunner for Player of the Year at this point is Gardner-Webb's Jerome Hill. Hil is leading the conference in rebounding with 9.5 per game and is also second in the Big South in scoring with 18.9 points per contest. Remember John Brown's 11 career double-doubles? Jerome Hill has 11 this year alone. In his 24 starts this year he's failed to get to double-figures in the scoring column just twice. Hill is the biggest reason why Gardner-Webb is squarely in the Big South title race and his personality off the court matches his play off the court.

Saah Nimley is no stranger to the Big South POY race but he's really heated it up lately averaging nearly 25 points in Big South play. He's leading the conference in scoring and is also posting 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, which is pretty amazing for a 5'8 guard. It's hard to believe that a guy who will likely finish with over 1,800 career points will never take home his conference's most sought after hardware. For Nimley to vault in front of everyone else in the POY race he'll need to be really solid down the stretch when Charleston Southern hits the road for four more times in February.

The one guy who really always seems to get glazed over in the POY race is Radford's Javonte Green. Green is pound for pound the best player in the conference and is also the Big South's most consistent player. He's another guy that will finish with well over 1,800 career points and this year alone he's averaging 15.2 points and 8.6 rebounds. His numbers are even better for the surging Highlanders in conference play with over 18 points per night. Green is just solid and he's certainly worthy of being a horse in this race down the stretch.

The last guy that I think should be seriously in contention for Player of the Year, sorry Andrew Rowsey, is Keon Moore from Winthrop. The last time Moore didn't score in double-figures was December 3 against Jacksonville State. He's been a monster in conference play averaging 19.7 points and 5.1 rebounds a night. He's a guy that Pat Kelsey can rely on every night and really has Winthrop squarely in the conference title race at this point. If Moore has an off night, which he really hasn't lately, then the Eagles will lose, it's as simple as that. He also is getting it done on the defensive end where he trails only Longwood's Leron Fisher in steals.

The individual talent in this conference is deeper than ever. While these five guys are leading the way there are plenty of other guys like Rowsey, DeSean Murray, and Quincy Taylor who can go off on any given night. The Big South voters definitely have their work cut out for them this year.

Big South Player of the Year Race

Player Points Rebounds Assists
John Brown (High Point) 18.2 5.9 1.4
Jerome Hill (Gardner-Webb) 18.9 9.5 2.3
Saah Nimley (Charleston So) 19.7 4.4 4.2
Javonte Green (Radford) 15.2 8.6 1.3
Keon Moore (Winthrop) 18.2 5.0 1.6