Welcome to Horizon League Media Day, where things don't always go as planned, and with some of the personalities in the conference, you can be sure things will be interesting.
But before the highlights of the day, let's get to the awards:
Preseason Player of the Year: Keifer Sykes, Green Bay
Preseason 1st Team All-Conference: Sykes; Juwan Howard Jr., Detroit; Corey Petros, Oakland; Trey Lewis, Cleveland State; Alec Peters, Valparaiso.
Preseason 2nd Team All-Conference: Bobby Hain, Youngstown State; Khalil Felder, Oakland; Matt TIby, Milwaukee; Jordan Fouse, Green Bay; Anton Grady, Cleveland State.
Best commentary on the All-Conference Teams
Oakland's Greg Kampe on Kahlil Felder: "Let's talk about those predictions again. Khalil was freshman of the year and wasn't on the first team and another sophomore is. K is a really important piece to our puzzle. Before he is done, he may be a Keifer Sykes type player [regular season and preseason player of the year]. This is a big year for him." (We thought so too. Felder was No. 49 on the list of best mid-major players.)
- Green Bay
- Cleveland State
- Wright State
- Youngstown State
Youngstown State's Jerry Slocum on the parity in the league past the top two teams: "I don't think that since I have been in this league I have seen a league so equal. I think the league is as up for grabs as anytime I have been in the league."
As you would expect, there were a lot of jokes about the team being picked last in the conference making the conference title game in the previous two seasons. UIC coach Howard Moore said the preseason poll gives his team some extra motivation this season.
For what it's worth, Kampe picked his own team to finish last. Maybe he was hoping for some of that Horizon League magic.
Best Commentary on a Player Not Present
Rob Jeter at Milwaukee was asked what it is like to coach Matt Tiby, who was obviously one of the more vocal and passionate leaders of the team during last season's NCAA Tournament run (and of course, he had the hair until late in the year).
His comment: "[People say] it has got to be difficult sometimes coaching him. It is the opposite. He is passionate. He is emotional in the right way. He is a team player, and he repeats everything I say so he is a great on-the-court coach. There are times where we are in games, and we just have to calm him down, but they see his level of intensity. And this is like the first play of the game. We still have 39 more to play. He is a joy to coach."
Milwaukee has one of the more interesting nonconference schedules this season as they open their refurbished home arena. They will face off against former coach Bruce Pearl when they take on Auburn, and then show down against Wisconsin and Bo Ryan. Ryan coached Jeter when Jeter was in college at Wisconsin-Plattville. Somehow those teams scored 99 points per game.
Best Tag-Team Performance By A Player and Coach
Gary Waters had a passionate discourse about transfers and AAU culture, but his best moment of the afternoon came when discussing Charlie Lee. Waters explained how they were about to go on a road swing and needed someone to step up during that road trip. Well, if you can remember, Lee did just that, igniting a spurt by Cleveland State that had a lot of people fearful of them in March. As Waters was telling the story, he would ask Charlie, "How many points did you have that night?" Lee would smile and lean into the microphone. "31." And then the story went on and again the question. Again, Lee smiled big and leaned in for his answer. "27." So Lee didn't quite have the numbers right (He scored 26 and 33 in those two games), but the moment was priceless.
If someone is looking for a great camera presence for a basketball show, you may want to get in touch with Lee. If his criminology major doesn't work out, he can certainly provide the laughs. Runner up would be Alec Peters, but he has two more years at Valpo after this one to show how well he plays basketball.
Green Bay has a home and home series with Georgia State this season brought on after months of discussion. The two had agreed to a single game, and agreed to keep in touch in case something happened. It turned out at the end of the summer, both teams needed another game. This will be one of the best doubleheaders of the season provided both teams live up to expectations. Georgia State has one of the best backcourts in the country, and Green Bay is a very balanced team with Sykes, Fouse and a great supporting cast.
Wright State has a similar home and home with Belmont this year, although coach Billy Donlon was not as high on the idea of doing something like this too often. "The problem is that if you do it too often, you are right in the same boat the next season," he said. "Scheduling is tough in our league."
Still, getting a two-game series with Belmont or Georgia State really gives you a leg up when the NCAA Tournament rolls around. The two should be near or at the top of their leagues, and could provide a real boost to RPI numbers which, even if the committee doesn't rely on them, will be in the discussion come March.
Best Quote of the Night
Sykes after saying he tells his media guy to post more video of him doing something other than dunking: "There is a lot more to my game than just dunks ... but dunks are fun though"
Runner Up Quote of the Night
Kampe on the brutal schedules that he puts his team through: "You know we have won a lot of those games. I don't look at us as the Washington Generals. "
Donlon interrupting after Reggie Arceneaux and Kendall Griffin were asked what it was like to play for him for four years: "That is like 28 years in dog years, playing for me. These guys are like 28 years older."
Things We Will Apparently Find Out More About Soon
- A new deal expanded deal with ESPN
- A new conference tournament bracket
With so much to choose from, the best moment came when Kampe asked the NWI Times' Paul Oren if he were coming back when the reporter had to step out to take a phone call. Oren returned and Kampe made him come up in front of the room. No one had any idea what was about to happen.
Kampe relayed a story of how he gets everything written about the Horizon League on his desk every morning (So, Hi Coach!). Apparently after last season's media day, a report from a Valpo paper had written that Kampe had the worst toupe he had ever seen. Kampe mistakenly thought it might have been Oren (it wasn't).
Kampe explains that he got a new haircut for this season's event and that his stylist is offering a free haircut to the reporter that wrote about his hair. He then had Oren tug on his locks to prove that they were real.
Yeah, you read that correctly: the coach had the reporter pull on his hair, just as the little girl pulls on Santa's beard in a Miracle on 34th Street. Classic Kampe, and one big relief for Oren who had no idea what was coming when he was called in front of the class. As he said after, "I have heard him yell at his players."