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Drew Ellis covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. His news and notes keep you up to date with Golden Grizzlies men's basketball.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

After cleaning up last season, Oakland shorted in postseason voting

The Summit League released the results of the all-league voting Thursday and the only thing most fans, and writers, could talk about was the fact Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton, who has been among the nation’s top scorers all season and now has the scoring lead, was overlooked for the conference player of the year award. The honor was instead bestowed upon No. 1 seed Oral Roberts’ Dominique Morrison, as Oakland coach Greg Kampe thought it would during the last episode of "Grizz Talk." 
“He led the nation in scoring. He led the league in steals. Five plus assists a game. What more do you have to do?” wondered Oakland radio color analyst Neal Ruhl of Hamilton's candidacy. “There’s a lot of deserving candidates. You put the whole body of work into it … I’m going to be jaded because I’m around the guy and he’s an incredible person, but the numbers are really strong.”
The Summit League has declined to release the individual voting results. Player of the year is determined by the player who receives the most votes for the all-league team. So, it’s not a most valuable player award.
“The voting would be interesting to see with such great players in this league,” Ruhl said.
Hamilton earned his second consecutive first-team all-league selection.
Freshman Corey Petros earned all-league newcomer honors Thursday as well.
Oakland’s Keith Benson won the player of the year award each of the past two seasons when the Golden Grizzlies finished with consecutive 17-1 records. The Golden Eagles matched that feat this season.
“The voting was swayed because they were so good,” Ruhl said. “Teams in this league that can do that don’t get enough credit” because of the inter-conference travel.
“If you look at total package, that was Reggie this year.”
Seven of the last nine players of the year have come from the top team, in fact.
Hamilton and Morrison are two of three Summit League finalists for the mid-major player of the year award, which was also won by Benson, in the award's first year, 2010. 
The biggest snub might actually be the fact Oakland’s Travis Bader didn’t earn a second-team nod, taking home just an honorable mention. Furthermore, Bader who came off the bench most of the conference season, didn’t earn conference sixth man of the year. That award, like player of the year, went to Oral Roberts, as Steven Roundtree collected the hardware.
“I was really surprised when I saw that voting,” Ruhl said. “Travis made over 100 3s this year. He’s a top-five 3-point shooter in the country.”
There was a trickle-down effect last year, as Grizzlies’ leader Greg Kampe was coach of the year, Benson was defensive player of the year and Bader was edged by Roundtree for newcomer of the year.
Oakland’s Larry Wright won the sixth man of the year after coming off the bench in 12 league games last season, while Bader played a reserve role 11 times in conference play. Bader scored 206 points in 11 conference contests as a reserve — 18.73 points per game in an average of 37 minutes per game. (The minutes per game figure is slightly skewed because Bader played 46 minutes in a double-overtime win over Western Illinois and 42 in an OT win vs. Southern Utah just two games later).
Bader was recognized as Capital One Impact Player of the Week earlier this season for his 37-point showing against South Dakota State Jan. 26 at the O’rena, a performance that even overshadowed Nate Wolters’ near triple-double. Bader hit 10 3s, a school record, to become the league’s first player to earn the award.
“He’s an impact guy, somebody that has to be accounted for,” Ruhl said, noting Roundtree and Morrison were both deserving of the award in their own right. “If he put up those numbers in another conference … off the bench, it’s sixth man worthy.
“To have that firepower coming off the bench, he’s a great player.”
The easiest argument against Bader is that he’s not really a bench player, having started 41 games overall in his first two seasons with Oakland. But it’s my opinion, if Bader was listed on the ballot as a reserve, as I’ve been told he was, he should not have been denied the award on that basis. 
And if voters didn't believe Bader was a legitimate sub, then why isn't he worthy of a second-team nod? Certainly his numbers are comparable. Again, seeing the vote totals could allay some concerns.
Bader was reinserted into the starting lineup for the final two games of the conference season and is a projected starter Sunday in the Summit League quarterfinal against Southern Utah. But I suppose we’ll never know just how close he came to being honored for his time served on the bench.

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