Five Impact Rookie Guards

Ever year, the Horizon League gets bigger.  On the Sweet 16 Panther team in 2005, Adrian Tigert was playing center at 6’7” a majority of his time on the floor.  This season, Tigert might get mugged if he were to go down low with big men like Eli Holman, Anthony Hill, Andy Polka and Andrew Smith.  The players aren’t always taller, but they’re bigger bodies, wider and stronger.

The fact of the matter is, however, that the Horizon League has always been a guard-dominated league.  I’ve made the argument that this may be the best collective back court in the history of the conference, and I stand behind that.  Not only is the returning guard corp very strong, but newcomers entering the conference are also of very high quality.  Let’s take a look at five rookie guards that will make an impact in the Horizon League.

Calliste is the Pepperoni Pizza Combo guard

Jason Calliste sat on the bench last season while he watched the Detroit Titans rattle off 20 wins, challenge Butler in two games, and ultimately finish seventh in the Horizon League.  Calliste averaged 24 points and 11 assists as a senior at the Quality Education Academy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Growing up in Canada, Calliste honed his skills as a guard by taking thousands of shots and working on passing skills.  Calliste, more than any of the newcomers, embodies the “combo” guard (How appropriate, I just polished off a bag of pepperoni pizza combos). Calliste can run the fast break and a set half-court offense, which should allow Titans coach Ray McCallum Sr. the opportunity to give Ray McCallum Jr. a rest running the point.

McCallum comes into the conference with much fan fare

Ray McCallum Jr. is coming into the league with easily the most fan fare.  While he’s an incoming freshman and not an established college guard like Kaylon Williams, McCallum comes in with quite possibly the most fan fare of any player of Horizon League history.  Fans of the conference will remember the attention Butler got when Gordon Hayward turned down big-time schools for his chance with the Bulldogs, but McCallum’s hype far outstrips even that.  The fact of the matter is that McCallum wouldn’t even have thought of Detroit had his father not been the coach there, and with that comes expectations for him to blow away competition.  His ability to run the point is proven, and he can score from anywhere on the court.  Pairing him with Calliste will more than make up for the departure of Xavier Keeling and graduation of Woody Payne, and making Chase Simon, Detroit’s leading returning scorer, effectively a third heat.

Jay Harris joins an already high-powered Valpo offense.

While Ray Jr. is coming into Detroit as a highly regarded recruit, another top 150 player settled in down a state in Indiana.  Jay Harris is one of the highest-rated players to come into coach Homer Drew’s Valparaiso team in a long time, but many outside of northwest Indiana don’t even know it because Harris was outshined by the commitment of Ray Jr.  Starring for Oswego East in Illinois, Harris averaged a rocking 28.7 points per game for his senior season.

The intriguing thing about Harris is that he is such a high-scoring guard, and he’ll be entering the highest-powered offense in the Horizon League.  There’s not a lot of space to throw the ball along, with Cory Johnson among league leaders in scoring and Brandon Wood atop the list.  If there’s anything you should take to the bank, it is that the Crusaders walk into the 2010-11 season as the odds on favorites to score the most points, and Harris is a big part of that.

Hopkins, flying into a hoop near you.

Butler fans don’t have to go too far to find the home of incoming guard recruit Chrishawn Hopkins, who is a native of the city and attended Manual High School.  Hopkins struggles with defense, and will benefit from the Bulldog coaching staff’s defensive mentality.  If Hopkins can reduce his turnovers, Shelvin Mack will pass the torch to him whenever Mack finally heads to the NBA.  Hopkins will, however, be thrown into the mix early in his college career, and likely will be a part of the Butler rotation.  He’s extremely athletic, can play above the rim, shoots very well from three-point land (42%) and is a numbers junkie; he averaged three blocks and three steals his senior season to go along with 26 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.  He won’t be shouldering the whole load while a freshman, but it’s good for Butler fans to know they have great scoring coming to campus to offset Gordon Hayward’s departure.

Butler fans will remember Williams, who only played 19 minutes in this blowout loss at Hinkle.

The problem with all of these incoming recruits is that we don’t know how they’ll react to the college game.  Many players turn out to be busts because they can’t adjust to the speed of the game, or the complexity.  The difference with the last player on our list is we know he’s ready for the big show.  Kaylon Williams, who transferred into Milwaukee this season, spent last year at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa.  The year before that, he teamed up with James Haarsma (sitting out this year at MKE) on the Evansville Aces.  Williams led the Aces and the Missouri Valley Conference with 4.87 assists per game as a freshman before transferring.  He’s a distributor, plain and simple.  The Panthers have lacked a true point guard since Chris Hill graduated in 2006, a four-year span that saw the Panthers led by shooting guards converted to point guards.  Williams has size at 6’4” 185, something that will benefit him on the defensive end against guards in the Horizon League that tend to be strong.

One of the biggest benefits Williams brings to the Panthers is consistency.  The point guard only hit above 10 assists twice at Evansville, but only had one game in which he did not record an assist, a one-point loss at Wichita State where Williams pulled in seven rebounds and shot four of six from the field.

With the way guard play has already been in the Horizon League, and the players added here, suffice to say that the collective back court in the conference could rival any high-major conference.  And that means one thing: we have a really exciting season ahead.

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10 Responses

  1. Sheldon Brogdon has the potential to be a star in this league. A few HL schools were recruiting him, including Wright State, before he opted to go to YSU.

  2. It should be noted that scholarship was not offered by Wright State, but I will second that; I’ve also heard that Brogdon has a huge upside. Hopefully he can shoulder the load. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Those five above are of course very very good, but watch on this Brogdon kid. He was consistently averaging 20 points per game for the #1 team in Division 1 (large schools) in Ohio in Warren G. Harding.

    He was redshirted last year because he blew his ACL his senior year of high school and they wanted it to heal 100%. Smart move because he now has four years here at YSU!

  4. Not sure why Jay Harris is on the list. ESPN.com is the ONLY service that has him rated high. Rivals did not have him ranked and had him as a zero star recruit. Scout did not have him ranked and had him as a 2 star recruit . He didn’t even have any good scholarship offers. I don’t put much stock in most of the recruiting sites. I rate a recruit on who else offered him a scholarship. Harris had offers from Valpo, Ball State, and Wichita State. Virginia Tech asked him to walk on. I don’t see the infatuation with this kid.

    • I see a player that averaged 28 points in a difficult conference in Illinois; you’re more than entitled to your opinion, but Wichita State isn’t a pushover by any means.

      I love the comment, though! We need more active members on the site. Which player would you suggest instead of Harris?

    • Big D,
      While you are entitled to your opinion, get your facts correct before you post. The list of schools you mention that offered Harris is only the tip and VT did not ask him to walk on… they wanted to offer if their current guard (Delaney) decided to enter into the draft which he didnt. Simply because you did not “read” that anybody else offered doesnt mean they didnt entertain him and you dont know if Harris even entertained other schools. As most would know, rating sites all have their “preferred” players to watch. Rivals and Scout not raitng him doesnt mean anything. If the IBCA chooses him for first team, and he is nominated for the McDonalds All American, evidently others see why ESPN rated him the way that they did. Harris then turned around and was MVP of the IBCA All Sta game. Check your stats and papers before you down a player you may not have seen. He proved himself time and time again. His stats say it all.

    • What you use to “rate” (offers) is not an efficient method. Offers come and go and sometimes dont happen for a number of factors: the kid isnt interested in the school “offering”, the school likes the kid but has no scholarships available, the kid’s name isnt big enough for all of the offers received to be considered news worthy, etc… There are a host of reason offers may or may not appear to be there for people to read about so to judge a kid’s worthiness on what you read (or didnt) is simply not sound.

  5. You should also take a look at the McDonald’s All-American nomination list before you tought it like it is some kind of select list. There are thousands of kids nominated for the game each year. (there are 2 WSU recruits on the list). I included the link below.

    http://www.mcdonaldsallamerican.com/2010_Nominees.pdf

  6. Ive seen the list and yes I know that there were dozens of kids nominated but that does not diminish the fact that he truely deserved it. Check any article that mentions his game and you will find that there are literally dozens of people who can attest to his skill…and maybe unlike you, have seen him play. Even if he is not your “preferred” player, why down a kid or be negative? You dont have to be a fan but someone who likes basketball and understands the game would still repect any player’s skill. Why not give positives to players that are good versus tearing them down for no reason other than you dont know him, know nothing about him, and in your case probably have never seen him play?

    • I have seen him play. Have you? For someone that is claiming that I didn’t do my homework on the kid, you really don’t have a clue who I am. I run the WSU recruiting board, which in and of itself shouldn’t impress you. But most fans of the HL know that I also ghost write for Rivals. I cover most of the midwest AAU events every summer. I have seen him play 4-5 games last year. He is a solid recruit. Read my posts again in this thread. I NEVER PUT HIM DOWN. I do question Jimmy for rating him as one of five IMPACT guards in the HL. Given your returning guard situation and the fact that Homer seldomly plays true freshman major minutes, I question if he is even going to start for Valpo, let alone be an IMPACT player in the league. That is the point on my post.

      And once again. There wasn’t dozens of kids nominated for the McDonalds All-American game. There were several hundred. Take a look at the list and compare it to incoming high school players in the HL. You will see that probably 1/3 of them made that list. All of them were equally as deserving as your recruit.

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