COLUMN: Jackets deserve better in All-PACs

The Presidents’ Athletic Conference basketball season has concluded, and new teams rose from the ashes.

With the departure of Thomas More, both the Saint Vincent women and Chatham men claimed championships for their respective genders. For Chatham, it’s the first PAC title in any sport since becoming a full-time member in 2007.

In addition, the end of the PAC season brings us the All-PAC awards. As you can expect, a lot of people have differing opinions on who should have been put where.

First, let’s look at the women’s All-PAC awards. For the cream of the crop, Thiel’s Jess Vormelker was named Player of the Year, Grove City’s Kate Balcom received Defensive Player of the Year, Thiel’s Destiny Johnson won Freshman of the Year and Chatham’s first-year head coach David Saur picked up the Coach of the Year.

Personally, I think that these nominations were the right choices, especially with Vormelker winning Player of the Year. She helped lead a Cinderella-storied Thiel team that entered the playoffs as the eight seed and fought its way to the semifinals. She has been one of the most consistent players in the PAC for the last couple of seasons and, without her presence, one could argue that Thiel wouldn’t have even been in the playoffs to begin with.

Also, Thiel’s Destiny Johnson was the only player in the PAC to average a double-double with 12.2 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per contest. So, the honor was well-deserved for her as well.

Looking at Waynesburg University’s honorees, sophomore Andrea Orlosky received 2nd-team All-PAC while Monica Starre was an honorable mention selection. Personally, I believe Orlosky and Starre should have been bumped up to a 1st-and-2nd-team distinction, respectively.

Looking at the statistics, Orlosky was third in the PAC in scoring with 17.3 points per game, only behind Geneva’s Callie Ford (21.5) and Vormelker (19.9). If Orlosky was named 1st-team All-PAC, she would be the 2nd-leading scorer amongst the nominations. Plus, she was a very versatile player being able to score and also rebound the basketball, finishing fifth in the conference in rebounding with 8.2 per contest.

Speaking of rebounding, Starre was third in that category, averaging 9.1 per contest, only behind Thiel’s Johnson and Westminster’s Emily Fromknecht. She led the conference in steals at a 3.1 average per game. Starre also finished the year third in the PAC in assists with 3.8 per game, and she also averaged 11.9 points per game. She contributed in all facets of the game night-in and night-out.

The only point guard that I would personally put ahead of Starre, is Vormelker. Some could make the argument that Geneva’s Callie Ford was more successful. However, Geneva only won four games this year and in many games this season, Ford’s points came in garbage time.

Now looking at the men’s side, it gets more convoluted. There are only two individual awards: Player of the Year and Coach of the Year. Saint Vincent’s Tom Kromka won the Player of the Year award, and rightfully so, given his dominating presence for the last few years.

However, where I disagree is the Coach of the Year. Saint Vincent’s D.P. Harris failed to get arguably his best team in the last four years to the PAC Championship. Yes, the Bearcats were dominant in the regular season, but a program the caliber of Saint Vincent’s men’s basketball team is well-aware that none of it matters if you don’t win it all.

With that said, Chatham’s David Richards should have been this year’s recipient for coach of the year. He took a Chatham squad, that was just four years old, and won PAC gold for the first time in school history. Not to mention, it was Richards’ first year as the head coach. He won all three of his playoff games by a combined seven points, two of which were on the road. One of those teams, Saint Vincent, was undefeated at home at the time as well, and Chatham won more road games than anybody in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.

Again, returning to Waynesburg men’s hoops, the two players most would consider to be the best on the team in sophomore Matt Popeck and junior Brennan Smith garnered All-PAC recognition. Popeck got 2nd-team, whereas Smith ended up with an honorable mention.

While Popeck’s 2nd-team nomination is justified, Smith’s value was extremely overlooked. There are only three forwards that were selected to the All-PAC teams, and Smith was one of them as an honorable mention. Kromka and Geneva’s Ethan Moose were the other two, both finishing as 1st-teamers.

To me, it is absolutely ludicrous that Smith is an honorable mention. He was ranked in the top-10 in almost every category and led the team in most shooting categories, not to mention rebounds. In his comeback season, he was the sparkplug for the men’s basketball team, especially in the middle of the conference schedule.

Not to mention, all five of the 2nd-team All-PAC nominations are guards. There is a very easy case for Smith to be switched with, for example, Thiel’s Alonzo Brown. Smith was top-10 in scoring in the conference at 14.2 points per game, while Brown barely averaged over 10 points per game.

While Brown’s scoring average is fourth amongst 2nd-teamers, the player who averages the fewest points is Chatham’s Anthony Bomar, who makes up for his low scoring output with leading the conference in assists and steals. His 5.6 assists per game is also 26th in all of Division III.

With all of this being presented, two of the more all-around players on both the women’s and men’s teams got snubbed from a higher nomination on the All-PAC teams. Starre’s presence on the court as the senior point guard was undervalued after flirting with a triple double in many games, while Smith was shooting the lights out of any gymnasium he stepped in.

While Starre’s collegiate playing career has come to a close, Smith still has a very good chance to boost his stock in the coming year, and possibly garner himself at the very least a 2nd-team selection, if not being one of the five honored as an All-PAC 1st-teamer.