MVC's Top Ten Super Seniors/5th Year Players
One of the byproducts of last season’s weird COVID year in college basketball was that every single player who was on a roster that season got an extra year of eligibility. As a result, we currently have a crop of players who simply should not be here. They should be graduated and out in the world making contributions to society by now. Instead, they got an extra year to play college basketball. The guys on this list had to make a choice. Do they go ahead and graduate and move on? Do they stay and play another season of college basketball? Do they transfer and try something else? The guys on this list chose to play one more year, and to do it at an MVC school. And they are some of the best players in the league, making a huge impact on this season’s title race.
Here are the top ten guys in the MVC who are playing their final year of college basketball, plus some honorable mentions.
Honorable Mentions: These guys just missed the top ten.
-Jalen Warren- UIC (7.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.3 APG, 22.7 MPG): Valley fans need not know much about Jalen Warren, as he will never play a game in the league. The FGCU transfer chose to play his extra season at UIC, which probably feels more like his home country of Canada than the Gulf Coast does. Warren has been a big contributor for the Flames, sitting fourth on the team in scoring and second in assists.
-Evan Kuhlman- Evansville (6.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 29.4 MPG): Kuhlman’s struggles have been one of the reasons the Aces have disappointed this year after showing so much improvement last year. An Ace for the full five seasons of his career, Kuhlman’s scoring average is down three points from a year ago. He is shooting 10% worse from the field and 7% worse from deep. A bummer of an ending for a guy who has played 127 games and counting for the purple and orange.
-Noah Frederking- Evansville (7.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, .9 APG, 32 MPG): Frederking nearly made the top ten, as I know he plays a key role for UE, but his stats just didn’t get him over the hump. He has also been a disappointment in his fifth season for Todd Lickliter’s team, as his scoring is down three points per game while his shooting percentage has also dropped. After making 40% of his threes last year, Frederking is shooting just 29% from deep this season. Still, he is a lifetime Ace, having suited up a remarkable 140 times for the team. There are 266 games of Aces experience on the honorable mentions on this list.
-Jaylen Minnett (9.3 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 20 MPG): Minnett was the very last one left off the list. I had it between him and the person who ended up snagging the number ten spot. I ultimately left him off due to the smaller role he plays on his team. The Terre Haute native spent his first four seasons at IUPUI and emerged as a star player there, scoring over 16 points per game each of his last two seasons. He transferred to Missouri State to play his extra year and has become more of a role player in Springfield, sitting behind some of the league’s biggest stars. But he is a key member of the Mosley and Prim Show’s supporting cast. Minnett is the team’s fourth leading scorer despite playing the 7th most minutes. He shoots 42% from the field and the same from deep, where he takes a majority of his shots. He is a scorer off the bench for MSU, and a very good one for one of the league’s best teams.
And now for the top ten.
10.) Ryan Schweiger- Loyola (9.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 19.3 MPG): Ryan Schweiger, a transfer from Princeton who did not play basketball last year, will start the list. Schweiger developed into a key player for the Tigers in his three years at Princeton, averaging over 10 points a game for the Ivy League outfit in 2019-20. After the Ivy League sat out the COVID season last year, Schweiger looked for another place to play ball for his final season and landed at Loyola where he has been a key player off the bench for the Ramblers. The 6’ 7’’ Ohioan can make a difference both inside and out. He shoots at a 44.5% clip from inside the arc, and a respectable 37.5% from outside. The Ramblers spread the wealth, and Schweiger’s 9.5 PPG is good for 3rd on the team, despite the fact that he is only sixth on the squad in minutes played. While Loyola’s ensemble cast would probably still be competitive without him, Schweiger is a key part of the rotation on one of the league’s best teams. He just barely edged out Jaylen Minnett for a spot on this list.
9.) Ben Coupet Jr- Southern Illinois (10.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1 APG, 24.5 MPG): You want to talk about a guy having one of the more quietly impressive seasons in the MVC? SIUs grad transfer Ben Coupet Jr. is a well-travelled super senior, playing his sixth season on a college basketball roster. He spent three years at UNLV, one as a redshirt, where he played a small role. After transferring to Little Rock, he blossomed. He played in 57 games for the Trojans, all as a starter, and averaged double figures both his seasons in Arkansas. The Chicago native decided to spend his extra season of eligibility at Southern Illinois, where he has more-or-less picked up where he left off. Many Valley fans think of SIU as Marcus Domask’s team first and Lance Jones’ team second. While that is pretty accurate, Ben Coupet has quietly emerged as a solid third option for the Salukis. His is averaging double-figure scoring and is second on the team in rebounding. Coupet isn’t a stellar shooter, but his 43% clip (37% from deep) is good enough to be a threat. This will always be Marcus Domask and Lance Jones’ team, but Coupet has certainly made his mark on this edition of the Salukis.
8.) Trevor Anderson- Valpo (9.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 27.2 MPG): Mr. Anderson has been on quite a journey throughout the great lakes region in his career. He started as a freshman stud at Green Bay all the way back in 2016-17. A full-time starter for the Phoenix as a true freshman, he parlayed that into a three year gig as a role player at Wisconsin. Granted an extra year of eligibility due to COVID, Anderson decided he wanted to play a larger role in his extra year and is now spending his sixth season on a college basketball roster as a starter for the Beacons. Trevor Anderson is one of several B1G transfers on the Valpo roster, and while the season hasn’t gone as well as they were hoping thus far, Anderson is having his best year since his freshman campaign. The Stevens Point native has played the third most minutes on the team and is sixth in scoring. He is also fourth in rebounding and, leads the team in assists with just 2.4 per game. While that may be as much a knock on Valpo’s offense as it is a feather in Anderson’s cap, the super super senior cannot be blamed for Valpo’s troubles on the hardwood.
7.) Trae Berhow- Northern Iowa (9.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 33.8 MPG): Trae Berhow has been a steady, experienced presence at UNI for several years. An almost-full-time starter at Pepperdine as a freshman in 2017-18 (where he averaged 10 points per game), Berhow transferred to UNI where he has started nearly every game he has played. Unfortunately, the Minnesota native has been inconsistent this year and his stats have fallen short of what Panther fans were hoping to see. Berhow had his best season in UNI’s league championship winning year of 2019-20 when he averaged 12.5 PPG, snagged nearly 6 boards per contest, and shot nearly 50% from the field and nearly 45% from deep. He hasn’t been able to quite reach those heights since, as his shooting percentages have fallen the last two seasons relative to 2019-20. Still, he is a key guy for the UNI who plays a ton of minute and contributes in other ways besides scoring. He is tied with Nate Heise as the Panthers’ leading rebounder and is second behind Heise in steals, for example. Berhow is one of those guys that, if he can regain his old shooting form for February and March, could make UNI extremely dangerous down the stretch.
6.) Aher Uguak- Loyola (8.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 28.1): Aher Uguak is averaging 8.8 points per game, which is by far his career best. He is also averaging 3.7 rebounds a game, nearly a career best. His 2.1 assists are also…..you guessed it…….a career best. The Canadian has played 116 games for Loyola, and has been a starter in all but seven of them. Why do you think that is? I don’t watch enough Loyola basketball to say for sure, but from what I have seen the dude just brings all the intangibles to the table. Porter Moser and Drew Valentine know a thing or two about basketball, and they wouldn’t be giving this guy minutes if he didn’t earn them. Uguak is a tough defender, a scrappy player, and an experienced leader. He has also consistently gotten better. He has improved his shooting percentage from 35% his freshman year at New Mexico to a high of 62% last year (he sits at 52% this year, but is taking more shots). He has developed a long game, taking 2 three pointers a game, and making 36% of them. But that isn’t why Aher Uguak has played a huge role on some of the best teams in the MVC the last few years. The guy just does everything to win. The title of “Best MVC Glue Guy” is a competitive category, but Uguak is certainly a strong candidate.
5.) Shanquan Hemphill- Drake (9.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, .4 APG, 24.8 MPG): It is downright painful to watch Tank Hemphill play these days. Not just because he is in literal pain, but because you know what he is capable of when he is at 100%. While his numbers are down from last season when he scored 13.2 points and snagged 5.9 rebounds per game, Tank is still a huge player (literally and figuratively) for the Bulldogs. The Gary, Indiana native is fifth on the team in scoring as part of their ensemble cast, one of five guys to average between 9.6 and 11 points per game (with Tucker Devries leading the way with 13.5 per). His rebounding is also slightly down but is still fourth on the team and part of an ensemble of four guys that average between 4.7 and 5.3 boards per contest (behind Garrett Sturtz’s 7.4). Drake relies on a lot of guards, so Tank’s powerful style of play is an important factor for their success. Recall some of his rim-rattling dunks last season. That is what this guy does at full-strength. He is not at full strength now, but he is out there playing through pain as he recovers. That is a different kind of toughness, and one that is perhaps even more impressive.
4.) Kevion Taylor- Valpo (11.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.6 APG, 33.5 MPG): Guess who leads Valpo in minutes per game by quite a large margin. Is it Kobe King, Ben Krikke, Sheldon Edwards, Thomas Kithier or Trevor Anderson? No. As you’ve probably figured out using context clues, it is Kevion Taylor. The Winona State transfer who has spent the last several years playing D2 ball plays a bigger role for Valpo than several of his Big Ten transfer teammates. Taylor spent four years at Winona State, a place I presume he expected to play his entire career. But COVID weirdness gave him a bonus season and he decided to try his hand at the DI level. While Kobe King and Ben Krikke get most of the headlines for the Beacons, Kevion Taylor has quietly put together a stellar season, outperforming (in many ways) most of the power five talent that also made its way to the ARC. Taylor is Valpo’s third-leading scorer with 11.4 points per game. His rebounding and assist numbers aren’t at the same level as his scoring, but he shoots 43% from the field and 38% from deep. Taylor had made a three-pointer in 84 consecutive college basketball games until an 0-4 performance in a blowout loss to SIU last weekend ended the streak. Kudos to you, Kevion Taylor, for making the transition from D2 look easy.
X.) Kevin Johnson- UIC (13.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 5.2 APG, 35.2 MPG): The only player in the top ten to come from a program that won’t join the Valley until next season, Kevin Johnson has emerged as one off UIC’s best players after transferring from Nicholls State where he played for four years. The move is an interesting one for Johnson, who hails from Louisiana (where Nicholls is located) and left home and a team picked to win its conference in order to play for the Flames. Whatever the reason, Coach Yaklich is glad he made the move. Johnson is by far the team leader in minutes played and assists and is second in scoring. The 6’ guard is shooting a career high 44% from the field and a near career high 36% from deep for UIC. Unfortunately, Valley fans will not see Johnson play in the league as he is in his final year of eligibility. But his scoring and distribution has earned him a spot on this list.
3.) Tremell Murphy- Drake (9.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, .7 APG, 28.7 MPG): I had to put a lot of thought into who would make the list and where everyone would be ranked but picking the top three was actually very easy. The first of the bunch is Tremell Murphy, the veteran heart and soul of the Drake Bulldogs. At the time of this writing, Murphy has played 90 games in a Drake uniform and has started every one. He was supposed to be done in 2020, but a surprise redshirt in 2019-20 followed by the COVID exception last year has extended his career two years. Murphy plays his part in the Drake offense, scoring 9.6 points per game. That is currently sixth on the team, but just 1.4 behind second. He is also an outstanding rebounder with 5.3 a game, second on the team behind Garrett Sturtz. Murphy is an adept offensive player, but where he really excels is on the defensive end. He averages 1.1 steals and 1 block per game, but those numbers don’t really paint the full picture. His energy and drive on defense help the Bulldogs bottle up opposing offenses. Drake has won three MVC games by one point this season, and another in OT. How do you think the ‘Dogs keep coming out on top in games like that? It is the effort, the balls-to-the-wall mentality, and mental toughness. It is exhibited throughout the Drake roster, but the veteran Murphy (and fellow veteran Sturtz) set the tone. You can bet the Bulldogs will miss him next season.
2.) Lucas Williamson- Loyola (12.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 30.8 MPG): It is hard to believe that Loyola continues to retain a player from their 2018 Final Four team, but Lucas Williamson averaged 20 minutes a game for the legendary 2018 squad. Williamson is in his fifth season in a Rambler uniform, having played 137 games for the squad, 103 of them as a starter. Had his 2018-19 campaign not been shortened, he might have set some kind of NCAA record for games played, as he played 38 in the Final Four season and 30+ each of the other two years. If Williamson were to win the Larry Bird Trophy this season, he would be the fourth Larry Bird winner from that Final Four squad. While he probably won’t win the award (although it isn’t completely out of the question if Loyola somehow ends up winning the league by multiple games), he is definitely the best player on the Ramblers and one of the best in the league. Williamson’s stats, while solid, don’t slap you in the face. But he is the leader of a squad that has become used to being one of the best in the country. He leads the team in points, rebounds, and steals, and is second in assists. It is guys like Lucas Williamson that have propelled Loyola into the college basketball zeitgeist, and Rambler fans should remember that as they watch him play his final collegiate games. His exit will truly signal the end of an era in Rogers Park.
1.) Gaige Prim- Missouri State (14.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 28 MPG): It might be somewhat controversial to top this list with a guy who isn’t even the best player on his team. And that is fair. However, I would argue that Gaige Prim would be the best player on most MVC teams, and he is only #2 on MSU because he has arguably the best player in the entire league (Isiaih Mosley) on his team. Regardless, Gaige Prim is an outstanding player and probably the best big man in the league (although Rienk Mast is making a play for that title). Prim’s 14.2 points per game on 56.7% shooting is 9th in the league (just a half point from 4th), and his rebounding average of 7.9 boards per game is second behind Mast. Prim, Mosley (1st in scoring ,10th in rebounding) and Cameron Henry of Indiana State (6th in scoring, 8th in rebounding) are the only players in the league to sit in the top ten in the Valley in both points per game and rebounds per game. Prim also leads the entire MVC in blocks and is fourth on the Bears in assists. That Gaige Prim has the interior locked down both offensively and defensively is a huge part of what allows Isiaih Mosley to do what he does. They are a dynamic duo, and if Mo State finds its way into the NCAA Tournament you can bet no one will want to play the Bears.
And that is it, both for this list and the series. If you want to see my top ten lists of the other classes, I’ll leave them below. I am working on a couple things I am excited about that I will release soon. I’ll also step up my power rankings game as Arch Madness gets closer as those lists seem to be pretty popular. Have a great Wednesday and GO VALLEY!
Other “Top Ten By Class” Lists: