When Summit League play started last season, Fort Wayne’s Max Landis wasn’t seen as the best guard in the Mastodons’ backcourt. As conference play progressed, so did he.
The 6-foot-2 guard put up 37, 44 and 30 points in separate games against league foes. Those performances helped Landis average 22.9 points per conference game. Landis averaged 18.8 points and 3.6 assists per contest for the whole season, beyond the Summit League.
Those statistics put Landis over Oral Roberts guard Obi Emegano in the Summit League Player of the Year battle. However, the former MVP of the conference has since graduated and signed a European basketball contract.
Which player can claim the award this year? Here are three studs who could be named the 2016 Summit League Player of the Year.
Mike Daum – forward, South Dakota State
As the South Dakota State Jackrabbits prepare for the 2016-17 season, they are entering with a new head coach, former Iowa State assistant T.J. Otzelberger. In his first year as a head coach, Otzelberger will have the luxury of coaching Daum, who is one of the most highly-regarded big men in mid-major college basketball.
Daum made his mark as a two-way offensive player for South Dakota State last season. He shot 45-percent from 3-point range while being a bona fide back-to-the-basket center for the Jacks.
“Every day in practice, we’re doubling the post, trapping the post, running guys in there to play the gaps–all of it,” Otzelberger said on Daum. “Teams aren’t going to play him one-on-one, so we thought it was important from day one to get him used to being beat up and doubles and having people run at him all game long.”
As a freshman last season, Daum was the Summit League’s freshman of the year and sixth man of the year after averaging 17.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Daum was also the Summit League Tournament MVP.
Considering his 2015-’16 performance, Summit League coaches named Daum preseason player of the year. He is a very strong candidate to win the award this season.
Mo Evans – guard, Fort Wayne
When Summit League opened last season, Evans looked like the best player in the conference. He was lighting up conference foes, averaging 14.3 points in the Mastodons’ first three league games. Then came January 15, 2016. Evans was deemed academically ineligible for the reminder of last season. The 6-foot-1 guard finished the season averaging 16.9 points and 5.1 assists per game.
Now, Evans is back for his senior year. Although he was only named to the conference’s preseason second team, Fort Wayne’s head coach Jon Coffman thinks that after his suspension, Evans may be even better this season.
“He handled it very maturely. He got better in the classroom as well as on the floor and took his body to the next level,” Coffman said. “The sky’s the limit for Mo. I think he’s positioned himself and has a nice edge about him, to have a phenomenal senior year.”
John Konchar – swingman, Fort Wayne
The Mastodons have another player of the year candidate on their roster in Konchar, a 6-foot-5 swingman.
The Chicago native had a stellar freshman year. He averaged 13 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Konchar also shot 58.4 percent from the field and 43.9 percent from 3-point range. The sophomore also led the Mastodons in steals (71) and the Summit League in rebounds (313). Those numbers helped Konchar to be selected to the conference’s first team last year.
The most beneficial factor to Konchar’s case in contending for the player of the year award is playing with Evans. Teams will more than likely place a majority of focus on Evans, which will open the door for Konchar to put up big time statistics.
“That’s what gives me so much pride in what our program was able to do last year, just executing next man up,” Coffman said.