With the official start of team practices less than two months away, and overseas trips already over and done with, I took a look at the top 15 impact players to watch in the Horizon League for the 2012-2013 season.
My selection process was rigorous but hardly scientific; much consideration was given to tempo-free metrics and past season performances. Transfers that won't be eligible to play this upcoming season, of course, aren't included.
15. Josh Crittle, UIC (6-9, C, senior) // 41.5 %Min, 17.1 %Poss, 44.1 eFG%, 97.0 ORtg
Because of recruiting violations handed down from the NCAA to Central Florida, Crittle and his teammates there were heavily pursued for their immediate eligibility. Howard Moore landed the Illinois native over DePaul.
Crittle's 2011-2012 numbers are a near-facscimile to those of Brad Birton's 2010 season, and the post-player who made 25 starts for the Knights alongside Marcus Jordan apparently is motivated to have a breakout year. Crittle's tempo-free numbers don't reveal a lot, but his offensive rebounding rate (8.9 percent) ranks among the top ten Horizon League returners. He'll more than ably replace Darrin Williams in the Flames' post.
14. Doug Anderson, Detroit (6-5, F, senior) // 60.6 %Min, 19.2 %Poss, 53.3 eFG%, 114.2 ORtg
There isn't an official stat anywhere for dunks, but returning starter Doug Anderson showed that there certainly should be. He's a human highlight reel that dunked 58 times last season according to the Titans website.
This time around Anderson will be the centerpiece of the Titans' new-look frontcourt with Chase Simon, Eli Holman and LaMarcus Lowe all gone. He's among the top five Horizon returners in offensive rating and top ten in steal rate. Anderson got himself to the free throw line last season at a higher rate than all but three HL returners.
13. Blake Allen, Youngstown St. (6-1, G, senior) // 84.8 %Min, 19.2 %Poss, 58.1 eFG%, 114.0 ORtg
Allen has spent two seasons perfecting his role at starting two-guard for Jerry Slocum, and he seemed to have it down to a science by last season's end.
His menacing presence from beyond the arc (42.9 percent from three) alone accounted for over 13 percent of YSU's total team offense (in total Allen was responsible for 18.9 percent of the 'Guins' points). Allen ranks sixth among Horizon League returners in eFG%, sixth in offensive rating and second in fouls committed per 40 minutes (1.92).
12. Gary Talton, UIC (6-1, PG, senior) // 76.1 %Min, 25.2 %Poss, 42.5 eFG%, 93.7 ORtg
UIC's leading scorer returns after being named to the Horizon League's All-Newcomer team last season. Talton was chosen as Robo Kreps' successor at point guard not long into the season and immediately took ownership of the Flames' backcourt.
Talton plays fast, inside-outside swing basketball, and he claimed the third-highest assist rate in the Horizon League last season with one dished assist in 27.3 percent of his chances. The two point guards ahead of him on that list -- Ron Nored and Kaylon Williams -- won't be back this season. Talton also had six 18+ point scoring outings last season, and led the league in free throw percentage (86.7 percent).
11. Cully Payne, Loyola (6-1, PG, junior) // Sat out last season per NCAA rules
Payne's long-awaited first start for Porter Moser and the Ramblers in their thin frontcourt is finally almost arrived. Payne started at point guard as a freshman at Iowa under Todd Lickliter, the only freshman to do so in the Big Ten in 2009-2010, but a hernia ended his sophomore season after just five games, and the Illinois native transferred to Loyola.
Payne's assist rate in his freshman season (26.0 percent) ranked seventh that season in the Big Ten, and would have ranked fifth in the HL last season. The team's trip to Italy over the summer gave the junior plenty of time to learn his new team.
10. Damian Eargle, Youngstown St. (6-7, F, senior) // 77.8 %Min, 22.8 %Poss, 44.4 eFG%, 96.0 ORtg
A three-year starter in the Penguins' frontcourt, Eargle was last season named to the Horizon League's All-Defensive team and to College Insider's Mid-Major All-Defensive team.
Only seven returning D-I players in the nation blocked shots at a higher rate than Eargle (12.81 percent), and none from the Horizon. He ranks fourth among returning offensive rebounders (10.1 percent), sixth among returning defensive rebounders (17.8 percent) and recorded four double-doubles last season in the HL.
9. James Haarsma, Milwaukee (6-7, F, senior) // 66.4 %Min, 20.0 %Poss, 58.9 eFG%, 111.6 ORtg
Milwaukee's leading rebounder returns for his second season as a starter after transferring from Evansville.
Haarsma finished last season ranked fifth in effective field goal rate, seventh in offensive rebounding rate (10.9 percent) and ninth in offensive rating.
8. Tim Kamczyc, Cleveland St. (6-7, PF, senior) // 76.4 %Min, 14.3 %Poss, 65.8 eFG%, 125.9 ORtg
This season will be Kamczyz's third as a starter, and my last chance to learn how his name is spelled. The former walk-on stands for everything important in the world of tempo-free stats.
While his traditional numbers look less than even ho-hum to the average observer -- 9.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.2 apg -- Kamczyz is ruling the tempo-free charts. Here's the rub: Kamczyc, in his four seasons at CSU has never gotten very many possessions, and when he does get possession, he rarely takes a shot. But, when he does shoot, usually because he has a wide-open look, he's deadly accurate inside.
Kamczyc was 59th in the league with 14.3 percent of the Vikings' possessions ending with him. He was 57th in the league because he used just 14.7 percent of those possessions to take shots. But he compiled an effective field goal percentage of 65.8 percent -- fifth best in the nation, and an offensive rating of 125.9 -- 18th nationally for his possession-rate.
Kamczyc is almost always a sure thing. Don't overlook him.
7. Ben Averkamp, Loyola Chicago (6-8, F, senior) // 79.4 %Min, 28.3 %Poss, 46.5 eFG%, 99.0 ORtg
Finally we reach Averkamp's senior season -- his fourth as a starter -- and his points, his minutes and his assist rate have gone up every season so far. Averkamp was named to the All-Horizon second team last season, and already is the 19th player in Loyola histoy to reach 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. He led the Ramblers in both categories last season, and takes over a front court that lost anchor Walt Gibler to graduation.
Averkamp ranks fourth in defensive rebounding rate (19.7 percent) among returners, and took a legendary 33.4 percent of Loyola's shots when he was on the floor last season.
6. Anton Grady, Cleveland St. (6-8, PF, sophomore) // 53.0 %Min, 22.9 %Poss, 53.8 eFG%, 105.9 ORtg
Grady proved to his coaches and teammates last season that he's serious about his college career, and that his speed and reach on the baseline are a genuine asset to the Vikings. It was a breakout year for the Horizon League All-Newcomer namee.
Gary Waters seems to have tamed Grady, and at the same time created a frontcourt destroyer of a player. While he made only three starts, Grady still saw heavy minutes off of the bench, and had four double-doubles last season, including one against Butler. He grabbed offensive boards at a rate that ranked 18th nationally (26.3 percent) and best in the Horizon, and was second among returning Horizon League players in pulling down defensive boards (11.4 percent). He also led all CSU starters in effective field goal rate, and blocked shots at an 8.0 percent clip.
5. Alec Brown, Green Bay (7-1, C, junior) // 77.8 %Min, 24.9 %Poss, 46.2 eFG%, 102.7 ORtg
Brown is only in his third season, and already he's setting records for the Phoenix, including both career and single-season blocks records. The All-Horizon first team selection rules the Green Bay frontcourt.
Brown posted eight double-doubles last season, including an 22-14-5 line against Marquette. He ranked 26th nationally in block rate (9.8 percent), and is among the top five Horizon League returners in both offensive rebounding rate (11.5 percent) and defensive rebounding rate (19.0 percent).
What may be most amazing in Brown's case, however, is that he plays a lot of minutes for a big man. He ranked 11th in the Horizon in %min last season.
4. Kevin Van Wijk, Valparaiso (6-8, F, senior) // 53.6 %Min, 30.0 %Poss, 61.7 eFG%, 106.9 ORtg
Van Wijk gets more possessions (30 percent of Valpo's when he's on the floor) and draws more fouls (on average eight per 40 minutes) than anyone else in the Horizon League. That means a lot of opportunities to score, no matter how well you shoot the ball. The All-Horizon first team selection is beginning his second season as a starter in Bryce Drew's unstoppable frontcourt.
He's among the top ten returners in both offensive (10.0 percent) and defensive rebounding rates (17.0).
3. Kendrick Perry, Youngstown St. (6-0, G, junior) // 86.3 %Min, 25.3 %Poss, 55.6 eFG%, 114.4 ORtg
Perry is the keystone for Youngstown State's success. Already the two-year starting point guard and All-Horizon League first teamer is setting records, including single-season steals for YSU (74).
His 1.9 assist to turnover ratio was tied for best in the Horizon League last season, and Perry possesses the highest steal rate (4.21 percent) of any returner.
2. Ray McCallum Jr., Detroit (6-1, PG, junior) // 83.9 %Min, 24.5 %Poss, 49.4 eFG%, 111.1 ORtg
The pace is picking up for the former highly-sought high school recruit turned three year starting point guard. Named the CollegeSportsMadness.com HL Player of the Year, the All-Horizon first teamer also was named the MVP in the Titans' drubbing of Valparaiso in last season's Horizon League Championship game. The awards go on: All-Jesuit first team, the Lou Henson All-America team and Bob Cousy Award Final 20 honoree.
McCallum slowed the formerly furious pace of Detroit's backcourt last season (68.1 possessions per game), and was their leading scorer. He's second among Horizon League returners in steal rate (2.78 percent), and fourth in assist rate to with a 1.8 assist to turnover ratio.
1. Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso (6-7, PF, senior) // 80.8 %Min, 22.3 %Poss, 59.1 eFG%, 121.8 ORtg
Valparaiso's first-ever Horizon League player of the year of the year is back. Broekhoff, an All-American Honorable Mention by the AP, returns as one of the league's most deadly baseline shooters, sporting a 39.1 percent clip from range.
Broekhoff was second in defensive rebounding rate (24.0 percent), fourth in effective field goal rate and second in offensive rating among all Horizon League players last season.
He vied for a spot on the Australian Men's Olympic team over the summer and made the 14-man roster before being cut.