Let he who has not voted cast the first stone.
Since I don’t have a vote in the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, I decided to be an aggregate of opinions and consulted three respected media members — Jay Drew of the Salt Lake City Tribune, Mark Smith of the Albuquerque Journal and Scott Galetti, the Lobos’ play-by-play broadcaster — for their insight.
Consensus was it’s a two-pony race between BYU’s Jimmer Fredette and New Mexico’s Darington Hobson.
Today, the MWC will announce the winner of the prestigious MWC Player of the Year, handed to the best all-around player in the league.
The decision is based on 27 votes, nine go to the coaches and the other 18 go to local beat writers and play-by-play broadcasters of each team, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune.
Smith, who voted for Hobson, said Fredette only playing in half of the biggest game in MWC history could have dissuaded some voters, though Smith said Fredette was legitimately sick.
“Hobson outplayed (BYU), and Fredette hardly played,” he said. “I think Hobson’s the hands-down winner.”
To the contrary, Drew, who voted for Fredette, said the ill-struck BYU guard’s decision to sit out the second half didn’t factor into his choice.
“I sat six feet behind him on the bench,” Drew said. “I saw the whole thing, and I could see him literally vomiting in a garbage can. I could see him asking the coaches if he could go back in. If anybody thinks he ducked out of that game, they’re definitely wrong. He was just flat-out sick.”
If anything, the fact that Fredette averaged 19.7 points per game in MWC contests, in spite of being the focal point on foes’ scouting reports, is nothing short of amazing, Drew said.
“There was a reason he was the Mountain West Conference Preseason Player of the Year. Take nothing away from Hobson, but he basically did all this without everybody knowing how to guard him,” Drew said. “He had the element of surprise on his side. Fredette didn’t have that. People have geared up from the very beginning this year, because of what he’s done the last two years.”
There was no shortage of arguments.
Galetti said Hobson is multi-talented and poses a greater threat to opposing teams than does Fredette.
“To me, Jimmer’s a good outside shooter and he can drive it easily, but I don’t know if he has all these tangibles that Darington does,” Galetti said. “What he brings to the table, both offensively and defensively, just all the variables of scoring and passing, assists — he does it all. And I haven’t seen another player in the league that does that. If he’s having a bad game shooting, he’s going to get you eight or nine assists … Fredette’s a great player. Don’t get me wrong. Put it this way: I think Darington would be a bigger loss for the Lobos.”
It should be noted that Galetti cashes his checks from Lobo Sports Property, the property of Learfield Sports, or the sports marketing arm of UNM athletics.
Nonetheless, Galetti said, his affiliation with the University didn’t impact on how he filed his vote.
“I am voting objectively,” he said. “If I thought Fredette was, overall, a better player, I would vote for him. It has nothing to do with me being a Lobo broadcaster.”
And for anyone that covered MWC basketball, regardless of possible allegiances, it would be nonsensical to think that anyone other than Hobson or Fredette deserved the award. The two were, undoubtedly, the best two players in the conference.
Hobson’s numbers check in at 15.8 points per game, 9.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists, marking him as the first time a Lobo led the team in points, rebounds and assists. Fredette, on the other hand, averages 20.3 points per game and 4.7 assists.
Still, there remains the possibility that Hobson and Fredette will share the honor. Should that happen, Smith said it would confirm his illusion of MWC democracy, since only twice has the award winner not been a member of the team that won the regular-season title.
“If they split it, it’s a lie,” Smith said. “I’ll tell you that right now. If they’re honestly using voters to determine this, there’s 27 voters. If it becomes co-Player of the Year, they should release to us what the vote is. If it’s a legit vote, it shouldn’t be shared.”
Furthermore, in the 10-year history on the MWC, only twice have players shared the honor, one coming in 2003-04 with Air Force’s Nick Welch and BYU’s Rafael Araujo, the other in 2007-08, between BYU’s Lee Cummard and former Lobo J.R. Giddens.
Smith, already suspicious of the MWC’s system, cited the 2007-08 MWC Player of the Year race, where, he said, Giddens might have been snubbed out of winning the award outright.
“When Giddens shared it with Cummard, they wouldn’t tell us what the vote was,” he said. “I did a straw pull of all the media guys in the Mountain West, and, of everyone I talked to, it was a 3-to-1 ratio in Giddens’ favor.”
But it wasn’t necessarily in the MWC’s favor.
Smith said the conference chooses to play mediator in the hopes of not upsetting one team or the other, instead of proclaiming a sole winner.
“I think it’s what I call Little League Syndrome — try to give everyone a trophy,” he said. “I think if it’s (shared), something fishy is going on.”