CHICAGO, Ill. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – The Green Bay men’s basketball team has been tabbed as the Horizon League preseason favorite, and senior Alec Brown (Winona, Minn.) and junior Keifer Sykes (Chicago, Ill.) have both been named to the 2013-14 Preseason All-Horizon League First-Team, the league office announced on Wednesday morning at its annual media day in Chicago.
In voting by head coaches, sports information directors and media members from around the League, teams received 9 points for a first-place vote, 8 points for a second-place vote, 7 points for a third-place vote, etc. Green Bay received 21 first-place votes and 390 points overall. Wright State (22) totaled one more first-place vote than the Phoenix but one less point overall as the Raiders were picked second with 389 points.
Cleveland State (2 first-place votes), Oakland (1), Youngstown State (1), Valparaiso, UIC, Detroit and Milwaukee rounded out the preseason poll.
The 2013-14 season marks the first time since 1995-96 that Green Bay has been picked to win the Horizon League. It is also the first time since joining the Horizon League that the Phoenix has had two players voted on the preseason first-team.
On the strength of great seasons from Sykes and Brown, Green Bay was tied for third in the Horizon League standings a season ago with a 10-6 conference record. The Phoenix finished at 18-16 overall and advanced to the semifinals of the Horizon League Championship. Head coach Brian Wardle’s team returns four starters, including sophomore Jordan Fouse (Racine, Wis.) and junior Greg Mays (Chicago, Ill.).
Youngstown State’s Kendrick Perry was named the Preseason Player of the Year and was the lone player in the conference to receive more votes than Sykes. Oakland’s Travis Bader and Wright State’s Cole Darling rounded out the first team.
As a sophomore in 2012-13, Sykes averaged 15.9 points and 4.3 assists per game while starting all 34 games at point guard en route to being named to the All-Horizon League First-Team. Sykes reached double figures in 31 of 34 games and his 539 points broke the program record for points scored by a sophomore.
Sykes reached 20 points or more eight times as a sophomore, including a career-high 31 points on two occasions. The Chicago native scored 31 points in the Horizon League Championship semifinals at Valparaiso, almost leading the Phoenix to an upset win over the host Crusaders.
An All-Newcomer Team selection as a freshman, Sykes’ improvement last season stemmed in large part to staggering increases in his shooting percentages. Sykes raised his three-point percentage from 23.3 to 42.3 percent and upped his free-throw percentage from 66.7 to 81.5 percent. Making more free throws than any other player in the conference, Sykes broke the Green Bay record with 159 makes from the charity stripe.
Sykes has been named Horizon League Player of the Week four times in his career, including three times in 2012-13. With 874 points, the 5-foot-11 guard enters the season just 126 points from becoming the program’s 26th member of the 1,000-points club.
Brown was voted onto a preseason all-league team for the third consecutive season. As a sophomore, Brown was on the preseason second-team, and he was picked to the preseason first-team in 2012-13.
The 7-foot-1 Brown is the only player in the country to enter the 203-14 season with 1,200-plus career points (1,218), 600-plus career rebounds (629) and 200-plus career blocked shots (215). He is the only the second player in Horizon League history to accumulate those numbers and is on pace to be the first league player to finish his career with 1,500 points, 750 rebounds and 250 blocked shots.
As a junior in 2012-13, Brown averaged 14.1 points and six rebounds per game while swatting 59 shots. Entering the year with only six career three-pointers, Brown made 30 from long range as a junior. The versatile post player shot 42.9 percent from long range for the season, ranking fourth in Horizon League play at 44.4 percent.
Brown was a 2011-12 All-Horizon League first-team selection and was named to the second team as a junior in 2012-13. Starting 95 of 96 games in his Phoenix career, Brown has reached double figures 65 times. Brown ranks 15th in program history in points and 11th all-time in rebounds. Brown is the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots in a career, season (89) and game (11).
Despite leading the Horizon League in rebounding as a freshman and being tabbed to both the all-newcomer and all-defensive squads, Fouse was left off the Preseason All-Horizon League Second Team. The team consisted of Cleveland State’s Anton Grady and Bryn Forbes, Milwaukee’s Jordan Aaron, UIC’s Kelsey Barlow and Youngstown State’s Kamren Belin.
Horizon League Preseason Poll 1. Green Bay (21 first-place votes), 390 2. Wright State (22), 389 3. Cleveland State (2), 338 4. Oakland (1), 258 5. Youngstown State (1), 219 6. Valparaiso, 205 7. UIC, 151 8. Detroit, 141 9. Milwaukee, 69
All-Horizon League First-Team Kendrick Perry, Youngstown State Keifer Sykes, Green Bay Alec Brown, Green Bay Travis Bader, Oakland Cole Darling, Wright State
All-Horizon League Second-Team Anton Grady, Cleveland State Bryn Forbes, Cleveland State Jordan Aaron, Milwaukee Kelsey Barlow, UIC Kamren Belin, Youngstown State