After months of covering Racer basketball, there are a few phrases I’ve heard nonstop. “Our league is so underrated,” “We’ve been slept on,” and “There’s a chip on our shoulder,” are a few quotes I pull from interviews weekly.
As a journalist, I get frustrated with sports rhetoric. Players and coaches tell me the same generic things other sources are telling journalists nationwide. As coaches and players, they’re frustrated for their own reason: because what they’re saying is true. When the OVC released their 2014-15 All-Conference Team, I couldn’t help but agree that this team has been slept on. And it’s time for a wakeup call.
Cameron Payne, Jarvis Williams and Head Coach Steve Prohm were all recognized by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors. To no one’s surprise, Payne was named Player of the Year. Also unsurprisingly, Williams was named a First-Team Forward and Prohm was named Coach of the Year. What is surprising is that no other Murray State players were recognized.
With a 24 game win streak, a regular season conference title and being one of only five teams in the OVC’s 67-year history to go undefeated in the conference, it’s true that the Racers have weapons. It takes a full team of starters and multiple men off the bench to accomplish what they have this year. The Racers have nine men with minutes almost every game, but only two players from the league’s No. 1 team earned all-conference honors. I’m not an expert analyst, but something doesn’t add up.
After the Racers’ final regular season game against UT Martin Feb. 28, Prohm commented on the impending all-conference awards.
“I would think between them top 10 spots we probably have four guys,” Prohm said. “We’ll probably get three, but you could make an argument for four. When you look at it, there’s a lot of good guys. I mean, Martin’s got three all-league type guys in Smith, Howard and Newell. And Belmont – Bradds, Bradshaw for sure. EKU’s Stutz, Walden. I can’t say who I voted for on the record. When you take our team out, you’re still looking at about 12, 14 guys that you’ve got to fit into 10 spots. I left two or three really good players off.
Prohm was fully aware of the tough competition for post-season awards, but of all the players he mentioned, his own were the only ones left off the list. Corey Walden and Eric Stutz represented EKU on first–team alongside Belmont’s Craig Bradshaw. UT Martin’s Marshun Newell and Deville Smith were recognized on the second-team while Twymond Howard graced the All-Newcomer list, and Belmont’s Evan Bradds made second team as well.
Payne and Williams were also the only Racers on all-conference teams last year. Named to first and second team, respectively, Payne was also Freshman of the Year and an All-Newcomer. With a 23-11 season and no conference titles, it was understandable. But this season, it seems a little absurd.
Twitter was rampant with complaints immediately after the OVC sent out their press release Wednesday. The majority were lighthearted, but there were evident bitter undertones.
It’s not my job to support the teams I cover. I would never let personal opinions show in my stories or affect my job in any way. But when I’m off the clock, as a columnist, a Murray State student and admittedly, a fan, it’s difficult to overlook some things. Despite the controversy, I’m sure of one thing. The Racers are coming out to play in an “underrated league” with “a chip on their shoulders” because they’ve been “slept on” too long.
Column by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor