As most of the Frontier Conference basketball season hits the midway point this weekend, we’re taking a look at who stood out in the first nine games of the conference slate. Teams have already shaken up expectations and jockeyed for prime positioning in the standings.
While there’s still another half of the season to go, here’s a look at who’s caught our attention so far.
MVP: Ryan Imhoff, Carroll College senior forward
There are some good candidates and arguments to be made here, but throughout the season we’ve seen how much Imhoff means to the Saints’ success. While he leads in the conference in scoring, dropping 20 points a night, it’s the sheer amount of attention he commands on every possession that is impressive. Opponents must account for Imhoff on every play of the game on offense, and defensively Imhoff gets it done as he leads the conference in steals and rarely sloughs off.
Imhoff, to further the point of his importance to his team, leads the Saints in most major statistical categories. A lot is expected out of the all-American, and Imhoff delivers every night.
Honorable mention: Dom Robinson, Western guard; Jared Samuelson, Rocky Mountain College forward.
On the women’s side: Stephanie McDonagh, Providence senior guard
McDonagh is putting together another stellar season and now the Providence Argonauts are having success on the court. A season after a disappointing 1-17 run through the Frontier, the Argonauts are battling for the No. 1 spot in conference and a large part of that is McDonagh’s advanced play. McDonagh’s shooting percentages are way up, and she’s currently leading the Frontier in points and steals per game, showing a knack for both sides of the ball.
There may be no better story in the Frontier than Great Falls’ resurgence, and McDonagh is a huge part of that.
Honorable mention: Hannah Dean, Carroll College forward; Brianna King, Montana Western guard.
Biggest surprise: Race Martin, Lewis-Clark State College junior forward
The junior transfer has shown he can take his game from the community college level to the Frontier with ease. Martin is leading the Frontier-leading Lewis-Clark State College in scoring with nearly 14 points per game. He shoots 62 percent from the field, 53 percent from the 3-point line and 92 percent from the foul line. He is also leading his team in rebounding with six boards a night, and blocked shots with 16. The Warriors are asking a lot out of Martin and he’s delivering in big ways.
Lewis-Clark reloaded with a lot of talent after an NAIA tournament trip last season. Martin looks like he’s going to help the Warriors get there again this season.
Honorable mention: Jared Samuelson, Rocky Mountain College sophomore forward; John Chapman, Montana Tech senior guard.
Women: Brooke Jones, Rocky junior forward
Jones is back in the Frontier after beginning her college career at Carroll. While with the Saints, she used a season to figure out college hoops. Then, she transferred to Dawson Community College, becoming an all-conference selection in one season there. She returned to the Frontier, joining Rocky Mountain College this season and is leading the Battlin’ Bears. Jones plays an aggressive brand of basketball and can score well within the 3-point line. She’s unafraid of taking big shots and battles each possession.
Honorable mention: Emilee Maldonado, Providence freshman guard.
Best newcomer: Jared Samuelson, Rocky Mountain College sophomore forward
Samuelson is playing well in return to his hometown. The Montana transfer, only a sophomore, is scoring nearly 20 points a game and pulling down eight rebounds per contest. He’s been the biggest boon to Rocky’s success this season, though bouts of inconsistency have left the Battlin’ Bears in the middle of the pack. Samuelson has shown he can be a dangerous post-up player, making opponents pay at the free-throw line and a capable 3-point shooter. These skills clearly translated at the NCAA DI level, but Samuelson’s decision to return to Billings has to leave Battlin’ Bears smiling.
Honorable mention: Brandon Jones, Western junior forward; Race Martin, Lewis-Clark State junior forward.
Women: Brianna King, Montana Western junior guard
King is scoring on everybody in the Frontier, showing there was little learning curve for the feisty point guard out of Washington. A junior, King has the ability to get her shot whenever she wants, and is finding the right balance of when to shoot and when to make plays for others. There are few, if any, defenders in the Frontier that can stay in front of her when she decides to go to the basket. Her ballhanding could be the best in the league.
Western had a few down weeks as members of the team fell ill, but now with a healthy roster and King recently earning a NAIA National Player of the Week award, the Bulldogs look like they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Honorable mention: Peyton Souvenir, Lewis-Clark State College freshman guard; Parker Esary, Providence freshman forward; Christine Denny, Carroll College freshman guard.
Most improved: Ryan Reeves, Montana State-Northern senior forward
Reeves is putting together quite the encore to a junior season where he won the Frontier Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. Reeves’ scoring has vaulted up seven points, his rebounding has jumped and his ability to block shots — a large part of the 6-11 product out of Alaska’s defense — is also better. Reeves has more blocks through 21 games than he did all of last season. He’s turning the ball over more this season, but his assist numbers have risen and he has a slightly above 1:1 assist to turnover ratio. Northern’s in the middle of the pack, but the big fella in the middle of the Lights’ defense is giving them a huge lift this season.
Honorable mention: Matt Wyman, Carroll College junior forward; Zaccheus Darko-Kelly, Montana Western sophomore forward.
Women: Peyton Filius, Montana State-Northern senior guard
Filius has tacked on 11 more points per game this season. Filius has been called on to fill a void after the Skylights graduated an All-American at the guard position, and the Havre-native is scoring well. MSU-N is struggling to put wins on the board as they make changes this year, but Filius is at least a bright spot.
Honorable mention: Shay Potter, Montana Tech sophomore forward; Jansen Edmiston, Lewis-Clark State sophomore guard.