One of the best players ever in a single season in GLVC history is only good enough to share Player of the Year? You’ve got to be kidding me.
I’ve seen Aaron Nelson in every game this season. I’ve also seen every other team USI has played this season, either in person or on video. But I have not seen one single solitary player come close to what he’s done — a player who’s pounded on every game under the basket and still puts together 22 double-doubles in points and rebounds. Heck, in my 34 years covering sports I have NEVER seen a performance by a post player like Nelson, at least not in the college game.
Frankly, this is worse than a joke. It’s an embarrassment for the league. What were the coaches thinking who voted on this award? Mike Carlson, a 6-foot-9 Truman State senior who shared the honor with Nelson, is a fine player. But he’s no Aaron Nelson. Carlson averaged 21.3 points and 7.2 rebounds and scored 30 points or more six times. Wonderful. But that’s not even in the same ballpark with a player who has 22 double-doubles, averaging 19.8 points and a national best 13.2 rebounds.
By the way, Carlson — an inch taller than Nelson but 50 pounds lighter — managed to score 15 points against USI, on Truman State’s home court no less (Truman won, 71-68, in overtime). He was 6-for-12 from the field, with nine rebounds, one assist and four turnovers. And Aaron Nelson in that game? He had 14 points and 16 rebounds, was 7-for-12 from the field and passed out four assists while blocking two shots.
But if you wanted to make your own comparisons, you won’t be able to. Truman State lost its first-round game on Sunday, so it will not be at the Ford Center when the men’s quarterfinals start on Friday. And who did the Bulldogs lose to? Illinois Springfield, which won 78-72 but has lost more games than it has won this season and barely made it into the tournament as the 12 seed. The PrairieStars’ reward is to play top seed and defending national champion Drury at 2:30 p.m. on Friday.
Meanwhile, Aaron Nelson just keeps plugging along. He led USI to a come-from-behind win against bitter rival Bellarmine at the PAC last Thursday night — and a season sweep of the Knights — by scoring the last five points of the game in a three-point win. Then he scored 10 of his 22 points over the final 6:45 to help USI beat Maryville in the first round of the tournament at the PAC on Sunday.
One person who knows a lot about stuff like this speculated to me that perhaps the coaches voted along East-West division lines. Really? In a year when every team played every other team in the conference at least once? I don’t buy that.
I think it was personal. Some coaches, for whatever reason, do not like Aaron Nelson. Maybe it was his two-game suspension for a violation of team rules (fair enough, but that has nothing to do with his play on the court now does it?). Maybe it’s just the way Nelson dominates everybody under the basket — that is, the thinking goes, he’s not really been tested (yeah, believe it or not, I’ve heard that excuse in years past for not voting a player a major hoops award). Whatever the reason, not making Nelson the sole Player of the Year in the GLVC is one of the strangest, oddest, goofiest decisions I’ve ever witnessed. Guess there’s only one thing Nelson can do — lead USI to the GLVC Tournament championship and win the tourney’s most valuable player award.
UPDATE: Aaron Nelson himself has a theory about what happened. “They don’t like Southern Indiana,” he said.