Beach: Faces old, new set to stand out in Valley

Basketball season is right around the corner and Wichita State is the favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference. However, conference stars of years past like Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Egidijus Mockevicius are off to professional basketball careers, and some new faces could well be the stars this year.

Player of the Year, Paris Lee, Illinois State: The Illinois State point guard led the way for the Redbirds last season alongside now graduated senior DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell to an above average season. The Redbirds might be the Shockers’ main competition in the MVC this year, and Lee has proven he can play at a high level against the top competition.

Lee finished as an honorable mention to the All-Valley team last year, and also earned a spot on the all-defensive team. In his senior season he is ready to make the leap to one of the best players in the conference.

Reed Timmer, Drake: Timmer had a stellar season for the Drake Bulldogs last season, averaging 16.8 points per game. Timmer was the clear leader for a team that sat close to the bottom of the standings in the conference all season. However, Timmer can score. Drake may not have a great record again this year, but this junior will lead the Valley in scoring. He shot 81 percent from the free throw line and 40 percent from three-point range last season. The Valley can no longer ignore him.

Markis McDuffie, Wichita State: As the reigning MVC Freshman of the Year, McDuffie built confidence coming off the bench for Gregg Marshall’s team.

As WSU looks to be the favorite to win the league, they will have at least one player on the first team. The 6-foot -8-inch sophomore averaged 7.4 points a game last season. This year he will push his scoring number to double-digits.

He has a knack for rebounding, passing and scoring in transition. If he can improve his outside shooting numbers McDuffie will be the real deal.

Brenton Scott, Indiana State: Scott was the only non-senior to earn First or Second-Team All Conference honors last season. The Sycamore guard now enters his junior season for what could be a vastly improved Indiana State team.

He notched 14.1 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. These numbers should only go up.

Jeremy Morgan, Northern Iowa: Morgan is now a senior and the clear leader of this UNI team.

Morgan played a large role in the Panthers’ NCAA Tournament run last season.

Ben Jacobson’s team has proven to defy odds continually competing for a conference title.

Morgan can score, rebound, pass and defend. He could take the role Ron Baker once held as the do-it-all guy in this league, rounding out the All Valley first team.

Coach of the Year: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State:

The Shockers are going to win the Missouri Valley.

McDuffie, Landry Shamet and Conner Frankamp will lead the way for Marshall’s team who could possibly finish with a better record than last year.

Marshall knows without that Baker and VanVleet the committee will not be as likely to give his team an at-large bid.

This award is often awarded to a coach who successfully transitions after graduating top-tier seniors.