The start of a new season of dodgeball is just around the corner. As we gear up for another year of rubber balls flying at our face at 70mph, let’s take a quick look at what players are on my MVP “short list”. There are so many great players in the league this year. In fact, I think we enter this year with more established names than we do most seasons. With that said, there is a top tier of players who have a legitimate shot to win MVP this year, and they are the only ones who made it on my short list. In no particular order, here are a few players to keep your eye on this season:
Michael Riley (Central Michigan)
I predicted this man would be 2017 MVP at the start of last season, and while he didn’t get the #1 spot due to a rough first semester for himself and his team, Riley did come on strong in the second half of the season. That strong finish to the NCDA season, along with a great summer of Elite Dodgeball, gives me reason to believe he is once again poised to be in the MVP race in 2018.
Riley boasts one of the best overall skill-sets in the country. His throw power has never been an issue. If anything, his throw has gotten faster over the past year thanks to Elite Dodgeball (and the weight room). Same goes for his catching. It has always been strong, but he has made even more strides in the past year. But, what sets him apart is his quickness, agility, and dodgeball instincts. Not to mention he is as competitive as they come. Don’t be surprised when Riley has a monster year and claims one of the top spots on the All-American list.
Michael Hinely (Towson)
Mike Hinely had quite the breakout season in 2016-17. The outlook for him is a bit different now than it was one year ago. This year everybody in the league knows his name. This year his team is a favorite to get to the Final Four, if not more. This year finishing top 3 in the All-American voting won’t be a surprise.
Hinely has a heck of an arm, and it will be on display every time Towson takes the court this season. There is no doubt he will be a standout player for the Tigers in 2017-18. If Hinely is able to bring Towson their first-ever national title this season, I don’t see how anyone else gets the #1 spot on your All-American ballot.
Doug Schilling (James Madison)
There should be no surprise that Doug Schilling’s name is on this short list. He has been the best player on his team for a few seasons now, and arguably one of the most talented players in the country. The stat for JMU is both a powerful thrower and a clutch catcher (as you can see, all-around talent is the theme of this list). I have high hopes for Jame Madison this year. If Schilling can get the Dukes to finally break through and win it all, that would almost guarantee him the #1 spot on the All-American list.
Someone from a “Valley” school
Okay, this is a bit vague. But let’s face it, there are a few guys from each team who could end up taking home the hardware as the NCDA MVP.
Let’s start with Saginaw Valley State. The Cardinals return two of the top players in the country, both more than deserving of a spot on my short list. Nick Hazergian is the 79mph throwing animal from SVSU who also happens to be a solid leader for his team. He burst onto the scene two years ago, and has steadily improved his game ever since. Then there’s Kyle Bruce, who turned enough heads last season to snag an All-American spot as a second-year player. He is scary good at catching, and very rarely throws a catchable ball in games. These two stars from SVSU are no doubt in the running for MVP.
Now the other valley: Grand Valley State. It’s no secret that being the best player on the best team gives you a leg up in the MVP race. Just ask 5 of the last 6 MVPs. With that said, GVSU is just about everyone’s favorite to win the national title this season, but who is favored to be their top player? In my opinion it will be a four horse race. For starters, Captain Brandon Meisel is a well-known player. He shined brightest on the biggest stage last year at Nationals, after knee issues slowed him mid-season. Besides Meisel, GVSU also has a few all-around stars in Assistant Captains Sam Stockdale and Aaron Krafft. if one of these two has a breakout year, they will be in the MVP race. Lastly, we can’t forget Ray Franklin. Ray’s first full year of dodgeball saw him go from unknown to unstoppable at times with a 79mph throw. If he can become more consistent, there’s a chance he ends up being one of the top players in the country.