About a year ago Jacob Leski asked me the following question: “If we had an inductee class for the Hall of Fame for the NCDA, who would be your 6?” I thought about it for a second, and then said I don’t know because I only really have a good judge of the people from my era. I then moved on and didn’t think about the question for a while. But it came up again by Kevin Bailey in his write-up for the 2017 All-Americans list, referencing both myself and MSU Dodgeball founder Aleks Bomis as potential first ballot nominees. So once again I thought back to Leski’s question, but then time passed and I didn’t think about it for a while. With the announcement of the newest inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame back in January, the thought of an NCDA Hall returned once more. So as another semester has passed and Nationals 2018 is fastly approaching, I thought I’d finally answer Leski’s question: Who do I think has earned a spot in the hypothetical NCDA Hall of Fame inaugural class.
As I thought about a NCDA Hall of Fame more, I came back to that initial hang up I had when I was asked the initial question, how can I judge players who finished their careers before I ever had the chance to see them play? I thought about the various ways players have been recognized throughout the league through the years. We only have one set of real concrete data for the top players in the league each year: the All-Americans for each season. But even that comes with a caveat; the website only houses the yearly All-Americans going back to the 2011-12 season. NCDA President Felix Perrone said there were previous years on the forum, but they were lost when it was reset. Without those years to go on, all we are left with are the All-Americans from the last 6 seasons. We have the first team for each year, but only 2013 and 2017 had formally announced second teams, while we retroactively awarded the 2016 Second Team All-Americans.
Aside from All-Americans, the only other way teams recognize top players is through their All Star selection. (One might argue BOTM recognizes players as well, but the criteria for BOTM has never been purely the player who had the best month on the court, so I did not take BOTM data into consideration). But even the All Stars data has some flaws. For one, teams select their All Stars using different criteria. Some simply pick their top players, others select players who were not selected the previous year or have not been an All Star before, another team may choose their seniors, while others may use a different method altogether. I was able to compile all the All Stars save the players from the 2011 Michigan vs. The World All Star game due to the data available to me. (If anyone has a complete roster or significant portion of those All Stars, or even a picture of the participants, please send it along to me. The only thing I have access to right now is the YouTube video of the match.) But nonetheless, I do have access to the All Stars from the 2011-12 season onwards.
Thus, for the previous six seasons, I have access to the data for all the NCDA All-Americans and All Stars. I compiled all of this data and summated the accolades for each player recognized.
94 players have been recognized as either or First or Second Team All-American and 251 players have been recognized as an All Star.
Of those 94 All Americans, 33 have only been on the Second Team once.
1 has only been on the Second Team twice (my condolences to Jeff Starr, him being 16th two years in a row is a travesty, throw the man some love this season).
27 players have been on the First Team just once.
10 players have been on both the First Team and the Second Team one time each.
14 players have been named to the First Team twice.
1 (shout out to Brent Gromer) was named to the First Team twice and the Second Team once.
But here is where I differentiate the top group from the rest. Just 8 players have been named to the First Team All American three or more times. These 8 players are who I would induct into the inaugural class of NCDA Hall of Fame (I know it’s not 6 people Leski, sorry).
|Peters||CMU / MSU||3||1||3|
I’m going to say this right now to get it out of the way: yes, I am included in this list. Yes, my criteria for Hall of Fame induction resulted in me fulfilling said criteria. Regardless, I think based on the most objective data we have as a league, I think currently a 3-time All American is a great distinguisher from great player to elite player. Those eight players are a who’s who of NCDA Dodgeball the past six seasons.
The next table gives the percentage of each player for making the First Team as well as being an All Star, both overall for their career as well as what we have data for (the past six seasons).
|Name||Seasons Played||Played w/ AA||AA %||Eligible AA %||AS %||Eligible AS %|
Let’s start from the bottom of this list and work our way to the top.
With no disrespect to any Golden Flash past or present, I think for anyone who saw him play in the NCDA, it is safe to say Cam was the best player in Kent State history. One of the only players I’ve ever seen throw harder with either arm than most can with their dominant arm, Cam was the best player during what I believe to be Kent State’s most successful period in the NCDA. They revolutionized the scheduling of games in the NCDA by being willing to travel and play more than anyone had ever imagined at the time. And they won most of those games in large part to having a top player like Cam.
The President himself was (and still is) quite the dodgeballer. Although I only saw Felix in person on the NCDA court a couple of times, that was all I needed to know he was one of the best players in NCDA history. While the other players on this list had the benefit of playing on highly competitive teams, most of Felix’s time was spent on middle of the pack WKU teams. When he was on the court, there was always a chance for the Hilltoppers. His sidearm lefty throw has great movement to go along with the great speed. He has also proven his catching prowess with some big time clutch catches in his post-NCDA career in Elite, so I assume those skills appeared from time to time in his NCDA days. Throw in all the work Felix has done as Treasurer and then as President for the league, and he is a no brainer Hall of Famer.
Brett saw it all in his days with CMU. He joined a dominant CMU team his first season and walked away with a championship. He then helped guide the program through the dark ages and fought off going defunct, before rebuilding the program into a team that has been to three straight championship games. Throughout it all, Brett played great for Central. Not only was he a great catcher and thrower, but in my opinion he was the emotional leader for CMU during the first two of the three straight championship game Nationals runs. CMU is fueled by emotion and I don’t think they make those first two runs without Brett’s fire.
The first of the trio of all-time GV greats on this list, Dylan was a constant force for the Lakers during his tenure. He could regularly mow down opposing players with his arm and his high “dodgeball IQ” made him quite the difficult out. He also finished second in MVP voting in 2013, which illustrates just how good he was that season. Dylan now coaches Grand Valley and has helped lead them to two more national championships after his playing days have ended. Although there have been a couple “coaches” in the past in the NCDA, I would say Dylan is the first one to have a significant impact on his team. His strategic game sense has helped GV steal a point on quite a few occasions and his leadership continues to guide the GV dynasty.
Wes did something few other great players ever had to do and that is reinvent his game midway through his (lengthy) career. He played alongside Brett on that championship winning CMU team his rookie season and also helped shepherd the Chippewas through the days of the 11-man squad. Early in his career, he was one of the most feared catchers in the league. Rarely did a solo throw come his way. But after a couple seasons teams simply stopped throwing his way. He adapted to this change and once he joined MSU for grad school became one of the Spartans’ highest volume throwers his two seasons on the team. Probably the best semester of his career came during the fall of the 2016-17 season, when he arguably played better than anyone else in the league.
Mark seemingly somehow gets lost when talking about the great players in NCDA history, despite being a former MVP. I think it is harder than many may realize to lead a team with so many great players on it. Mark kept several egos in check as captain for GV and was even able to check his own by stepping down from the captaincy his senior year to let Kevin Bailey take over. Known for his power arm, Mark was also an underrated catcher. He simply could do everything you would want on a dodgeball court and I think just how good he was has been forgotten with the recent dominance of Grand Valley.
I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time talking about myself here as I don’t want this section to become my defense of my own inclusion. Objectively, here are some stats, though: I am one of two four-time All-Americans, a four-time All Star, the only MVP to not win the championship that season (I don’t know if that necessarily is a good thing, but it’s a fact nonetheless), and I was captain of MSU the first two times we ever beat Grand Valley, including the second time leading a 13 on 1 comeback to secure a 2-0 win.
Like his idol Tom Brady, many people have taken to referring to Kevin as the GOAT. To that I would say, please stop his ego is already big enough. But he captained Grand Valley to three-straight championships and he won MVP all three of those years. His arm is one of the best the league has ever seen and it was darn near impossible to get him out with a ball in his hand. He is about as complete a player as it gets, and there’s a reason why he’s the only player to win multiple MVPs (let alone three).
Ok, so I think it’s safe to say those eight players are well deserving of the nod. However, if we wanted to expand the Hall of Fame inaugural class or perhaps in the following years, I have a couple other names that should be heavily considered for induction.
From a purely administrative perspective, I think both Aleks Bomis and Zigmas Maloni would deserve a hard nod. Full disclosure, my knowledge of the beginning and early years of the NCDA is not robust. What I do know is Aleks Bomis is the founder of the Michigan State Club Dodgeball Team. MSU also is a founding member of the NCDA. Bomis was the first president of the league and deserves a lot of credit for making the NCDA become a legitimate and properly run organization in its early days. He also helped the league grow by reaching out to other schools to get more teams into the league. After Bomis stepped away from the administrative duties, Zigmas stepped right in and hasn’t left since. The amount of work he did for the NCDA before he had anyone else to help him deserves significant recognition. Without Zig’s record keeping, much of the NCDA’s matchup history would not exist. Without Bomis and Zig, the NCDA would look nothing like it does today, if it would even still exist.
From an on-court perspective, there are several players both past and present that could garner some consideration, and all of them mentioned here are 2-time First Team All-Americans. As mentioned previously, Brent Gromer had 2 First Team selections and 1 Second Team selection. That’s just a couple of votes one year from being included in my list to begin with. Gromer was perhaps the Dukes first star player. He helped lead JMU in its early days from a new club to a national power faster than any team in modern NCDA history. Trevor Nordberg often got overlooked on the stacked GVSU teams he played on. But ask any CMU player from 2015 and they will tell you who won the national championship for Grand Valley: Trevor Nordberg. He finished runner-up in MVP voting that season and not only was it well deserved, but there’s a strong contingent who ranked him as the MVP that season. Eric Paul was the best player I ever played with at MSU. Frankly, I believe the only reason he isn’t a 3-time All-American is that he injured his ankle days before Nationals in 2013. He was easily the best arm on MSU any time he stepped on the court and an amazing catcher to match. Niko Nodal is probably the best player in DePaul history and could sometimes single handily keep them in matches, despite their overall organizational approach of not actively seeking to win. Jacob Leski went from a scrub (love ya buddy) to one of CMU’s best players and one of the best catchers in the league over the course of his career. His continued efforts in administrative success as Director of League Expansion would also considerably help his candidacy. Two greats, Doug Schilling and Michael Riley already have two First Team selections and are well on their way this season to add to those accolades. I think at the end of their careers each could very well be deserving of HoF consideration and inclusion. All of these players I think would deserve significant consideration for the Hall after the initial class and would make worthy inclusions in my mind.
Finally, I just want to address the limited data we have once again. I played for 5 seasons and we have data for the last 6. That means there are 7 seasons I am excluding from my analysis. And frankly, I really have no solutions to try to fix that. We can ask former players for their opinion, but everyone has natural biases, not to mention the fact that due to the lack of games played back in the early years of the league many players only saw each other at Nationals. Add to the fact that it took a couple seasons for pinch throwing to become widespread and the standard throughout the league, along with the tremendous increases in team strategy and cohesion over the years, the early NCDA days were quite different than today’s game. That is not to say there were not great players from that era. I know of some truly talented players that I never got the chance to compete against, and a couple I even did get to once or twice. Without the All-American lists from those seasons, it’s just hard to get an accurate, full representation like we are able to now. I wish we still had access to the All-American lists Felix claims were on the forums back in the day as it would help shed light on the history of the league before the modern day website really became the league’s records and history. But without such data, I believe this to be a good list to start. Feel free to share who you would include as your inaugural class for the NCDA Hall of Fame, especially if you have insight for prior to the 2011-12 season.