Nationals Rookie of the Year:
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
Two practices, that’s all it took for Alec Deen to solidify himself as Rookie of the Year (at least in MSU’s eyes). Walking in to his second ever practice, Deen talked about film and asked the coaches questions about situations from games back into 2018 that he had already watched and analyzed. When you couple an insane IQ with a cannon for an arm, speed and agility, and the ability to catch in the most clutch situations, it seems hard to find a suitable match to Alec. It’s not often you can throw a freshman into a pivotal role like corner and have them instantly be feared by other teams but Alec managed to do just that for the Spartans. He proved his worth on the court from the first tournament when he was tasked with holding down former league MVP Ben Smart – a game the Spartans went on to handily win 5-1 largely in part due to Alec’s play. He worked himself into a lock OT-6 player for the Spartans and only looks to gain more experience through USA Dodgeball this summer. If he continues to grow at this current rate, you can almost guarantee Deen to round out the three-headed monster of Michigan State’s offense with Girling and Butler III for MVP discussion.
2) Matthew Budai
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
One thing Grand Valley Dodgeball has always been known for is player development and there is no bigger justification of this than Matthew Budai. Budai is already a very intelligent dodgeball player that brings a strong all around game to the Laker team. When Grand Valley lost player advantage on occasion at Nationals and had to battle back, Budai stood out. He was incredibly hard to hit which points to his elusiveness and great blocking ability, add his above average catching to that and you can see why Budai was essential to Grand Valley reclaiming the title. Matt has even shown the ability to play great in transition which made the him the perfect complement to Ben Smart in the corner. He has a bright future in this league and could be the next in a long line a great Laker players; his teammates have also recognized his clutch play and leadership skills by voting him as Assistant Captain for the 2022-23 season.
3) Terence Checkett
The Bobcats this season had more rookies than veterans so they had a lot to live up to and they did not disappoint. Terence Checkett was one who really stood out from the group because from the very beginning when he joined the team, this man was committed to dodgeball. Given his baseball background and a very reliable set of veterans, he molded all that with his love for dodgeball and developed a hard hitting throw and a pump fake that has caught many players off guard. He is also pretty agile for being a tall guy and is not afraid to put his body on the line for his team. His catching may not be how he wants it right now, but he’s already hard at work to improve his catching. Expect him this off season to improve his skills and experience further and to become a key player for the Bobcats and a potential All-American next season. Terence loves dodgeball and the NCDA already to the point of becoming a captain for Ohio next season and being a member of the NCDA Content Team as a freshman. This just proves how dedicated and committed he is to a sport he already loves wholeheartedly. We look forward to seeing Terence improve as a player and as a person, as well as what he can bring in terms of content for the NCDA.
4) Jonathan Crockett
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
Rounding out the Spartans lethal rookie duo is none other than Jon Crockett. Crockett proved to be a versatile tool that could do just about anything the Spartans needed at a moment’s notice. While his defining moment to some may have been his off-the-charts game play against GVSU at MDC, Crockett began making clutch plays from his first point of his collegiate career. If MDC showed anything about his game for the Spartans, it’s that Jon is the true X factor for whatever team he is on. He adds yet another strong arm to the Spartan offense, however you can’t expect to throw near Jon’s vicinity and remain on the court. The NCDA Rookie of the Month for February showed that he can catch the hardest throws and connect on even the most agile of players. He proved himself as one of the few rookies that are a true dual-threat on the court this season. Crockett’s ability to adapt and learn in even the toughest of situation will take him far as he continues to develop his play in the NCDA. The close bond formed between Crockett and Deen this year should only propel these two into All-American selects for Michigan State.
5) Cole Machiela
SAGINAW VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Cole Machiela, a freshman and rookie has been a huge factor in the success and growth of the Cardinals. From day one, Machiela had the natural talent to compete at a high level. He’s got the accuracy and catching ability of an experienced veteran along with an unmatched leadership ability from a rookie. Not very often do you hear a rookie become an assistant captain, but that’s exactly what happened with Machiela in his first year. His All-Michigan Region selection speaks for itself as a rookie. Machiela’s freshman year was fantastic, and he clearly has a bright future as a leader for SVSU.
6) Ethan Lehmkuhl
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
Closing out what would be the All-Rookie OT 6 is Ohio State’s Ethan Lehmkuhl. Lehmkuhl has made his presence known since his first practices, and his skills have skyrocketed since the league’s first regular-season tournament in September. In almost no time at all, he rose to the top of the roster and found his spot on the left side. Lehmkuhl is aggressive on the court. Despite being a rookie in the league, he has confidence on the throw line and finds energy among his teammates. He won’t back down from opponents making throws and will instead use it as an opportunity to charge them down and make the kill. He also knows when to play slow and is actively looking for opponents who fall prey to distractions. Lehmkuhl thrives when given the chance to take out a top player and end a point. Even though he only has one season under his belt, Lehmkuhl has already started turning heads as an invaluable player for Ohio State. He will continue to lead the team to success both on and off the court. And no doubt, he will come into the next season heating up and ready to take the league by storm.
7) Derrek Kemper
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
There is a steep learning curve for competitive collegiate dodgeball for most rookies. It takes a year or so for a majority of the newbies to feel confident and useful on the court. Derrek is the exception to this. He has been a force to be reckoned with since day one. For someone with his size and power, it is insane how difficult he is to hit. When he blocks or dodges, he will then throw a quick rocket your way and hit you square in the feet every time. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to a broken arm, but he remained active with the team by providing insights and watching film alongside his teammates. It will be exciting to see his return next year!
8) Isaiah Montgomery
UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI
Isaiah Montgomery was one of a few rookies on the Bearcats this season. Despite UC being stacked with talent and depth, he still managed to stand out from the group. On the surface, he’s a very balanced player who can do it all. He has a solid side armed throw, he can catch, he’s very evasive and can dodge almost any throw or team throw that comes his way, and is a solid blocker. But what makes him stand out on a stacked UC team is his potential in communication and leadership. There were a lot of instances this season, particularly in the second half, where Isaiah would take command for the Bearcats; setting up team throws, calling out who’s throwing, blocking for teammates, just textbook examples of communication and leadership. With him being an assistant captain next season, we look forward to seeing how he can grow as a leader and communicator on the court and considering he’s already participating in USA Dodgeball this summer on Midwest Mutiny as a freshman, we also look forward to seeing how this experience will make him a better player for the Bearcats in the very near future.
9) Ryan Paddock
GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIVERSITY
Ryan Paddock came out this year being a clear standout among a team of talented players. He quickly became a catching threat on the court and has greatly improved his throw over the season. Paddock understands the talent and determination it takes to be a champion. The GV captains have trusted him early with control on the court. He has the ability to step into any role when necessary if that’s making a reset throw or playing transition in the corners. He has been in clutch situations throughout the season and he will be a problem throughout his standout career.
10) Caleb Fowler
UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA
Caleb Fowler is one of the many rookies on UNL, but what stands out about Caleb is that he listens to the NCDA podcasts and really gets into the meat of the NCDA. It was abundantly clear from the beginning he really cared about his team and how they performed. He took that love for dodgeball and developed a wicked cross throw, and an amazing catch radius. No one is safe on the attack line with Caleb around as he is always looking to throw crosses and rarely misses. He worked towards becoming a top player and overtime became a powerful force on UNL. He wore the captains armband once this season when one of UNL’s captains had a broken finger, which shows the kind of leader he is. Next year everyone will see him wear the arm band all year long. In his rookie season, he came a long way and he still has a few more years to get even better. Look for Caleb to be a household name in the league come his Junior and Senior year.
11) Caleb Newell
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN PLATTEVILLE
Caleb’s first experience playing college dodgeball came at the Tim Ebert Memorial Scholarship Tournament. He was looking for something to stay active with and compete in and he was able to find that in dodgeball. Since Caleb played baseball, he was able to pick up on throwing and the game really well. This is in part is why the team elected him to be co-captain this year and captain next year. Caleb is constantly trying to learn and understand the game, which can be seen with him watching games 3-4 times over. He wants to improve and is always willing to listen to the veteran players on what he can do better himself, but also to help the team. We look forward to his improvement next season and what he can do for the team to help take UWP to the next level.
12) Cooper Sites
UNIVERSITY OF AKRON
From the first practice, we knew Cooper would be a breakout rookie for us. He has natural instincts and quickly developed as a great role player early in the year. By the time the spring semester hit, he was improving at a rapid pace. Cooper’s biggest moment was the double catch at the WAR (catch of the year?). It’s such an awesome clip that never gets old, so check it out if you haven’t yet. Cooper’s most valuable trait is being a student of the game. He is constantly asking questions about strategy and scenarios which is what separates the good teams from the great teams—skill can only get you so far. We cannot wait for him to continue to develop his dodgeball ability in combination with natural instinct. Being only a freshman, he will be a threat on the court and a household name at Akron for the next few years.
The above writeups were prepared by various members of the NCDA Content Team