At the halfway point in the 2015-16 season I have unfortunately only had the opportunity to see a few out-of-state schools in action. Due to this lack of knowledge on those teams I decided to keep my “most-improved team” comprised solely of players from the state of Michigan. This list is not necessarily the top 15 players this year, or the most popular players in the state (in fact many of these players are not very well known at all), but more importantly, these are the 15 guys from the Michigan Region that have shown the most improvement over the last year in my opinion. In alphabetical order, here is my state of Michigan “Most-Improved Team”:
Alex Zajac – MSU
This list starts off with one of the most well known players of this entire group. Zajac is an assistant captain for MSU and has been regarded as a great player for some time now, but he is still deserving of this recognition. There is no question that Alex has a huge impact when he is on the court for MSU. His overall play has improved quite a bit since last year, which might be part of the reason why MSU had such an impressive first half to the season. If their was an All-Michigan 15-man roster chosen at this point in the season, you should expect to see Alex Zajac on that list.
Ben Tubergen – GVSU
GVSU Sophomore Ben Tubergen might not be a well-known name in the NCDA just yet, but trust me, that is soon to change. Ben went from being one of the five bench players on varsity a year ago to now being a member of GVSU’s overtime squad. Combining a strong throw and good catching abilities, he has been a crucial part of GVSU’s team this year as the Lakers had to replace several All-Americans from 2014-15. Based off the way it’s gone for GVSU’s star players in the past, don’t be surprised when Ben’s name pops up on an All-American list in the future.
Bernabe Salinas – SVSU
Bernabe was new to the NCDA just one year ago, and yet he has already made a name for himself. I have only seen him play a handful of times, but from what I have seen, I’ve been impressed. He has a good all-around skill set, and plays aggressively which is one of his biggest strengths. Bernabe is a critical part of SVSU’s offense, and I expect him to only get better throughout the rest of the season.
Bryce Belen – CMU
Bryce is certainly not a name the average person would mention when talking about the stars on CMU’s team, but he has had an impressive first half to the season. After not being a significant contributor a year ago for the Chippewas, Bryce made improvements in his game and it has definitely paid off. I can recall a few times already this season when he has played well in crucial situations for CMU when they were playing against my team: GVSU. Don’t be surprised when Bryce continues to improve as this season rolls on.
Dan Grogis – MSU
Dan is an interesting member on this list. He is someone who in my opinion does not get the credit he deserves, as he has been a solid player for the Spartans for several seasons. What many people might not know is that early in the fall Dan was nominated for Baller of the Month, but another person was chosen instead of him by a slim margin. This nomination was due to stellar performances at both MSU’s home tournament and a tourney at GVSU.
David Cook – SVSU
David Cook might not be one of the top talents on SVSU’s roster, but make no mistake, he has made some serious strides since a year ago. My most distinct memory of SVSU’s team from the first semester was when David became a catching machine and totally flipped the momentum during one certain point. If he continues his smart play, I think SVSU will become an even more dangerous team during the season’s second half.
Joe Kobus – CMU
Joe Kobus was merely a bench-warmer for Central Michigan a year ago, but he has turned some heads thus far in the 2015-16 campaign. Joe has developed his throw quite well since last year when he was new to the league, and it shows in his play. He is getting outs much more frequently and making Central Michigan an even deeper and more dangerous team to go up against.
Joe McCumber – SVSU
Joe McCumber is a captain for SVSU, and while his name might be known well throughout the league, it is still worth noting that he has made significant improvement in his skill set since a year ago. Joe is one of the top arms on Saginaw’s roster, and he has played a smart strategy so far this year. In my opinion he is one of the most underrated guys in the entire league right now, but that will change in the spring when the rest of the league sees how much better he is as a player compared to last year.
Logan Rohloff – GVSU
Logan may not be a name many people recognize from GVSU, but he is making an impact no doubt. Logan is the current president for GVSU’s Dodgeball Club, and while he has many responsibilities off the court, his role has also increased on it. NCDA President Felix Perrone mentioned him as arguably the most improved player in the league since last year, and I have no argument with that. Since a year ago, very few players have made as significant of strides in their overall skill level. Believe me, he got me out several times at practice yesterday, when a year ago I was probably hitting him in the face…
Lucas Salinas – MSU
If Logan Rohloff has any competition for most improved player in the league, it’s definitely from this guy. Lucas Salinas has wowed me so far this season. A guy that a year ago was just an afterthought on the MSU roster, Lucas is now an OT-level player and he has earned it. As one of the most dependable throwers on the MSU roster, Lucas has proven to be an irreplaceable player for the Spartans. I’m excited to see how much more he develops this semester.
Matt Jones – MSU
Matt Jones is another player for Michigan State that was not all that important a year ago. I would argue that he is one of the most important pieces of the Spartan’s roster this year due to his smart play-style and improved all-around skill set. Matt has become a much better thrower and catcher since last year, as he has helped the Spartans to possibly their best first semester ever. According to MSU Captain Colin O’Brien, Matt was instrumental in the Spartan’s victory in their showdown vs. Ohio State earlier this season. Matt killed the clock in the first half, then was part of the strong second half performance along with O’Brien as they clawed their way to a close 1-0 victory.
McCoy Wondergem – GVSU
McCoy is another GVSU sophomore who has stepped up his game in his second season. What many people might not know about McCoy is that he basically won a point for grand Valley single-handedly this season by making catch after catch after catch! Expect him to continue his improvements during the second half of the season, as he has embraced a more significant role for the Lakers this season. Also worth noting is that he has the best name in NCDA by a landslide.
Peter Broe – CMU
Peter Broe of Central Michigan is one of the more unique players in the league based on his style of play. Many people may say that he is simply a member on CMU’s roster who can play aggressively / recklessly in order to help CMU control the pace of the game, but he has proved to be much more than that. Peter has become a better catcher this season for the Chips, his semester included a few extremely clutch catches that helped them secure points. After a strong first half to the season, Peter is certainly worthy of making this list.
Terrance Spears – GVSU
One last GVSU player deserving of recognition is Terrance Spears. As a senior for the Lakers, Terrance has improved his level of play undoubtedly. Terrance is a very dependable catcher for GVSU, and his throw has become much more accurate this year. As he goes into his last semester of dodgeball, don’t be surprised if he plays the best dodgeball of his career down the stretch this spring.
Zach Bachner – CMU
Last but certainly not least: Zach Bachner of CMU. I can’t say enough about how good Zach played during the first half of the season. He made countless clutch catches for the Chippewas and always seemed to be on the court at the end of a point / game. The rest of the league is in for a rude awakening this spring when they witness how much this guy has improved. Zach would no doubt be a member of my All-American Team if I had to pick it right now.