Following a 12-18 season in 2014-15, the Pioneers were loaded with freshmen (a stunning nine total on the game & practice rosters) and an uncertain future heading into this season. There was every reason to believe the Pioneers were headed for consecutive losing seasons – but they defied the odds with senior leadership, a solid incoming freshmen class, the development of existing players, liberal substitutions and a deep bench. A variety of different players stepped up at different times to finish out this regular season with a winning record, 15-14.
There are a number of players that deserved to win each of these categories but we decided to only select one. Here we go…
MVP – Marcus Byrd (RS SR)- This may be a surprise to many but not to us. Injured his freshmen year, he gave the program all he had for 5 years. While he could have moved on at the end of last season after graduating, he put in the hard work this season and just got better as this season went along. He spent big minutes (27.8) on the floor and showed the ability both inside and outside to make key buckets when they were needed the most.
He scored 10.8 ppg on 50.2% shooting from the field and 41.8% from 3-point range. He averaged 3.7 rebounds per game and led the team in blocks with 20. Whether on the floor or on the bench, he was that calm veteran leader that every team needs. And when he moved to the perimeter, his soft touch long range bombs were a thing of beauty for a 6’7″ big man that played forward and center, depending on what the Pioneers needed. There is no way the Pioneers have a winning regular season record without the steady leadership of Marcus Byrd on the floor.
Rookie of the Year – Joe Rosga (FR) – He looks like Clark Kent in street clothes but plays like superman in crimson and gold. He has turned into the Pioneers’ trigger man who rarely leaves the floor (32.8 mpg). He is very good player on his own merits but most importantly, he brings out the best in his teammates. This guy is going to be an absolute joy for Pioneer fans to watch over the next three years. His high ‘compete level’ will always keep DU in almost any game. He led the entire team in scoring with 12.3 ppg on 47.0% shooting from the field and 39.6% from the arc. Rosga was second on the team with steals (35) and assists (62). One analyst called him a ‘stat stuffer’ – and that’s right. His game is must watch basketball.
Most Improved – Jake Pemberton (SO) – He totally transformed his game in one year. After adding some bulk and improved his conditioning, he has worked his way into an excellent defender with quick hands and great anticipation. If he can make the same amount of improvement this offseason as last year, expect him to be a major contributor next year. His game is smooth and reliable and his statistics may surprise you -he is already playing 26.6 minutes per game and leads the team in steals (44) and assists (81). His is also collecting 2.5 rebounds per game along with 4.4 points. His shooting percentage (44.0%) does not accurately reflect his ability to operate in the 50% field goal shooting range – and he is definitely better than his 25.6% average from 3-point range. If he gets a bit more consistent on offense and learns to create more good scoring opportunities, he could be a key cog in Denver’s future.
Agree? Disagree? Give us your thoughts about this season’s 2015-16 squad.