SARNIA, Ont. — Seven weeks ago, 96 of the nation’s top players began campaigning for your votes to become the College Court Report Player of the Year.
This past week, the final two players went head-to-head to become this year’s winner. For the third year in a row, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks were represented in the Championship, as junior Geno Crandall was looking to give the school its third straight winner.
Former North Dakota guard Quinton Hooker won the previous two Player of the Year awards.
On the flip side this week was a former conference rival of Crandall. Senior big man Justin Strings put together a stellar career for the Sacramento State Hornets, but his production flew under the radar on a national level. Given the opportunity to support their star, fans of the Hornets pushed Strings into the Championship Round.
Both players were front-runners in the challenge from the outset. Fans of the Fighting Hawks showed up once again to push their own to the Championship Round. Family and friends of Strings were the ones to spearhead a charge for the senior all throughout the challenge.
At the end of the day, only one player could come out on top. After more than 30,000 votes were cast through the online polls and on Facebook during the Championship Round, we finally have our 2017-18 College Court Report Player of the Year.
The winner is…
…from the Sacramento State Hornets, JUSTIN STRINGS!
From the Round of 64 right through to the end if the Championship Round, supporters of Strings were out each and every day to cast their votes for their beloved senior. Strings took an early lead on Monday, and held that lead throughout the week. Crandall’s supporters cut into the lead mid-week, and it looked as though the junior guard would overtake the Hornets’ forward.
When all was said and done, Strings pulled away on Sunday to add a little buffer and seal the deal.
Over his career with the Hornets, the 6’7” native of Carson, CA was a model of consistency. He averaged at least 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game over his last three seasons, and was one of the NCAA’s most underrated star players at any level.
This past season, Strings had himself a career year in his senior campaign. He averaged 17.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 0.9 steals per game, all of which were career-high marks. Strings posted four double-doubles on the season, while he scored in double digits on 30 occasions.
To put Strings’ career and impact on the Hornets into perspective, one needs to look at just how consistent he was night in and night out. From December 29th, 2016, through to February 7th, 2018, Strings put together a streak of 47 straight games with double-digit points.
That’s impressive in its own right.
When you add in the fact that Strings and the Hornets faced teams like the Saint Mary’s Gaels, Cal State Fullerton Titans, Colorado State Rams, and Boise State Broncos in non-conference play this season, his performances are even more impressive. Then, when you see that Strings almost made it through two full Big Sky seasons with double digit points in each game, his level of consistency is on a level of its own.
The point of the challenge is to provide fans one more chance to showcase their support for these players. With all of the players coming from schools outside of the major conferences, their talents and on-court achievements tend to fly under the radar. Hopefully all of the players involved in this year’s challenge felt a little extra love from their fans.
On his way to being named the 2017-18 College Court Report Player of the Year, Strings first had to get past several talented players from across the country. Here’s a list of who Strings was paired up with over the challenge:
First Round: Bye
Round of 64: def. Ivy Smith Jr. (Grambling)
Round of 32: def. JaKeenan Gant (Louisiana)
Sweet 16: def. Jordan Howard (Central Arkansas)
Elite Eight: def. Ahmad Caver (Old Dominion)
Final Four: def. Joe Rosga (Denver)
Championship: def. Geno Crandall (North Dakota)
– T. Bennett