Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Rick Cleveland: Who should get the Howell Trophy?

The college basketball season is heading ever so rapidly toward March Madness, which in Mississippi means the presentation of the C Spire Howell and Gillom trophies for the state's most outstanding players.

One winner would appear much more clear than the other.

Mississippi State junior Victoria Vivians has won the Gillom Trophy, named for Ole Miss great Peggie Gillom, for two years running. Vivians once again leads the balanced and deep Lady Bulldogs in scoring with 16.8 points per game, and State, 27-1 and 13-1, leads the SEC and is No. 3 in the nation.

Vivians did not hurt her chances when she broke out of a late-season slump to score 20 of her 25 points in the second half of State's huge, 72-67 road victory over Texas A & M Sunday. Honestly, State has been so dominant, you could probably make the next best Gillom case for one of Vivians' teammates, although Southern Miss senior standout Brittany Dinkins has achieved a monster season, leading the 18-9 Eagles in scoring (18.4), assists and steals.

The Howell Trophy, won for the last two years by Ole Miss's Stefan Moody, is much more wide open with three candidates seemingly leading the way (in alphabetical order):

• Ole Miss senior Sebastian Saiz entered Tuesday night's game at Mississippi State averaging a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds per game. Saiz is the SEC's leader in rebounding by more than three per game.

• Delta State senior Devin Schmidt leads the 19-8 Statesmen with 22.8 points per game. Schmidt, a guard, also leads the Statesmen in rebounding, assists and steals. The Howell Trophy is a single-season award, but Schmidt has enjoyed a marvelous four-year career with 2,444 points, ranking him third in all-time Mississippi men's basketball scoring.

• Mississippi State sophomore Quinndary Weatherspoon leads the 14-12 Bulldogs in scoring with 16.7 points per game, despite being plagued by an injured wrist. He also leads State in steals.

So, how to choose from among those three?

Delta State fans would tell you it's easy. Just look at Schmidt's numbers, they say.

But voters (90 percent by a media panel, a weighted 10 percent by C Spire fan voting) obviously must judge for themselves the difference in the level of competition.

In other words: How would Schmidt fare at the SEC level? What would Weatherspoon, playing the same position as Schmidt, and Saiz do in Division II?

This is not unprecedented quandary in Howell Trophy voting. In 2006, Delta State's Jasper Johnson won the Howell, averaging 20.8 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Statesmen, who finished 30-2. Johnson has been the lone non-Division I winner of the Howell.

It certainly didn't hurt Johnson's chances that he had already shown he could play and play well at the D-I level before he enjoyed that senior season at Delta State. Johnson, from Hollandale, had been outstanding at Southern Miss before transferring to DSU for his senior season. In fact, Johnson, with 27 points and 12 rebounds, had led USM to a victory over an SEC Champion LSU team that included Glenn “Big Baby” Davis.

Schmidt hasn't had the same opportunity although he did score 17 points and pass out six assists (with seven turnovers) in an 78-63 exhibition loss to Mississippi State in Starkville back in November.

It's a question each voter must decide for himself. There is much basketball to be played (including Tuesday night's Ole Miss-Mississippi game) played after this column was written.) The C Spire Howell and Gillom trophies will be presented at a luncheon March 6 at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

Rick Cleveland in a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is


Anonymous said...

SEC level basketball is awful. The game last night between Ole Miss and MSU was a battle between 2 very bad teams.

Anonymous said...

Wow. A professional column that provided facts and pertinent information without any reminiscing or personal tales of Rick's adventures in Mississippi sports.

Are you certain that Rick Cleveland wrote this? If he starts producing articles like this, his stuff may become worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Sebastian Saiz. It's been a pleasure to watch his game improve over the 4 years he has spent in Oxford. I remember one game his freshman year where AK pointed at him to go into the game. He took his warmup off and realized that he had forgotten to put his jersey on. Andy was not amused. Now he will probably be a first team all-SEC player.

It says a lot about the one and done strategy of some teams like Kentucky. I prefer watching players grow and mature over a 4 year span. I'm looking forward to the next 2 years as Terrence Davis, Breein Tyree and hopefully our 7 foot transfer from Drake, Dominik Olejniczak improve their games and hopefully get the Rebels back in the NCAA.

Anonymous said...

Morehead State........Let that one sink puns intended.

Anonymous said...

Devin Schmidt should have had it last year and if he doesn't get it this year, then somebody needs to call the law, 'cause highway robbery has taken place!

Anonymous said...

Ole Mississippi is about to get a trophy where the sun don't shine!!!

Anonymous said...

Devin Schmidt all the way!! He can play with anybody,anywhere. After his phenomenal freshman season at DSU, he was heavily recruited by a number of DivI ,DivII ,and Juco programs but stayed with DSU! His stats show what he can do. And he is an all around good guy. Very respectful and humble. You ask how well he would do against Div I programs? I saw him drop 25 points his sophomore season against Mississippi State, 17 at Ole Miss! Just because he is at a DivII school doesn't mean he can't play better than anyone in DivI, because the fact is...HE CAN.

Kingfish said...

Rick has two columns. One is for Mississippi Today. The other one is for the Mississippi Press Association. It started when he was working for the Sports Hall of Fame. Thus it tended to have more of a historical slant to it instead of straight analysis of current sports events as his Clarion-Ledger column tended to do. Of course, MT could probably make money syndicating his column but their business model relies more on deep pockets than it does in actual revenue.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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