The Crusader Newspaper Group

Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference players take home awards

By Joseph Phillips

In March, the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference announced its 2021-22 Men’s Basketball Postseason Awards for this season.

Awards were given to junior Jared Johnson of Indiana Northwest University, named to the All-CCAC First Team, and senior Marshaud Watkins, named to the All-CCAC Honorable Mention Team.

Johnson was named to the All-CCAC First Team after leading the RedHawks in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. The junior averaged 16.4 points per game, 9.2 rebounds a contest while picking up 131 assists.

Johnson also was named to the All-CCAC Second Team and started in all 16 games during his junior year. During the 2020-21 season, Johnson led the team last season in all three major categories in scoring, rebounds and assists. He finished the season averaging 22.4 points per game, good enough for ninth in the country.

Watkins, a 6’4” senior out of Oak Forest, Illinois, played in 13 games for the RedHawks during the 2020-21 season. Watkins also had 11 starts and averaged 11.7 points per game. Watkins also pulled down 3.5 rebounds in a contest and scored a season-high 17 points in the CCAC Tournament Quarterfinals last season.

Having already hoisted the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion plaques, Olivet Nazarene University came away toting a league-high six awards in March for men’s basketball post-season honors.

The Tigers also repeated on two of the top individual honors when Alex Gross (Hope, IN) was named the CCAC Player of the Year and Nick Birkey was chosen as the league’s Coach of the Year.

Gross became the fourth straight ONU player to garner the top in- dividual award in the sport, following his predecessor Nic Reed in repeating as Player of the Year. A seven-time CCAC Player of the Week selection, the senior center also dominated nationally in claiming an unprecedented three NAIA Player of the Week awards.

Heading into next week’s NAIA National Tournament Opening Round, Gross leads the nation in rebounding with his 14.5 average being 2.4 boards better per game than his next closest challenger. He also ranks second in the NAIA in blocks per game (3.4), fifth in scoring (23.5 ppg) and eighth in assists (5.6).

On the conference level, Gross topped the league’s charts in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and both field goals (298) and free throws made (154). He was also second in assists, third in field goal percentage (.618) and fourth in free throw percentage (.828).

Gross was the only player to repeat on the five-member, all-conference first team as well, where he was a three-peat selection. The rest of the first team was made up of Gross’ teammate Tyler Schmidt (Valparaiso, IN), Indiana University South Bend’s Dylan Allen (Indianapolis, IN), Saint Xavier University’s Joshua Evans (Dolton, IL) and Indiana University Northwest’s Jared Johnson (Chicago Heights, IL).

Birkey, meanwhile, was recognized for leading the Tigers to their fourth consecutive regular-season league crown. ONU was near-perfect both overall and in conference play on the season, boasting current records of 30-3 overall and 21-1 in CCAC play. The NAIA No. 11-ranked Tigers take a school-record 18-game winning streak into the national tournament.

Three other top individual honors went to Indiana South Bend’s Sergio Diaz (Grand Rapids, MI), Judson University’s Lorenzo Anderson (Atlanta, GA) and Roosevelt University’s Trenton Kyler (DeKalb, IL).

Diaz was named the first-ever CCAC Defensive Player of the Year after the senior guard totaled 33 steals and 20 blocks to go along with scoring and rebounding averages of 9.3 and 4.7, respectively.

Anderson gained the league’s Newcomer of the Year award after placing second in the conference in scoring (23.3 ppg), third in both field goals made (257) and steals (65) and sixth in free throws made (99). The junior guard also averaged 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.

Rounding out the list of individual award recipients was Kyler, recognized as CCAC Freshman of the Year. The guard finished among the top 20 scorers in the league with his 13.7 points-per-game average. He also registered 45 assists, 44 steals and an average of 3.4 rebounds over his 22 games played.

A total of 39 awards were presented this month, including the newly-established CCAC All-Freshman Team, which was made up of seven players.


Joseph Phillips is the Sports Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. He is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 17 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected].

Sports Editor at Chicago Crusader Newspaper | + posts

Joseph Phillips is the Sports Editor for the Chicago Crusader Newspaper. He is a Chicago native, who has been a sports writer for over 17 years. He also hosts the SC Media News and Sports Network Q&A radio show on WHPK 88.5 FM Chicago.

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