15 – JOEY KIZEL, JUNIOR, GUARD, 6’0″
2011-12 stats: 30 GP, 29 GS, 30.4 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.93 APG, 21 STL, 2 BLK, .912 FT%, .506 3PT%, .537 FG%
Joey Kizel is the most efficient offensive player in the NESCAC. What he did from the floor last season was truly incredible. In the NBA, shooting 50/40/90 (field goal percentage, three point percentage and free throw percentage, respectively) is considered great. Kizel is coming off a season where he went 54/51/91. My guess is that was the first and last time that will happen in the NESCAC. This season will present a greater challenge for Joey, who will be asked to shoot (and score) more often without Ryan Sharry on the floor. Sans Sharry, Kizel will have less leeway to pick his spots, as he did at times last season, making it unlikely that he will be as efficient from the floor as he was last season. Having said that, if there’s one player in the NESCAC who can increase the volume of his shots while maintaining his percentages, it’s Joey Kizel. What Joey lacks in speed and athleticism he more than makes up for with his determination, clutch play, and ability to score from anywhere on the court. As the second leading scorer on the season, Kizel led the Panthers in scoring six times last season. All six of those games were decided by one possession. In fact, in only one Middlebury game that was decided by one score was Kizel not the leading scorer. And in no way am I suggesting that when Joey scores the team struggles — quite the opposite, in fact. If you’ve watched Kizel play over the past three years you know that he is at his best when the team needs him most. When Sharry was in foul trouble or hurt, Kizel consistently took over games, scoring almost at will from anywhere on the floor. He also made the two best plays of the season, one a steal to three-point play, sparking Middlebury’s run late in the NESCAC Championship game, the other a hanging, five-foot floater to draw Middlebury level with Scranton with five seconds remaining in the NCAA regional game. Joey isn’t the type of player who wants to lead the team in scoring — we’ve heard that from both his teammates and from him; while his ascension to the top of the scoring list will most likely happen naturally, both because of Sharry’s departure and due to improvements in his game — incredible to imagine — Kizel will not change his mindset out on the court now he is without the All-American. Kizel is a tremendous player beyond his scoring ability and in head coach Jeff Brown’s system, which requires selflessness and making the extra pass, he is more valuable to Middlebury as a player then as a scorer — at least in most cases. Undoubtedly he will have 20-plus point games — perhaps even 30 — but his ability to take over the game late is best suited to remain just that — a now-or-never type mentality that carries Middlebury in close games while allowing Joey to do everything else he does so well on the court otherwise.