After a sensational sophomore campaign that earned him Horizon League first-team honors, Keifer Sykes didn't get complacent. Instead he focused on areas he believed he could improve.
“Defensively, rebounding the basketball and I wanted to be a winner,” Sykes said.
He did just that. Winning is a culture that Sykes helped create at Green Bay. After earning the program's first Horizon League regular season title in 18 years, the Phoenix dominated the conference's post-season honors, highlighted by Sykes being named Horizon League Player of the Year.
“I don't want to really downplay it because I mean it’s a huge honor for the program and me. For the hard work that I do, the hard work the coaches put in with me, my teammates. As much work as we put in together."
Brian Wardle was awarded Horizon League Coach of the Year. He and Sykes are the first Phoenix to claim the top honors since 1996. Of course Coach shared the credit.
“I view it as staff of the year really and I think most head coaches would say that. I got a great staff, very fortunate to have those guys around me. Been with me for four years and then you gotta have players so it’s really a team award,” Wardle explained.
Alec Brown claimed Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. An area of emphasis for him heading into his senior year.
“I think last year I lost a little bit of aggressiveness defensively and I needed to get it back and I felt like I did,” Brown said.
Sophomore Jordan Fouse rounded out the Phoenix honored, earning a spot on the All-Defensive Team. He's just as humble as Brown and Sykes.
“I like to be in the background most of the time. I don't like the attention that much so with those two taking all the attention, it just makes life for me better,” Fouse said.
While these accolades are nice and certainly well-deserved, this is no time to stop and smell the roses. The team is focused solely on winning the conference tournament.
“It's obviously a great honor to be given these awards but essentially the team wins are what we're going for the most and getting the tournament championship, all that stuff.Getting to the NCAA tournament, those are all goals that we still want to accomplish,” Brown said.
There's plenty left on the Horizon for these top talents and their teammates. Individual accolades along the way, are just icing on the cake.