The Valparaiso University men’s basketball team has been tabbed overwhelming favorites to repeat as Horizon League champions, as the league unveiled its preseason poll at Media Day Wednesday afternoon in Chicago. In addition, a league-high four Crusaders earned Preseason All-League accolades – Alec Peters (Washington, Ill./Washington) was named a First Team selection, while Vashil Fernandez (Kingston, Jamaica/Princeton Day [Md.] Academy), Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) and Darien Walker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon [John A. Logan/Arizona Western]) all were Second Team choices.
After capturing the 2014-15 Horizon League regular season and tournament titles, the Crusaders tallied 36 of 43 first-place votes to earn the top spot in the league’s preseason polling. Oakland finished in second place with six first-place votes, while Milwaukee was third and Detroit earned the other first-place vote in placing fourth.
Peters enters his junior season coming off of a standout sophomore campaign in which he led the Crusaders to the Horizon League regular season and tournament titles and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Peters was a First Team All-Region and First Team All-League selection last season, pacing Valpo with 16.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. A preseason watch list candidate for the Karl Malone Award, Peters ended the year ranked ninth nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s Offensive Rating metric among players using 20% or more of their team’s possessions.
Fernandez returns for his final season after being granted a fourth year of eligibility by the NCAA over the summer. One of the most dominant defensive players in the nation last year, Fernandez was named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league and setting a new program single-season record with 98 blocked shots. Fernandez ranked 11th nationally in blocks/game and sixth in block percentage. The fifth-year senior also contributed 6.9 points per game on 56.4% shooting, as well as 5.9 rebounds/game.
Tevonn Walker picks up Second Team preseason honors after earning a spot on the league’s All-Freshman Team as a rookie. Walker averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in his first year at Valpo, starting all but one contest. He ranked among the top-20 in the league in steals, free throw percentage and scoring, and scored in double figures on 19 occasions. A two-time league Freshman of the Week, Walker scored a season-high 22 points in his Horizon League debut at Oakland.
Darien Walker rounds out the trio of Crusaders on the preseason Second Team All-League squad. Walker started 29 times in his first year at Valpo last year and was named a finalist for the Riley Wallace Award, presented annually to the nation's top first-year transfer player. Walker averaged 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15, ranking second on the team in scoring and among the top-20 in the league in both categories. He also placed 11th in the league in 3-point percentage, connecting at a 36.1% clip from downtown.