By Matt Nestor
There is debate when postseason awards are announced. It is called most valuable, but there is a question as to whether the award should go to valuable or to the best.
Any way you cut it this season, valuable or outstanding, the answer is the same in the NIC-10: Auburn’s Fred Van Vleet.
The junior point guard entered the season with all eyes on him. Van Vleet was pegged as the player to watch, and after graduating their leading scorer, a lot was expected.
Van Vleet did not disappoint. He scored 37 points in the conference-opening win over Boylan, and didn’t look back from there on his way to averaging 18 points per game.
But it was more than just the points. Van Vleet led the conference in assists, often accounting for a good portion of his team’s points by scoring and passing to open teammates.
He also was among the conference leaders in steals, anchoring one of the top defenses in the conference, as well as being the best rebounder on his team.
In short, Van Vleet contributed in every way possible on his team’s way to an undefeated conference season.
“I do what the team needs me to do,” Van Vleet said. “When I have to score, I have to score. And when I need to get my teammates involved, that’s what I do. If I could go the whole game without scoring a point, that is what I will do to get a W.”
Among the most impressive traits the junior has is the ability to seize the right moment to take a game over.
Early in the season, when the team was trying to find its offensive identity, he carried the scoring load. In different stretches when teammates Anthony Strickland or LaMark Foote had several good games in a row, he knew when to find his teammates.
He can also get to the free-throw line almost at will, where he knocks free throws down at an incredible rate.
The Knights have advanced through the conference schedule and the regionals unscathed, and sit in the sectionals with dreams of state. And while Auburn has had a number of players step up at different times during their run, the key to it all has been the NIC-10 MVP, Van Vleet.
From the March 9-15, 2011, issue