MCCULLERS COLUMN: Bring back meaning to all-state teams

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Two blind tests expose the failings of the current format of Montana’s postseason honors.

Player A ranked first in Class AA basketball this season in points, sixth in rebounds, ninth in assists and within the top six in the three shooting percentages — field goal, 3-point field goal and free throw. Player B ranked in the top 10 of Class AA in only one statistical category.

Despite the stark differences in their resumes, both are equal members of the boys all-state team.

The girls all-state squad tells much the same story.

Player A placed no lower than eighth in the state in all five major statistical categories — points (eighth), rebounds (fourth), assists (third), steals (second) and blocks (eighth). Player B was in the top 10 of just two statistical categories.

Both were all-state honorees, one no different than the other.

I remove the names of these players because the point of this column is not to degrade the accomplishments of some while praising others, but instead to recognize that the current postseason awards structure falls short of its goal of honoring the state’s best players as such.

The excessive number of honorees dilutes the all-state teams, taking away — or at least lessening — the distinction of those selected to them.

The Class AA boys all-state team contained 11 names, the Class AA girls 14.

And the problem is not limited by classification.

Class A’s all-state teams were even larger, as 16 players — four from each conference — made the cut on both the girls and boys teams.

I, for one, have never seen a basketball team attempt to navigate the fast break with 16 players, which is probably for the better.

Why, then, are there more than three teams’ worth of players jammed onto one when doling out postseason recognition?

The answer to the excessive dispensing of honors is not to take them away from some athletes.

Even the worst player on every all-state team is there because he or she achieved more during their season than the vast majority of their peers, and they deserve to be commended for their accomplishments.

The same athletes, however, did not perform at the level other truly outstanding members of the all-state teams did, and that much should also be reflected.

The solution is simple — arrange the all-state teams just like most other leagues and organizations.

For basketball, five players on the first team, five on the second and so on, plus as many honorable mentions as you’d like. (The Associated Press named 38 men’s college basketball players honorable mention all-American last season.)

Everyone deserving of honors should be honored.

But the best of the best should know who they are.

Evan McCullers is a sports reporter and columnist for the Daily Inter Lake. He can be contacted by phone at (406) 758-4463 or by email at emccullers@dailyinterlake.com.

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