Kowalczyk, Dennis Selected MAC Coach, Player of the Year

March 8, 2023 | Athletics, News, UToday, Alumni
By Steve Easton

The Toledo men’s basketball program was honored for its record-setting 2022-23 campaign on Wednesday morning with the Mid-American Conference’s announcement of the specialty awards and all-conference teams.

Junior guard RayJ Dennis was named MAC Player of the Year, while Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk was named MAC Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons. Dennis was joined on the First-Team All-MAC squad by senior forward JT Shumate. Senior Setric Millner Jr. earned a Second-Team All-MAC selection.

Junior guard RayJ Dennis was named MAC Player of the Year, while Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk was named MAC Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons.

Dennis is the seventh Rocket to be named MAC Player of the Year, joining Steve Mix (1968-69), Tom Kozelko (1971-72, 1972-73), Jim Swaney (1979-80), Harvey Knuckles (1980-81), Tre’Shaun Fletcher (2017-18) and Marreon Jackson (2020-21).

Dennis ranks second in the MAC with 19.4 ppg along with ranking seventh nationally with a 3.10 assist/turnover ratio and 13th with a career-high 5.9 apg. The Plainfield, Illinois, native is tied for first in the MAC with 14 20-point contests and has scored in double digits in 45 straight games, including a career-high 32 points and seven assists in the Rockets’ regular-season finale at Ball State last Friday.

“RayJ being selected Player of the Year is not a surprise for anyone associated with our program,” Kowalczyk said. “He’s been unbelievably consistent and has had a fantastic year. It’s not just his numbers that are important, it’s his leadership and knowledge of the game. He’s just a winner.”

A Second-Team All-MAC honoree last season, Shumate’s inclusion on the first team gives the Rockets a pair of first-team selections for just the third time ever. Shumate, who is tied for seventh in the MAC with a career-high 16.5 ppg, leads the conference with 1.2 bpg and is second with an 88.4 free-throw percentage. The Newark, Ohio, native ranks first in program history with a 44.2 three-point FG% and an 84.8 FT% as well as fourth with a 55.5 FG% and fifth with 111 blocked shots.

Millner, Jr. was a Third-Team All-MAC selection in 2021-22 and ranks 10th in the league with 15.9 ppg. The Little Rock, Arkansas, native raised his level of play down the stretch by scoring in double digits in the Rockets’ final 13 games. During this stretch, he averaged 18.0 ppg with a 54.5 field-goal percentage and 51.0 three-point FG%. Millner, Jr. joined Shumate as the only players in the MAC to rank in the Top 15 in FG%, FT% and three-point FG%.


“Both JT and Seth are probably both worthy of first team but that’s not realistic,” said Kowalczyk about his two seniors who have won 72 games as Rockets. “JT’s career at Toledo has been remarkable and Seth is right there with him. I’m just happy that both of them were recognized for their production as well as the amount of winning they have been a big part of.”

Kowalczyk, who also is a finalist for the Hugh Durham Mid-Major Coach of the Year and Skip Prosser Man of the Year award, has guided the Rockets to five 20-win campaigns in the last six years and ranks second on Toledo’s all-time win list with 256 victories in 13 seasons at the Rockets’ helm.

Toledo is entering MAC Tournament play with a school-record 15-game winning streak and ranks second in the nation’s Top 10 in seven categories. The Rockets are the nation’s second-highest scoring team with 85.7 ppg and are also second with a 40.5 three-point FG% and fifth with a 49.6 FG%.

“I’ve always felt that it’s not the Coach of the Year but the Staff of the Year,” Kowalczyk said. “You can also put our assistant coach’s wives in there as well along with my wife. They are all a part of it. We take pride in that and at the end of the year we’ll celebrate as a staff.”

Toledo will open MAC Tournament play on Thursday, March 9, with a quarterfinal matchup vs. Miami. Tipoff time is set for 11 a.m. with streaming on ESPN+.


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