Picking All-U.P. players not easy

It was one of the most interesting – but most difficult – days of the year for Upper Peninsula print journalists and radio and television broadcasters.

Members of the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association met in Marquette on Wednesday to select All-U.P. teams for boys and girls basketball.

It seems simple enough: Pick the best players in the peninsula on three levels – an all-class “Dream Team” and two separate First and Second teams. UPSSA members meet annually to make such selections.

There are 35 slots to be filled for each gender. Surely it’s easy to pick the standout players in the U.P. for both from among hundreds of candidates.

But narrowing the list for consideration and then voting for the “best” from throughout the U.P. is a lot more difficult than one would think.

There were 24 UPSSA voters Wednesday from all parts of the peninsula at the meeting. They came from Houghton and Ironwood on the west end, to Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace on the east, and all points between.

Each has his own criteria for what constitutes the U.P.’s best players. Some might look more at scoring, some at a player’s defensive skills and others may take special interest in players who rise to the occasion when it counts the most.

Still other candidates may be judged by the competition they play.

The problem is, association members are unable to see all the nominated players in action during the season. Logistics prevent that from happening.

We depend on conference coaches who select all-league teams to provide guidance, as well as fellow UPSSA members themselves to give us an idea how well a boy or girl from their area has performed.

Mining Journal colleague Steve Brownlee and I spent a considerable amount of time prior to the All-U.P. meeting gathering statistical information and coach’s comments on players from the newspaper’s immediate circulation area.

Some coaches were also asked to comment on players they faced during the season to get another view of how good those players were.

All in the pursuit of making the best possible choices when it came time to vote.

An association member is given one minute (more or less) to talk about each All-U.P. candidate from his area, providing insight as to how that player might fit in the coming vote.

Members were discouraged before – and during – the meeting from nominating a player solely for honorable mention honors.

Each UPSSA member then has one vote for each of the 35 spots available for both the boys’ and girls’ teams. The players with the most votes for each category make the final list, with a runoff held to break any tie votes for the final spot.

There were 116 girls and 111 boys on the initial nomination ballots from which to choose when it came down to the voting.

Not every player, not every coach and not every fan agreed with the final list of All-U.P. players selected. That’s to be expected.

Hometown biases come into play and, again, what constitutes an All-U.P. player is open to interpretation.

But the UPSSA membership, in my opinion, does a pretty darn good job of making the best possible choices.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is cremsburg@miningjournal.net.