The Horizon League has always had a reputation for turning out great point guards. Norris Cole was the pre-eminent example in the 2010-2011 season, and last season there was Kaylon Williams. Only four players in the nation dished assists at a higher rate (with an assist in 43.8 percent of his possessions) than Williams did. Cole and Williams along with Ron Nored (34.4 percent) are all gone.
So who's going to step up and be that new icon on point? Here's what I think.
1. Ray McCallum Jr. (Detroit)
It's hard to believe he's only a junior, because McCallum has been among the league's top point guards for so long now. He's already spent two seasons leading his father's backcourt, and there is no more versatile up-tempo attacker among the point guards in the league.
McCallum finished 10th in the Horizon League last season in shot percentage, meaning he took more shots (24.8 percent) than all but one of his teammates, all the while dishing an assist in 25.3 percent of his possessions -- a mark that ranked seventh at season's end. He scored 1.101 points per player possession, and posted an 11th-ranked 111.1 offensive rating.
The Titans lost three-ish starters (depending on how you count Eli Holman), so McCallum will have a new team to mold.
2. Kendrick Perry (Youngstown St.)
If there's a point guard in the league that deserves all the attention that McCallum gets, it's Perry. Almost every one of Perry's metrics is better, but it's hard to justify making McCallum No. 2 to anyone. Point guards can be hard to quantify in that way.
Like McCallum this junior is also looking at his third year as a starting point guard. His fifth-ranked assist rate (25.9 percent), sixth-ranked turnover rate (14.4 percent) and fifth-ranked offensive rating (114.4) among all Horizon League players last season all rank better than McCallum, but can be somewhat attributed to a bad-shooting season for McCallum and a stellar starting five for YSU.
Perry managed 1.176 points per player possession last season, for comparison's sake.
The Penguins return their best three starters, and should be a genuine contender this season.
3. Keifer Sykes (Green Bay)
The former Chicago Public League standout burst onto the scene in Green Bay last season by posting a brag-worthy 27.0 percent assist rate in his freshman season as a starter.
The 5-10 guard has room to improve, but what more can you really expect from a freshman? The Phoenix return four of their starters, and Sykes, an all-newcomer team selection, will be depended on for backcourt guidance. I think he'll deliver.
4. Gary Talton (UIC) Talton also was named to the Horizon League's all-newcomer team last season as a JUCO transfer from Texas. He ranked third in assist rate (27.3 percent) behind Williams and Nored, but took more shots (26.0 percent) than any other Flames. In his second year as the presumptive starting PG Talton will have to deal with a lot of new faces, but he's shown that his attacking, slashing style can work with Howard Moore's offensive scheme.
5. Cully Payne (Loyola)
Payne transferred from Iowa where he started on point under Todd Lickliter, and posted a 26.0 percent assist rate. He sat out last season and will take the reigns of Porter Moser's young team this year.
It's hard to say what to expect of Payne, but Moser has voiced the urge to up the Ramblers' pace. If Payne can successfully do that, he could outdo everyone on this list. Loyola returns essentially their basic corps of starters (Walt Gibler aside), so Payne should have plenty of targets. He got extra playing time with his teammates this summer when the Ramblers played overseas in Italy.