SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The Dakota Wizards were better represented than ever on this year's CBA All-League team, announced Tuesday. But they still couldn't help wanting a little more.
With Billy Thomas and Maurice Baker among the five players tabbed for the first team, it's the first time in the four-year history of the franchise that the Wizards have had multiple first-teamers. Melvin Sanders made the second team, giving Dakota three honorees, matching the total they had in 2002-03.
Still, veteran guard Bryant Notree was glaring by his absence.
"With three players out of 10, we can't complain, but obviously Notree is well-deserving," Wizards coach Casey Owens said. "He's playing at an MVP level now."
Thomas was certainly playing at an MVP level the first half of the season, before getting called up by the New Jersey Nets during the CBA all-star break. The sharpshooting guard, who averaged 20.8 points per game, was third in the league in scoring, first in 3-point percentage (.446) and sixth in steals (2.0). He also played the exact minimum of games, 24, to make the squad.
"Billy Thomas, by going up (to the NBA) and staying up there, showed he was deserving," Owens said. "He's one of the elite players in the league."
Baker joined the Wizards as a backup to standout point guard Billy Keys. When Keys, who failed to meet the minimum games played for consideration, left to play overseas, Baker seized the opportunity.
Baker averaged 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists, fifth in the CBA, in 34 games with Dakota. He played well enough to earn two NBA call-ups, first by the Los Angeles Clippers and most recently by the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers released Baker just in time for him to return for Tuesday's Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
"It's great to see Mo Baker, a guy who came from nowhere, come off the bench, end up taking a starting role and get two call-ups," Owens said.
Sanders, who is in his second year with the Wizards, had a sensational finish to the regular season, winning two of the final three Western Conference player of the week awards. Sanders, who was a teammate of Baker's at Oklahoma State, ranked 10th in the league in scoring (18.7), and averaged 5.8 points and 3.0 assists per game. He also scored a CBA season-high 54 points in the Wizards' regular-season finale.
"Melvin went through some struggles in the beginning of the season with his shot," Owens said. "But he showed he's maturing to an excellent professional."
Joining Thomas and Baker on the first team were Sam Clancy of Idaho, Jackie Butler of Great Lakes and Randy Livingston of Sioux Falls, who finished 1-2-3 in the league MVP balloting.
Clancy, a 6-7 forward, averaged 19.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. He was also the league's defensive player of the year and the MVP of the all-star game.
Butler averaged 18.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Livingston contributed 13.2 points and 8.4 assists.
Making the second team along with Sanders were DeSean Hadley of Sioux Falls, Jemeil Rich of Gary, and Mark Jones and Ezra Williams, both of Great Lakes.
Hadley averaged 16.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, Jones averaged 20.8 points and 5.4 rebounds and Williams averaged 20.9 points per game.