OPINION: Ranking the Top 10 athletes at K-State right now

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Deuce Vaughn, sophomore in business administration, sweeps the ball downfield in a big play against KU. (Archive photo by Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group).

To start, this ranking is based on how good an athlete is compared to others in their respective sports. I know that some athletes might be “more athletic” than others, but that isn’t what this is about. This Top 10 list covers who is the best at their given sport.

The first notable absence from the list is any player from the men’s basketball team. While they are all incredible athletes, the team doesn’t currently have a top-dog, best player or anyone that truly shines above the rest. For that reason, no player made it into the Top 10.

Other absentees include members of the tennis team, cross country team or either of the golf teams. Like men’s basketball, there aren’t any “dominant” athletes currently at K-State, or at least any that are blowing the competition out of the water like the rest of the list. Also absent is the rowing team, since it is the epitome of a team sport and it would be impossible to single out one best rower.

Lastly, the largest amount of athletes on the list come from the football team, and I wanted to get on top of this before any reader gets annoyed. We as journalists and readers prioritize football over other sports far too often, so I tried to narrow down the football players. However, I think there are four players at K-State that are far too valuable to leave off.

With that said, here’s my list:

10. Brookelynn Entz, super-senior, soccer, midfielder

(Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)
Senior midfielder Brookelynn Entz. (Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Of all the sports to have a Greatest-Of-All-Time in K-State history, it has to be soccer’s Brookelynn Entz. Entz falls at ten because her time is technically over at K-State, but as the record-holder for 29 individual school categories, she at least deserves a mention.

The midfielder was drafted to the Kansas City NSWL team after this past season but came back for her fifth year with her COVID-19 career extension. The 2021 season, led by Entz, might be the best season ever in the soccer team’s short six-year lifespan.

9. Nick Goodwin, sophomore, baseball, infield

(Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)
Nick Goodwin. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

As a freshman this past year, Goodwin started all 57 games for the Wildcats and was awarded a first-team all-American freshman by Collegiate Baseball. Though he cooled off after a fiery start to the season, Goodwin finished his freshman campaign with a stat line of .277/.355/.482 with 13 doubles, a triple, 10 home runs and 33 runs batted in.

Goodwin asserted himself as a team leader as soon as he got to campus, and had draft-talk around his name after hitting close to .400 before Big 12 play started.

8. Dylan Phillips, junior, baseball, outfield/pitcher

(Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)
First baseman Dylan Phillips. (Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

The only player better than Goodwin on the baseball team is power-hitter Dylan Phillips. Phillips was the biggest name not to get drafted off of this past year’s team, and K-State is sure glad to get him back.

The home run machine finished with a stat line of .333/.422/.643 with a team-high 16 home runs and 58 RBI, with 16 doubles, a triple, six steals and 51 runs scored. Phillips will probably be able to use this coming season as a resume booster before next year’s MLB draft.

7. Skylar Thompson, super-senior, football, quarterback

(Archive photo by Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group)
Quarterback Skylar Thompson. (Archive photo by Kendall Spencer | Collegian Media Group)

What? The star-quarterback in the top 10 in 15 career categories? The team leader? The man that has led the Wildcats to two wins against Oklahoma and a bowl game this year? He comes in at seventh?

That’s right. Thompson is phenomenal, but this just shows how much talent is currently at K-State.

Thompson has had a great career, sitting at second in all-time passing yards, is a touchdown away from second in all-time passing touchdowns and is the winningest quarterback at K-State since 1990. There was also a big jump in skill level in the offense when Thompson went down with an injury and when he came back.

6. Daniel Green, junior, football, linebacker

(Archive photo by Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)
Daniel Green. (Archive photo by Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

The hard-hitting, no-respect-getting, defensive powerhouse has been absolutely dominant this season and hardly gets any word about him because of the other talents on the team.

Even though Green has been tossed from two games for illegal hits, the team leader in tackles always seems to fill the holes in the run game and gives opposing team’s best players second thoughts before meeting him head-on.

5. Aliyah Carter, sophomore, volleyball, outside hitter

(Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)
Outside hitter Aliyah Carter. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

If you’re lucky enough to make it to a K-State volleyball game, it would be impossible to leave without remembering who Aliyah Carter is. The statistical leader almost every night, the sophomore has catapulted the Wildcats into one of the scariest teams in the Big 12.

What’s coolest about Carter is (like someone else coming on this list) is that she doesn’t let her smaller-than-average frame get the best of her. At 5 foot 9 inches, the 2020 Big 12 first-teamer jumps high with a powerful swing and makes every recruiter upset they didn’t search outside the average 6 foot 3 inch outside hitter mold.

4. Felix Anudike-Uzomah, sophomore, football, defensive line

(Archive photo by Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)
Defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah. (Archive photo by Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

With as good as Green has been this year, no one trumps the production of “King” Felix this year. The NCAA leader in sacks has been nothing short of incredible for the Wildcats on their way to a bowl-game clinching season.

Even though he won’t be able to declare for the draft for another season, just the fact that people are talking about taking a sophomore defensive lineman shows how good Felix has been. The publicity from ESPN and other cable networks helps showcase his talents from a national perspective as well.

3. Deuce Vaughn, sophomore, football, running back

(Archive photo by Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)
Running back Deuce Vaughn. (Archive photo by Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Everyone’s favorite undersized running back makes it all the way to No. 3 on my list. The fastest K-State running back to 2,000 all-purpose yards hasn’t missed a beat in his two-year career, and he’s looking like he might end up as an all-time great.

The offensive MVP so far in the season has stepped up when Thompson went down with an injury but complemented Thompson very well when he came back. The 5 foot 6 inch speedster was named preseason all-American by Phil Steele after being named 2020 Big 12 freshman of the year.

2. Tejaswin Shankar, super-senior, track and field, jumps

(Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)
Tejaswin Shankar. (Archive photo by Sophie Osborn | Collegian Media Group)

Shankar has been one of the most dominant athletes since he’s gotten to Manhattan, as the Indian-born high jump specialist has gone to three NCAA Championships both indoor and outdoor. The 2021 Big 12 high jump champion won the NCAA high jump in 2018 and was awarded runner-up in 2019 and 2021.

Even with as good as Shankar’s high jump is, he has been nearly as good since starting triple jump, where Shankar was awarded second-team all-American in 2021. With another year left, Shankar might use the upcoming season to break some K-State records, even with as good of a history the Wildcats have with jumps.

1. Ayoka Lee, junior, women’s basketball, center

(Archive photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)
Center Ayoka Lee. (Archive photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

Finally, at the No. 1 spot on the list, no one is more deserving than K-State’s Ayoka Lee. The Wildcat’s single-game points record holder with 43 has been awarded first-team all-Big 12 in both her freshman and sophomore season while being named pre-season all-Big 12 unanimously.

Averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game in her career, Lee was named to the Naismith watch-list this season and is well on her way to proving why after eclipsing the 1,000 career points marker just three games into her third season. With as many great athletes currently at K-State, there is no doubt in my mind that Ayoka Lee tops this list.

Landon Reinhardt is a Collegian staff writer and a junior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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