The college basketball season is about two thirds complete, but I felt like generating the first ever Pioneer Pride mid-season men’s basketball awards for the Northeast Conference. Besides, the conference season isn’t even halfway through. In this post, I selected my NEC First, Second, and All-Rookie Teams along with Player of the Year and Coach of the Year awards, up to this point in the season. Keep in mind that I placed a little more weight on a player’s performance in NEC games for these selections. Enjoy…
Pioneer Pride NEC Midseason 1st Team
G- Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart
G- Velton Jones, Robert Morris
F- Jamal Olasewere, Long Island
F- Julian Boyd, Long Island
F- Ken Horton, Central Connecticut
Gibson, Olasewere, Boyd, and Horton are no-brainers, as all could be considered for NEC Player of the Year honors at season’s end. The only difficult decision was between Velton Jones and Quinnipiac's James Johnson. Jones, who is second in the conference in usage rate, means slightly more to his team offensively than Johnson, thus I gave him the nod. Of all guards, Gibson leads the NEC in both points per game (20.7 ppg) and efficiency rating, according to BBState.com. As a result, Gibson’s insertion bumped Wagner’s Tyler Murray to the Second Team.
Pioneer Pride NEC Midseason 2nd Team
G- James Johnson, Quinnipiac
G- Tyler Murray, Wagner
G- Jason Brickman, Long Island
F- Ike Azotam, Quinnipiac
F- Scott Eatherton, St. Francis (PA)
Despite leading the NEC in rebounding as a sophomore, Azotam falls to the Second Team due to the dominance of Boyd, Olasewere, and Horton. I have nothing against Azotam; there were just too many elite players in the front-court to squeeze onto the First Team. Point-guard Brickman gets a slight nod over Central’s Robby Ptacek and Wagner’s Latif Rivers, thanks to leading the league in assists, while shooting an incredibly efficient 48% from behind the arch (and an obscene 67% in eight NEC games). Scott Eatherton was the biggest surprise of the list and should earn NEC Most Improved Player of the Year honors. Averaging 15.2 ppg/7.3 rpg/1.2 bpg is an excellent improvement coming off a 2010-11 campaign in which he only played ten minutes per game as a freshman.
Pioneer Pride NEC Midseason All Rookie Team
G- Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut
G- Phil Gaetano, Sacred Heart
F- Jalen Cannon, St. Francis (NY)
F- Ousmane Drame, Quinnipiac
F- Lucky Jones, Robert Morris
Vinales will be a mainstay on the NEC First or Second Team for his remaining three years. In his rookie campaign, Vinales makes up part of CCSU’s three headed scoring monster – along with Horton and Ptacek – by scoring 18.6 points per game. Cannon and Jones have been dominant on the glass for their respective clubs, while Drame has shown glimpses of defensive dominance in the paint. The 5-foot-10 Gaetano edges out Mount St. Mary's forward Kelvin Parker, probably because I haven’t seen Parker play, while I’ve been impressed with Gaetano’s poise since taking over the starting point guard role from Evan Kelley.
Pioneer Pride NEC Midseason Coach of the Year
Dave Bike, Sacred Heart
This has to be the cherry on top of a wonderful 34 year coaching car………alright, sorry that was a joke. I just wanted to rile up the Quinnipiac fans. OK, my REAL Coach of the Year is…
Jim Ferry, Long Island
The hype machine promoting Dan Hurley wasn’t enough for me to select him as my Midseason Coach of the Year. Not when Jim Ferry is coaching an undefeated 8-0 squad that convincingly defeated Hurley’s Seahawks twice. Sure, Wagner has improved beyond our expectations this season, but Ferry’s LIU club hasn’t lost a conference game since January of last year. While I expect a slip up or two before NEC tournament play begins, Long Island clearly has the best chance to represent the NEC in the big dance. The eventual NEC champion must go through Brooklyn.
Pioneer Pride NEC Midseason Player of the Year
Ken Horton, Central Connecticut
I really wanted to give Shane Gibson the honor, but Horton has just been too dominant. The 6-foot-6 reigning NEC Player of the Year – and future NBA player – does it all. He scores (2nd in NEC with 20.4 ppg), rebounds (2nd with 9.5 rpg), shoots the three (31%) and defends (1st in NEC with 2.0 spg, 2nd in NEC with 1.5 bpg). If this was NEC Most Valuable Player award, an argument could be made for Gibson, because without him the Pioneers would have a 2-6 conference record AT BEST (compared to 4-4 now). But I’ll be objective and unbiased here – Ken Horton is the unquestionable winner and has a very good chance to repeat as NEC Player of the Year.
Do you disagree with anyone? Did I omit someone worthy of consideration? Please let me know! And stay tuned for my Wagner/Sacred Heart preview tomorrow night.