With nearly half of the 2013 NEC all-conference selections no longer residing inside the conference, there’s plenty of opportunity for players to emerge into the limelight. Estimating who lands in the top 15 won’t be easy, but Big Apple Buckets will begin the process today by naming our all-conference second and third teams as the first installment of our two-part series. Tomorrow, we’ll present our NEC first team along with our player, rookie, coach, and defensive player of the year selections.
Let’s begin with the Big Apple Buckets’ All-NEC Third Team:
Jay Harris, Wagner (DNP, sat out due to transfer rules) – It’s always difficult to predict an all-conference selection for a relative unknown transfer, but we can’t ignore the glowing reports on Jay Harris. Since Bashir Mason’s first day as Wagner head coach, he’s waxed poetic about the offensive firepower Harris will eventually bring to the table. If his days at Valpo are any indication, Harris should fit in nicely as a versatile guard who can light it up from beyond the arc.
Rashad Whack, Mount St. Mary’s (13.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.1 spg) – What a difference a program change makes. After rotting away on the bench at George Mason, the former high school superstar certainly made a name for himself in the NEC. Even though Jamion Christian never recruited him, Whack embodies the quintessential wing for the Mayhem system – he can score on the perimeter (35.9% 3PT%) and play excellent defense both in space and in the half-court. As part of a senior trio at the Mount, Whack should continue to make opponents pay from long-range.
Matthew Hunter, Central Connecticut (15.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.6 spg) – Quite simply, Matthew Hunter is a fantastic stat compiler, especially when placed into a player friendly up-tempo scheme. While CCSU’s break neck pace should subside, at least somewhat, Hunter still possesses the versatility and endurance to log impressive numbers. At 6’5″, he’s an excellent rebounder (18.1% defensive rebound rate) and very good at turning his opponent over (4.0% steal rate). Sure, he tends to gamble on defense quite a bit, but with an improved frontcourt behind him, we’d expect Hunter to reek even more havoc as Kyle Vinales’ wingman.
Louis Montes, Sacred Heart (14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 47.9% FG%) – The deceptively athletic Louis Montes had one of the more productive, albeit quiet seasons you’ll see, thanks to the presence of Shane Gibson. Now as Sacred Heart’s leading senior, Montes is poised to lead a deeper and more balanced Pioneer team under the guidance of Anthony Latina. With plenty of sharpshooters on the roster, the slashing forward – who’s never been known to shy away from physical contact – should make a living driving to the rim. His scoring may go down a little due to Sacred Heart’s depth, but he’ll likely become even more efficient offensively.
E.J. Reed, LIU Brooklyn (7.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 50.6% FG%) – We’ve already made our case why E.J. Reed should breakout here, but this is worth reiterating: the sophomore has a tremendous opportunity ahead of him as one of Jack Perri’s leading men. Given the progress he made as a freshmen, we’d find it hard to believe Reed won’t eventually adapt to the extra defensive attention this season. He’s too talented to be held down for long enough.
Onto our All-NEC second team:
Kenneth Ortiz, Wagner (11.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.4 apg, 2.0 spg)- Everyone knows about Kenneth Ortiz’s defensive accolades and tenacious on-the-ball defense, yet that leaves the senior a little underrated in other aspects of his game. Ortiz is a wonderful game manager, as evident with a 33.1% assist rate, while getting to the line at a high clip (4.7 fouls drawn per 40 minutes). His shooting percentages aren’t the greatest, but his steadiness and leadership at the point makes him one of the better all around players in the NEC.
Latif Rivers, Wagner (13.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 39.4% 3PT%) – Statistically speaking, Latif Rivers had the worst year of his collegiate career as a junior, thanks to a lingering knee injury. After taking a majority of the non-conference season off to heal though, Rivers found his groove, registering double-digit points in his final 11 games. During that span, Rivers made 42.9% of his three-point attempts while posting a sizzling offensive rating of 130.1. Now healthy, we’re expecting the senior to have the all-conference season everyone was expecting last year.
Karvel Anderson, Robert Morris (12.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 43.9% 3PT%, 84.9% FT%) – It’s hard to fathom how exactly Karvel Anderson shot with an injured wrist, let alone play in a game. But the hardened transfer managed to finished the season as the Colonials leading scorer by posting exceptional shooting percentages of 47.5%/43.9%/84.9%. With a clean bill of health and plenty of roster turnover in Moon Township, Anderson will be asked to become the main scorer on a team poised to return to the NCAA tournament. Given Anderson’s prior successes over adversity, how can we bet against him?
Dyami Starks, Bryant (17.7 ppg, 40.8% 3PT%, 84.8% FT%) – A quick glance at Dyami Starks’ numbers as an underutilized freshman at Columbia indicate Tim O’Shea landed a wonderful talent in Smithfield, and yet he somehow flew under the radar. From the first game, however, the determined, hard-working Starks made his presence felt, adding a fantastic perimeter scorer to Bryant’s once limited rotation. In his first NEC season, Starks finished fourth in scoring and first in three-pointers made (95). We wouldn’t be surprised if Starks finds his way onto the all-conference first team by season’s end.
Julian Norfleet, Mount St. Mary’s (10.8 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.84 A/TO) – Julian Norfleet is the type of player every team should covet – a selfless, versatile scorer who puts the team ahead of individual accolades. The veteran guard illustrated that very quality last season when he volunteered to take over the point guard duties for a Mount St. Mary’s club struggling to find its way. What ensued was impressive. Thanks to Norfleet and freshman Shivaughn Wiggins steadying the backcourt, the Mount embarked on a magical run that fell just short in the NEC title game. Norfleet’s numbers may not come across as all-conference worthy – although we do like his assist to turnover ratio – but we fully understand the value Norfleet brings to Christian’s squad both on and off the court.
Also Considered: Earl Brown, St. Francis (PA), Phil Gaetano, Sacred Heart, Sam Prescott, Mount St. Mary’s, Corey Maynard, Bryant
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride