Big Apple Buckets’ NEC All-Conference First Team Picks

Yesterday, Big Apple Buckets unveiled their NEC all-conference second and third teams. Today, we’ll close this two-part series by announcing our all-conference first team and predicting the 2013-14 award winners. Before we begin, an important note: We left Julian Boyd off our all-conference teams, due to his uncertain injury status. Had Boyd been projected to return this November, then he obviously would have made our first team. But given the latest development, we couldn’t assume a player will come back at full strength in January after tearing the same ACL twice within an eight month span. We’re certainly rooting for him, but it’s fair to assume Boyd will return at less than 100%.

Now with that out of the way, let’s move onto our NEC all-conference first team picks!

Will Jason Brickman finally make a NEC all-conference first team?
Will Jason Brickman finally make a NEC all-conference first team?

Jason Brickman, LIU Brooklyn (9.5 ppg, 8.5 apg, 46.2% 3PT%, 2.2 A/TO) – It’s absurd that Brickman has never made an NEC all-conference first team, but that’s where he stands as a three-time NEC champion. Barring a miracle, the Blackbird guard will achieve this milestone as a senior, while also obliterating the league’s individual record for career assists. Brickman may be one of the best passers in the country, but he also provides terrific value elsewhere. The 6’0″ floor general is an excellent perimeter shooter (41.8% career 3PT%), can be counted on in clutch moments (82.3% career FT%), and has an uncanny knack for staying on the floor (1.0 fouls committed per 40 minutes). Even though some of LIU’s superstar cast has graduated, it wouldn’t surprise us if Brickman leads the nation in assists per game once again. After all, he may be the best game manager ever to play in the NEC.

Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut (21.6 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.4 spg) – You may be inclined to call Vinales a volume scorer, but he’s so much more than that. Because of CCSU’s lack of depth last season, much of scoring burden landed on the sophomore’s shoulders, which he handled quite well. The Michigan native led the league in scoring, minutes played (38.2 mpg), and was second in double-digit games (28). Moreover, Vinales also demonstrated an improved turnover rate, despite handling more than 30% of CCSU’s total possessions while on the floor. With more depth at Howie Dickenman’s disposal this season, Vinales’ reduced workout, albeit slightly, should help on the defensive end. With additional support from his teammates, Vinales has the opportunity to become the most complete player in the league.

Lucky Jones, Robert Morris (11.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.3 spg, 42.7% 3PT%) – Despite being selected onto the All-NEC third team last season, Lucky Jones’ exceptional season was rather quiet (with the exception of his hard foul on Archie Goodwin near the end of the Kentucky game). Really, good luck finding a more efficient scorer in the conference. Jones’ 117.4 offensive rating – fueled by splendid two-point and three-point percentages of 48.3% and 42.7%, respectively – was third among NEC players who played at least half of their team’s minutes. Jones was also ranked nationally in defensive rebound rate, steal rate, and fouls drawn per 40 minutes. And this was all achieved as an underclassman. Now heading into his junior season, the 6’5″ wing moves to the forefront of the opposition’s scouting report. How Jones handles the newfound attention will be interesting, yet the star forward doesn’t need to score 15 points per night to provide a significant impact for Andy Toole’s Colonials.

Alex Francis, Bryant (17.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 56.9% FG%) – Even since he has sent foot on Bryant’s campus, Francis has been an absolute nightmare to defend around the basket. The versatile power forward is coming off another excellent season; the junior was rightfully acknowledged with an All-NEC first team honor. The raw statistics didn’t improve all that much from his sophomore to junior season, but his efficiency sure did. Even in the face of more defensive attention, Francis buried 56.9% of his two point attempts, while finding himself nationally ranked in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate. If there’s one wart in his offensive repertoire, it’s his free-throw shooting at 60.4%. If he can somehow sink a higher percentage of his freebies at the charity stripe, then you’ll be hard pressed to find a better NEC Player of the Year candidate than Francis. He’s a big reason why Bryant scored a remarkable 1.14 points per possession in the Bulldogs’ breakout year.

Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn (14.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 55.6% FG%) – Cannon exceeded expectations for the second season in a row, this time by expanding his offensive repertoire. The tireless rebounder was a more efficient scorer around the bucket, while expanding his range in the process. What ensued was an impressive scoring increase from 8.0 ppg as a rookie to 14.7 ppg last season. Looking ahead as a junior, the Brooklyn bruiser will continue to be the focus of Glenn Braica’s attack, but Cannon will need more help from his athletic supporting cast. Nevertheless, he’ll continue to serve as one of the most valuable players in the league and a bonafide POY candidate should St. Francis Brooklyn sneak their way into the top three or four of the league.

And now onto our NEC preseason individual awards:

NEC Player of the Year: Alex Francis. With several teams in contention for the NEC championship, this POY race is as wide open as it’ll ever be, but we like Bryant’s chances to finish in the upper third of the league. Francis is virtually unguardable and that will continue to be the case, especially with sharpshooters like Dyami Starks, Corey Maynard, and Joe O’Shea stretching out the defense. Averaging a double double is extremely difficult, but if anybody can do it, it’s the former NEC Rookie of the Year.

NEC Rookie of the Year: Jeremiah Worthem. There’s no denying the talent Worthem brings to the table, but he’ll need opportunity to warrant serious consideration for Rookie of the Year. Robert Morris’ roster is in a state of flux, so Worthem has the potential to make an impact as a freshman. Andy Toole has shown a willingness to play freshmen if they deserve to be in there (e.g. Anthony Myers-Pate, Coron Williams in 2011 and Lucky Jones in 2012), therefore if Worthem thrives early, then the sky’s the limit.

NEC Coach of the Year: Bashir Mason. With Wagner as the likely preseason favorite of Big Apple Buckets, it’s only fitting that their young head coach is recognized too. It won’t be easy, but with a talented, grizzled roster, Mason has the opportunity to take Wagner dancing for the first time since 2003.

NEC Defensive Player of the Year: Kenneth Ortiz. Who are we to reinvent the wheel? Amid fierce DPOY competition in the frontcourt between the likes of Lucky Jones and teammates Mario Moody and Naofall Folahan, Ortiz should continue to serve as one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the conference. His 3.5% steal rate is all the more impressive when you consider how little the relentless defender actually fouls.

Do you agree or disagree with any of our selections? Please let us know in the comments section!

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

2 thoughts on “Big Apple Buckets’ NEC All-Conference First Team Picks

  1. Alex has done an incredible job hitting the broads on defensive and offensive. His drive to excel on the court is seen each time he plays. May the Lord Bless him in the classroom and on the basketball court. .Good luck. .


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