With the regular season in the rear view mirror, now is the time for John and I to release our consensus 2013-14 all-conference teams and awards. In all honestly, determining the award winners was easier than expected, while situating 15 all-conference players in their appropriate place proved to be more difficult. Nevertheless, here they are!
NEC All-Conference Rookie Team
- Malik Harmon, Saint Francis (PA)
- Matt Mobley, Central Connecticut
- Matt MacDonald, Fairleigh Dickinson
- De’von Barnett, Sacred Heart
- Daniel Garvin, Bryant
In a season where no freshman absolutely blew the competition away like Shivaughn Wiggins did last season, there still were plenty of viable candidates to choose from for our all-rookie team. Malik Harmon had the unenviable task of running the point as a freshman, and yet he excelled at it. Matt Mobley displayed his above average athleticism to emerge as a key contributor for Howie Dickenman in conference play. Matt MacDonald went from un-recruited to hitting the game winning three-pointer over Rutgers in December. His steady play was a big reason for the Knights’ ascension back to respectability in the NEC. No freshman may have a brighter future than Sacred Heart’s De’von Barnett with his eye-popping athleticism reeking havoc around the rim. Finally, Daniel Garvin grabbed 4.9 rebounds per game, even though he was sidelined midway through the season with a case of mono.
NEC All-Conference Third Team
- Brent Jones, St. Francis Brooklyn
- Corey Maynard, Bryant
- Dyami Starks, Bryant
- Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut
- Faronte Drakeford, Central Connecticut
Brent Jones was a turnover whipping boy during his underclassmen seasons at St. Francis, but he removed that label with a terrific junior campaign. His 45.3% assist rate was third nationally, while his turnover rate declined for the third consecutive season. Without the versatile and fearless Corey Maynard these past couple of seasons, who averaged an impressive 13.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg and 4.3 apg, Bryant doesn’t have nearly as many victories. Many Bryant fans may feel like Dyami Starks on the third team is a snub, but truth be told his scoring, efficiency and overall consistency was down slightly for his junior season. A broken finger and an underwhelming season at CCSU likely cost Vinales any serious consideration for the first team, yet there’s no ignoring his impact when he returned from injury to guide CCSU to a 5-2 record. As Vinales’ teammate, Faronte Drakeford emerged as one of the best post presences the conference has to offer. He finished inside the NEC top 15 in scoring (13.6 ppg), rebounding (5.3 rpg), blocked shots (0.6 bpg) and field goal percentage (49.0% FG%).
NEC All-Conference Second Team
- Kenneth Ortiz, Wagner
- Rashad Whack, Mount St. Mary’s
- Lucky Jones, Robert Morris
- Earl Brown, Saint Francis (PA)
- Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn
While his offensive numbers won’t wow you, opposing NEC coaches won’t ever dispute the terrific impact Kenneth Ortiz had the last three seasons in Staten Island. His contributions and intensity on both sides of the ball allowed Wagner to develop into a NEC powerhouse under the leadership of Dan Hurley and Bashir Mason. Not only did Rashad Whack better his scoring by 3 ppg, he also improved in every other facet of the game. Most notably, Whack was the best defender the Mount had to offer, even though his athleticism may be a tick below his teammates Julian Norfleet and Sam Prescott. Lucky Jones may have been snubbed from the all-conference second team last season by the coaches, yet we’re hoping they’ll recognize Jones’ invaluable contributions on both ends of the floor this time around. His ability to disrupt on the defensive end was essential as the wing of Andy Toole’s 2-3 zone. Earl Brown may have been the centerpiece of an offensively challenged team, but the junior power forward certainly made the most of it, finishing nationally ranked in effective field goal percentage and rebound rate. As a top 10 finisher in scoring and field goal percentage, the conference’s leading rebounder Jalen Cannon may have the biggest gripe for missing out on our all-conference first team.
NEC All-Conference First Team
- Jason Brickman, LIU Brooklyn
- Sidney Sanders, Jr., Fairleigh Dickinson
- Julian Norfleet, Mount St. Mary’s
- Karvel Anderson, Robert Morris
- Alex Francis, Bryant
Jason Brickman will finally earn his first ever all-conference first team selection on Tuesday, and quite frankly, we don’t know what took so long. For those who felt Brickman was the fortunate benefactor for having elite teammates to pass to such as Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere, how do they explain Brickman averaging 10.0 assists on a nine-win team that didn’t feature a dominant scorer? No one meant more to his team than Sidney Sanders. Without his elite scoring and playmaking, the Knights would have been the NEC bottom dwellers we all initially envisioned. Julian Norfleet was the quintessential scoring guard for Jamion Christian, but it was his ball handling that was most impressive, dishing out 5.5 assists per game while protecting the basketball (1.9 A/TO). Karvel Anderson had one of the greatest shooting seasons anyone will ever witness in the mid-major ranks. His ability to generate offense – he broke the 20 point barrier in 15 of 31 games – was critical in guiding the Colonials to their fifth NEC regular season championship in seven years. Lastly, Alex Francis joined some elite company this season, cracking the illustrious 2,000/1,000 club. As Tim O’Shea recently quipped after senior night, “Without (Alex) around, I may not be coaching Bryant these days.”
NEC Rookie of the Year – De’von Barnett, Sacred Heart
After missing the first eight games of the season thanks to an unfortunate high ankle sprain suffered one week before opening tip, De’von Barnett was immediately pushed into Anthony Latina’s rotation, and with good reason. His elite athleticism and silky smooth movement around the rim was impressive, and for a majority of the season, Barnett didn’t disappoint. The 19-year old freshman led all NEC rookies in scoring (11.0 ppg), efficiency rating (9.6) and field goal percentage (52.8%) by a respectable margin, all the while molding into a difficult-to-guard “tweener” – a forward who can post up or jump over smaller defenders and drive past bigger players. If the under-recruited freshman continues to progress, Sacred Heart assistant coach Johnny Kidd truly uncovered a gem. No disrespect to Saint Francis’ Malik Harmon and his steadiness at the point or FDU’s Matt MacDonald, but Barnett was the most dynamic and productive freshman in the conference hands down.
NEC Most Improved Player – Sidney Sanders, Fairleigh Dickinson
In a normal season, there would have been several worthwhile candidates fighting for this distinct honor – Mostafa Abdel-Latif, Gerrell Martin and Mathias Seilund all enjoyed fantastic bounce-back campaigns where each aforementioned player saw significant production increases in scoring, rebounding and overall efficiency. Instead, this honor belongs to Sidney Sanders, Jr., whose scoring jumped from 4.6 ppg as a junior to 19.2 ppg as a senior. Sanders, though, was far from a volume scorer; he drew a league leading 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes, was third in the NEC in assist rate and was the only point guard to reside in the NEC’s top 10 in turnover rate with a minuscule 13.1% mark. We knew Greg Herenda ran a point guard friendly system, so Sanders progression was expected, but his stark improvement was ridiculous and may never be emulated again.
NEC Defensive Player of the Year – Naofall Folahan, Wagner
If John’s defensive metrics analysis didn’t convince you that Naofall Folahan was the most disruptive force around the rim in the NEC, then we don’t know how else to convince you. Folahan garnered attention with his 10-block performance versus Monmouth this past December, but truth be told the African Defense Minister – a term coined by Wagner radio announcer Joey Wahler – was already one of the best shot blockers in the country. His 14.2% block rate was fifth nationally, behind the elite defending likes of Manhattan’s Rhamel Brown, St. John’s Chris Obekpa and IC Irvine’s 7’6” center Mamodou Ndiaye. That’s some really impressive company. Folahan deserves such praise, even if others will claim that his teammate and two-time defending DPOY Kenneth Ortiz is the best defensive stalwart Wagner has to offer. That may or may not be true, but Ortiz is afforded the opportunity to take chances defensively, because of Folahan’s fantastic rim-protection behind him. Call us old-fashioned, but we’ll side with the game-changing shot eraser – when Folahan wasn’t on the floor, Wagner’s defense simply wasn’t as dominant.
NEC Coach of the Year – Andy Toole, Robert Morris
Even with Greg Herenda transforming a hopeless FDU team into a respectable 10-win program this season, Andy Toole is by far and away the most deserving for NEC Coach of the Year. Robert Morris earned their second consecutive NEC regular season title and cracked the 18-win threshold in each of Toole’s four seasons, but the 2013-14 season was his most impressive feat. The Colonials may have been lucky getting to a 14-2 record in the conference, but Toole’s defensive transformation to a 2-3 zone was one of the best adjustments in college basketball, period. His astute adjustments and sound in-game management helped propel the young head coach’s career conference record to an astounding 53-17. And he did all this despite losing five, maybe six, key contributors by the conclusion of this season.
NEC Player of the Year – Karvel Anderson, Robert Morris
You won’t find a bigger Shane Gibson supporter than me, but Karvel Anderson’s 2013-14 season was even better than Gibson’s magical 2011-12 campaign from a pure scoring sense. For a 6’2″ shooting guard to shoot twos like an elite power forward (57.0%), drain threes with stunning consistency (46.4%), and post a NEC leading 130.4 offensive rating is remarkable. Despite the magnificent seasons from Alex Francis and Sidney Sanders, Jr., Anderson gets the nod as our NEC Player of the Year due to his ability to reliably and efficiently score and score often. Only twice this season did Anderson fail to crack double figures in a game and his 21.7 ppg mark was tops in NEC play. Perhaps even more impressive was his efficiency and low turnover rate despite handling more than a quarter of the Colonial’s possessions. A 1,000 point scorer in just two seasons, Anderson will go down as one of the best JUCOs ever to suit up in the NEC.
Do you disagree with any of the selections? Let us know in the comments box!
Our friends over at Mid-Major Madness polled the NEC experts, including myself, John Templon, Nelson Castillo, Lee Kunkel, Chris Capella, Parks Smith, and Andrew Chiappazzi on the all-conference first team and major awards.