With all eight members of the Ivy League just hours away from tipping off their seasons, it’s time to unveil our Big Apple Buckets preseason awards.
Player of the Year: Justin Sears, Yale
Nothing is guaranteed in the preseason, but it’s hard to imagine this award going to anyone besides Sears or Maodo Lo. Yale’s senior is our pick to repeat as Player of the Year. Sears has been a monster on both ends of the court for two years running, and after the graduation of All-Ivy point guard Javier Duren, the Bulldogs will count on him to do even more. After a slow start to the season (by his standards), the forward averaged 16 points per game in Ivy play with a 115 offensive rating. And those numbers could rise in 2016 — many of the league’s top interior defenders departed this summer (Steve Moundou-MIssi, Shonn Miller, Gabas Maldunas), leaving even fewer players capable of slowing Sears down.
First Team All-Ivy:
- Justin Sears, Yale
- Maodo Lo, Columbia
- Hans Brase, Princeton
- Spencer Weisz, Princeton
- Zena Edosomwan, Harvard
Maodo Lo is the league’s best scorer and the most fun player we’ve seen in several years. With a blinding first step, an impeccable handle and the ability to hit threes from anywhere — contested or not — Lo scored 30 points in three of his final five games last year. After spending his summer with the German national team, Lo will be the cornerstone of a potentially great Columbia offense. Hans Brase is one of the league’s best rebounders, and he’s been a go-to scorer throughout his career. His skills are perfect for Princeton’s system: Brase is a great passer for a big man, and he can step out and shoot a high volume of threes. Spencer Weisz, a former Rookie of the Year, had the league’s third-best true shooting percentage while increasing his usage in Princeton’s offense. Another small step forward would make him an elite offensive player. Zena Edosomwan became perhaps the Ivy League’s most heralded recruit when the top-100 prospect committed to Harvard, but his playing time has been limited in his first two seasons. On a completely overhauled roster, the Crimson will rely heavily on Edosomwan, and teammates say he has improved by leaps and bounds.
Second Team All-Ivy:
- Alex Rosenberg, Columbia
- Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown
- Amir Bell, Princeton
- Miles Wright, Dartmouth
- Makai Mason, Yale
At this time two years ago, Alex Rosenberg wasn’t even starting for Columbia. An All-Ivy season and a fractured foot later, expectations are much higher for his delayed senior season. In a crowded offense, Rosenberg won’t be asked to do as much as he did in 2013-14 — and his efficiency might regress from that peak — but his ability to draw fouls will bring balance to a Columbia offense that ranked last in free throw rate last year. Cedric Kuakumensah needs to block only 18 more shots to set the Ivy League career record (currently held by Dartmouth’s Brian Gilpin); he could get there by the end of November. He’s also a focal point for Brown’s offense, capable of scoring from the post and adding a three-point shot last year. Amir Bell started every game at the point as a rookie, giving Princeton’s offense a new look with his ability to score in traffic. If he improves his shot — both from three-point range and the foul line — he could end up an all-star for years to come. (Truthfully, picking all of Princeton’s nominees, between the three listed here and Steven Cook, felt like drawing names from a hat.) Miles Wright, the 2015 Rookie of the Year, will get many of the opportunities vacated by Gabas Maldunas and Alex Mitola. Wright needs to work on his passing (he had three assists, total, in Ivy play last year), but in all other respects he’ll be one of the league’s best wings. Makai Mason has already established a reputation as one of opposing fans’ least favorite players, with a hard-nosed style and a knack for making hustle plays. He’ll have to do much more this year as Yale’s full-time point guard.
Also considered: Robert Hatter, Cornell; Steven Cook, Princeton; Malik Gill, Dartmouth; Tavon Blackmon, Brown; Darien Nelson-Henry, Penn
Rookie of the Year: Jake Silpe, Penn
Jake Silpe has yet to play in a college game, but already, his name has been inextricably linked to that of Penn’s last Ivy POY, Zack Rosen. Silpe called Rosen his “basketball hero” this summer, and Quakers fans hope he follows the fellow New Jersey product’s footsteps to stardom. A highly touted recruit, Silpe made an excellent first impression at Penn’s scrimmage. Without Tony Hicks, Silpe is set to run Penn’s offense from day one.
Also considered: Tommy McCarthy, Harvard; Evan Boudreaux, Dartmouth; Corey Johnson, Harvard
Defensive Player of the Year: Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown
When you lead the league in blocks for three straight seasons, the Defensive Player of the Year award is yours to lose as a senior. Brown’s defense regressed heavily last year — in part because they were defending in transition too frequently — but Kuakumensah was hardly first in line for blame: The Bears’ interior defense was above the national average, and they were just outside the top 100 in block rate. As Brown’s only proven big man, Kuakumensah will need to mind his fouls this season, which might slow down his shot-blocking slightly, but he’ll still be one of the league’s most feared defenders.
Also considered: Justin Sears, Yale; Miles Wright, Dartmouth; Malik Gill, Dartmouth; David Onuorah, Cornell
Coach of the Year: Mitch Henderson, Princeton
When his team takes the court at Rider tonight, Mitch Henderson will become Princeton’s longest-tenured head coach since Pete Carril. For the first time, he has a rotation full of his recruits, and they have strong pedigrees: Three returning double-digit scorers, a promising young point guard, and a trio of former three-star recruits waiting on the bench. Princeton doesn’t have a star to match Justin Sears or Maodo Lo, but it has more depth — putting pressure on Henderson the tactician. He has always been creative with matchups, and he has molded the Tigers’ offense into a blend of traditional principles and one-on-one abilities. No Princeton coach has gone five straight years without an Ivy title since the early 1970s. Henderson’s reputation relies on this team living up to its potential.
Also considered: Kyle Smith, Columbia; James Jones, Yale