Earlier this offseason we posted a “Way Too Early” all-conference assortment on the NEC, so now John and I are making it official.
After speaking with several coaches throughout the league, we’re ready to prognosticate for all of the individual and all-conference awards. Later this preseason, we’ll post our team predictions as well. Let’s begin!
All-Conference First Team
- Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut
- Dyami Starks, Bryant
- Earl Brown, Saint Francis U.
- Lucky Jones, Robert Morris
- Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn
There shouldn’t be much disagreement on who is on the all-conference first team to start the NEC season. These five seniors are definitely at the best individual talents in the NEC. The one thing that could potentially derail them this season? Injuries. Kyle Vinales only played in 20 games for CCSU last season due to injuries, but when playing he averaged 17.3 ppg and shot 39.7% from three-point range. Vinales will vie with Dyami Starks for the league scoring title. Starks had a 109.1 offensive rating while using 25.5% of Bryant’s possessions last season and that number could go even higher with Alex Francis not around this season. Jalen Cannon, Earl Brown and Lucky Jones are all double-doubles waiting to happen. Cannon had a 117.0 offensive rating last season and was among the national leaders in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Brown’s offensive rating and usage rose during each of his first three seasons with the Red Flash. Now, he has the chance to help Rob Krimmel’s team fight for a league title and has some more pieces around him so the numbers should continue to improve. Then there’s Jones. Karvel Anderson (rightfully) got a lot of hype last season, but Jones was the defensive linchpin of the Colonials and also averaged 13.9 ppg and 6.8 rpg last season. All five of these players are legitimate NEC Player of the Year contenders.
All-Conference Second Team
- Brent Jones, St. Francis Brooklyn
- Gerrel Martin, LIU Brooklyn
- Joe O’Shea, Bryant
- Ronnie Drinnon, Saint Francis U.
- Faronte Drakeford, Central Connecticut
Brent Jones is one of the best two-way players the NEC has to offer. In three consecutive seasons, Jones improved his offensive rating (83.5 to 84.5 to 109.1) and assist rate (36.6% to 38.6% to 44.7%) while managing to decrease his turnover rate. His defensive contributions are also noteworthy – last season NEC point guards shot a hideous 29.1% against the Terriers. For the 2013-14 season, Faronte Drakeford led all newcomers in scoring at 13.3 ppg. Sure, he wasn’t the most efficient (49.2% 2-point), but there’s room for improvement if he decides to attack the rim more often. With a solid 44.3% mark on 2-point jumpers, he’ll certainly keep low post defenders honest. With the exception of Sidney Sanders, no one improved their scoring more than Gerrell Martin. As the lone senior member of LIU Brooklyn’s backcourt, Martin should lead Jack Perri’s offensive attack thanks to a career three-point percentage of 43.9%. Ronnie Drinnon did his best Earl Brown impersonation last season, by emerging out of nowhere midseason to become one of the best rebounders (12.2%/17.7% offensive/defensive rebound rate) in the NEC. The 6’7” power forward simply has a nose for the basketball and should develop into a future double double machine. Joe O’Shea is an advanced metrics dream, nationally ranked in offensive rating (114.8), turnover rate (13.7%) and effective field goal percentage (54.2%). As the Robin to Starks’ Batman, we expect the coach’s nephew to continue to mature.
All-Conference Third Team
- Chris Martin, Mount St. Mary’s
- Marcus Burton, Wagner
- Dwaun Anderson, Wagner
- De’Von Barnett, Sacred Heart
- Brandon Peel, Central Connecticut
At just 6’0”, Chris Martin may struggle during the Mount’s insanely difficult non-conference schedule, but by the time NEC play rolls around, we expect the Marshall transfer to lead his team in scoring and be a pest defensively. His ability to score a variety of ways will help temper the loss of the graduating Big Three. Marcus Burton will be a fascinating study this season. Now the main man on Staten Island, the efficient Burton (112.5 offensive rating) will be the main focus on opposing scouting reports. The adjustment won’t be easy, but we’re betting Burton will serve one of the few reliable options of Wagner’s offensive attack. We’ve been lured in by Dwaun Anderson‘s elite athleticism, but so far the production level hasn’t matched the talent. With five of Wagner’s top six scorers no longer on campus, though, the opportunity for Anderson is officially here. As the most efficient rookie of the 2013-14 season, De’von Barnett may be the most athletic underclassman the NEC has to offer. His ability to electrify around the rim was in plain slight and his role should continue to increase under Anthony Latina. Of the returning players, guess which one in NEC play finished second in efficiency rating, second in RPG and first in BPG last season. That answer, to your surprise I reckon, is Brandon Peel. Peel, who shot a fantastic 68.4% on shots near the rim last season, is woefully underrated when healthy.
Also Considered: Daniel Garvin, Bryant; Amdy Fall, St. Francis Brooklyn; Malik Harmon, Saint Francis U.; Malcolm McMillan, Central Connecticut
NEC Player of the Year: Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn — All five first-team members are legitimate contenders for this award, but the only player that can stop the bouncy 6’6″ senior forward in NEC is Cannon himself. Last season Cannon experimented with a three-point shot, going 13-47 (27.7%). His offensive rating has stayed steady each of the past three seasons and really it’s only Cannon’s assertiveness on offense and his minutes in Glenn Braica’s rotation that have kept him from putting up even bigger numbers. If Cannon can lead the Terriers to their first ever NEC championship he’ll be the league’s Player of the Year.
NEC Rookie of the Year: Nura Zanna, LIU Brooklyn — After sitting out a season due to a wrist injury Zanna appears to have both the opportunity and skills to have a huge freshman season for the Blackbirds. Other newcomers might vie for the award, including Bryant’s Hunter Ware and Fairleigh Dickinson’s Marques Townes, but Zanna has the pedigree (as a McDonald’s All-American and brother of former Pittsburgh player Talib Zanna) and an extra year in a collegiate weight room to make him the clear favorite for the award.
Other freshmen to watch: Hunter Ware, Bryant, Marques Townes and Darian Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson, Cane Broome, Sacred Heart
NEC Defensive Player of the Year: Lucky Jones, Robert Morris — Jones showed a ton of versatility last season while on the court for the Colonials and can make an impact on the defensive end in a variety of ways. He just edged out St. Francis Brooklyn’s Amdy Fall for this award. Jones showed his versatility defensively by not only grabbing 21% of available defensive rebounds, but also having a steal percentage of 2.5% and a 1.8% block percentage.
NEC Coach of the Year: Considering how wide open the NEC is going to be this season, this award will basically come down to which coach is able to lead his team to a league title. We’re reserving judgement until a team actually starts making its push, but of course Robert Morris’s Andy Toole, St. Francis Brooklyn’s Glenn Braica, and Central Connecticut’s Howie Dickenman are some of the favorites. Let us know who you think will win the league and coach of the year in the comments.