Big Apple Buckets Patriot League Individual Awards

In advance of tomorrow’s media day, Big Apple Buckets would like to present their preseason all-conference teams and individual awards for the Patriot League.

This season I’m getting help from Kevin Doyle, a familiar and well-known voice for fans of this conference. Kevin, in fact, plans to help us out throughout the season with posts on the Patriot and Ivy League. As you already know, not many people know these conferences, and college basketball in general, as well as Kevin does.

Let’s begin with our all-conference teams.

All-Conference First Team

  • Darius “Pee Wee” Gardner, American
  • Kyle Wilson, Army
  • Seth Hinrichs, Lafayette
  • Malcolm Miller, Holy Cross
  • Tim Kempton, Lehigh
Darius Gardner is one of the best all around players in the Patriot League. (Photo credit - One Bid Wonders)

Darius Gardner is one of the best all around players in the Patriot League. (Photo credit – One Bid Wonders)

Pee Wee Gardner, a transfer from Stephen F. Austin, took the Patriot League by storm a year ago, and was an integral piece to American’s Patriot League championship. Gardner was an iron man for Mike Brennan last season playing 37.0 minutes per game. He was a menace on the defensive end averaging better than two steals per game, while boasting an assist to turnover ratio of 1.5. Gardner’s play draws parallels to former American point guard Derrick Mercer, who led the Eagles to back-to-back PL championships. If Seth Hinrichs (more on him later) is the best scorer in the league, Army’s Kyle Wilson isn’t far behind. Wilson has been instrumental in Army’s turnaround under Zach Spiker. Sitting at 972 career points just halfway through his career, Wilson has an outside shot to eclipse the 1,000 point plateau in Army’s opening game against Air Force. Should Wilson continue on his torrid scoring pace, he has a chance to crack the top five for most points in Patriot League history. Malcolm Miller has shown flashes of breaking out during his sophomore season, but often seemed too passive on the offensive end. An improved shot (30% 3PT during freshman and sophomore seasons to 41.9% 3PT last season) and more of an “attack” mentality led to an all-conference third team selection. With Dave Dudzinski graduating, Miller is now undoubtedly Milan Brown’s go-to player. It didn’t take long for Tim Kempton to elevate himself as one of the premier big men in the league last year as a freshman. With Wroblicky and Dudzinski gone, Kempton returns as the league’s leading rebounder (7.1 RPG). Lehigh’s success hinges on how well they replace McKnight, and if Kempton takes the next step at becoming an even more polished center.

All-Conference Second Team

  • Austin Tillotson, Colgate
  • Chris Hass, Bucknell
  • Jeese Reed, American
  • Tanner Plomb, Army
  • Dan Trist, Lafayette

The omission of Austin Tillotson from last season’s all-conference team made us angry, because leaving out one of the most efficient players in all of mid-major basketball was verifiably ridiculous. In his first season at Colgate, Tillotson hit a staggering 64% of his 2s and 48% of his 3s, at a mere 6’0”. While those percentages may be unsustainable, there’s no denying Tillotson’s talent. He won’t be denied an all-conference selection as a junior. The season began quietly enough for Chris Hass until an early three game stretch in January produced 65 points on just 33 shots. After that, the sophomore showed bouts of inconsistency, yet he emerged as Bucknell’s second leading scorer and will likely lead the Bison with Cameron Ayers as an alum. Most guards make a significant leap in their second season, and Jesse Reed was no exception. The 6’4” guard improved his offensive rating (94 to 111) and effective field goal percentage (44% to 60%) aided by a newfound willingness to attack the rim. As one of the league’s better dribble-drive guards, he should continue to flourish in Mike Brennan’s offense. Spiker may substitute like he’s a hockey coach, but he needs to find more minutes for Tanner Plomb. His fantastic shooting line of 51%/41%/77%, along with an ability to crash the defensive glass (20.6% defensive rebounding rate), makes Plomb one of the more underrated players in the Patriot League. Dan Trist barely played half of Lafayette’s available minutes last season, and yet, the power forward certainly took advantage. He was (predictably) terrific at rebounding, grabbing 13% and 18% of the available offensive and defensive rebounds, respectively. If he played some defense once in a while — a block percentage of 0.9% for a 6’9″ center is underwhelming — he would have likely made our first team.

All-Conference Third Team

  • Nick Lindner, Lafayette
  • Anthony Thompson, Holy Cross
  • Eric Fanning, Boston University
  • John Schoof, American
  • Kevin Ferguson, Army

Our all-conference third team consists of four guards and frankly we don’t care. This team is loaded with upside, starting with sophomore point guard Nick Lindner. In his rookie season, Lindner was excellent in two skills any coach would covet from their point guard – getting to the free throw line (5.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes) and distributing the ball (26% assist rate). Speaking of sophomore point guards, Anthony Thompson emerged as one of the better two-way players of his conference. In addition to be a constant pest on the defensive end, Thompson wisely utilized his quickness offensively by posting a 120 offensive rating. Someone is going to emerge as Joe Jones’ go-to guy at Boston University, and our guess is that it’ll be Wagner transfer Eric Fanning. With a transfer season off to refine his game, the sky’s the limit for the former high school prolific scorer. At 6’4”, Fanning can score a variety of ways. John Schoof does one thing really well: shoot the three-pointer. To Schoof’s credit, though, he was more aggressive inside the arc during his junior campaign, attempting a higher percentage of 2s when the opportunity presented itself. What he lacks in athleticism, he makes up in basketball IQ. Finally, 6’10” center Kevin Ferguson made the most of his size and minutes, sinking a remarkable 67% of his shot attempts as a sophomore. His size was felt on the defensive end as well. Only 40 other players nationally had a better block rate than Ferguson (9.5%).

Also Considered: Bryce Scott, Lafayette, Worth Smith, Navy, Dylon Cox, Army, Joey Ptasinski, Lafayette

Player of the Year Seth Hinrichs, Lafayette

Lafayette went a disappointing 11-20 last season, after preseason expectations that projected the Leopards to finish near the top of the conference. A bevy of injuries derailed Lafayette, none more significant than Seth Hinrichs missing time due to a knee injury. Without Hinrichs, Lafayette was 0-11, with him they were a respectable 11-10. The senior from Minnesota is the most prolific scorer in the Patriot League when healthy. A career 44.7% 3PT shooter (48.2% FG and 80.4% FT) who has the ability to get to the rim standing at 6’7″, Hinrichs is a prototypical player in Fran O’Hanlon’s shooter-friendly offense.

Rookie of the Year – Kahron Ross, Lehigh

With graduation claiming Mackey McKnight, significant minutes are readily available at point guard, and Kahron Ross figures to fill the void. Should Ross take over McKnight’s duties, he would be the third straight Lehigh point guard to start as a freshman, following Marquis Hall and the aforementioned McKnight. A 5-foot-11 guard from Jonesboro, AR, Ross was named the MVP of the Arkansas state tournament as a senior, leading Jonesboro to the championship.

Other freshmen to watch: J.C. Show and Nana Foulland, Bucknell; Eric Johnson, Boston University, Mitchell Hahn, Holy Cross; Cam Gregory, Loyola (MD)

Defensive Player of the Year – Jarred Jones, Loyola (MD)

There aren’t many more — if any — versatile and active defenders in the league than Loyola’s Jarred Jones. At 6-foot-7, Jones averaged 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. If Loyola is to be competitive in the coming season and improve upon their 1.09 PPP, Jones and Franz Rassman need to be big in the frontcourt.

Coach of the Year – Mike Brennan, American

For much of the Patriot League portion of American’s schedule last season and during the conference tournament, Mike Brennan flabbergasted his coaching peers with the Princeton-style offense, slow pace of play and rigid defense. None of this was more evident in American’s dominating semifinal and final wins of the Patriot League Tournament when the Eagles held Holy Cross to 46 points and Boston University to a paltry 36 points in the championship. If Nevada transfer Kevin Panzer successfully replaces Tony Wroblicky’s production, Brennan and American will be at the top of the league, once again.