As the NEC writer for the upcoming Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, I’ve started my deep analysis for each individual program. I still have several coaches to speak with throughout the summer, but I wanted to convey my current thoughts on the conference’s returning individual talent. Because 10 of 15 players have graduated or transferred from last year’s Big Apple Buckets all-NEC teams, this Way Too Early exercise would surely garner a ton of differing opinions.
Here’s my early attempt to identity the 15 best players in the NEC, which was made more difficult when two players who would’ve landed on the preseason all-conference first team, Matt Mobley and Marcquise Reed, transferred to the Atlantic 10 and ACC, respectively. Let’s begin!
NEC First Team
- G: Byron Ashe, Mount St. Mary’s
- G: Cane Broome, Sacred Heart
- G/F: Rodney Pryor, Robert Morris
- PF: Daniel Garvin, Bryant
- PF: Gregory Graves, Mount St. Mary’s
Rodney Pryor returns as the most prolific scorer in the conference, having averaged 16.0 ppg on a superb shooting line of 47.9% FG/72.9% FT/41.7% 3PT. The next two players on this list, though, might surprise you. They are shifty and sharpshooting guards Cane Broome (14.7 ppg) and Byron Ashe (14.1 ppg). If you remember during last year’s end of season awards, I admitted fault in leaving Broome off a Big Apple Buckets all-conference team. I won’t make the same mistake this time, although I’m not inserting Broome’s name here out of pure pity. The sophomore is legitimately one of the best scoring guards in the conference now that the Pioneer backcourt is all to himself with the graduation of Gaetano, Glowiak and Kelley. Ashe is a stud as well, as evident from his fantastic 119.1 offensive rating in league play. Daniel Garvin has NEC Player of the Year potential, especially when you hand him some of the possessions left behind by ball-chucker Dyami Starks. I see a lot of double doubles in this future. Finally, Mount big Gregory Graves edges out a group of impressive power forwards thanks to his athleticism, tenacity and efficiency around the rim.
NEC All-Conference Second Team
- G: Martin Hermannsson, LIU Brooklyn
- F: De’Von Barnett, Sacred Heart
- F: Jerome Frink, LIU Brooklyn
- PF: Brandon Peel, Central Connecticut
- PF: Amdy Fall, St. Francis Brooklyn
Martin Hermannsson had a very good freshman campaign (you just didn’t hear about it much because of Marcquise Reed and Broome). The guard got to the line a ton (51.3% FT rate, 222nd nationally) and showed an ability to finish in traffic, hitting 61% of his shot attempts near the hoop. The versatile guard will likely improve on his three-point shooting in year two and if that’s the case, I have zero reservations about calling the Iceland native a top 10 NEC player. Speaking of Blackbirds, evaluating a transfer’s play in a new league is risky business (we whiffed previously with Chris Martin and Jay Harris), but I believe Jerome Frink will emerge after having some success at the Conference USA level as an underclassman. His sophomore numbers did sag a bit, but a new coach and slower tempo failed to capitalize on Frink’s talent – I bet Jack Perri will do his best to optimize the power forward’s strengths. De’von Barnett has been a model of efficiency inside the arc, having impressively made 57.2% of his 377 two-point attempts as a Pioneer. Defenders can’t simply lay off him, since Barnett drained more than 47% of his two-point jumpers last season. Brandon Peel underwhelmed as a junior last season (92.0 offensive rating) on a dreadful team, but there’s no mistaking his dominance around the rim. I bet he’ll bounce back with an excellent senior campaign. I’m really excited to see what Amdy Fall can do as a senior. He’s already the best rim protector in the NEC (10th nationally last season with a 12.4% block rate), but his impact on the offensive end should improve now that Cannon is gone. His efficiency may take a hit, but his ability to draw contact and make free throws should serve him and the Terriers very well.
NEC All-Conference Third Team
- PG: Malik Harmon, Saint Francis U
- F: Elijah Minnie, Robert Morris
- PF: Ronnie Drinnon, Saint Francis U
- PF: Tevin Falzon, Sacred Heart
- PF: Mike Aaman, Wagner
Inconsistency has hindered Malik Harmon early on, but the junior floor general has the talent to excel. Quite frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if Kavon Stewart or Shane McLaughlin end in slipping in ahead of Harmon at season’s end. In Elijah Minnie’s last nine conference games, he emerged as a critical member of Andy Toole’s rotation, averaging 9.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.6 three-pointers per game. You don’t normally see an athletic, sharp shooting 6’9″ specimen hanging out in the NEC, hence my willingness to project the sophomore as a rising star in Andy Toole’s rotation. After posting just one double double in two seasons, Tevin Falzon added six more to his resume as a junior. On a rebounding rate basis, no one — that includes Cannon, Earl Brown and Peel — was better than the 6’7″ Pioneer for the 2014-15 season. Rob Krimmel will look for Ronnie Drinnon to step up as a senior now that Brown is a Red Flash graduate. Asking for Drinnon to emerge as an all-conference player is reasonable – last season the forward posted better than a 100 offensive rating in 10 conference games. When healthy, Mike Aaman projects as one of the best big men in a league full of quality power forwards. The problem is Aaman, who certainly doesn’t shy away from contact in the lane, missed 13 of Wagner’s 30 games last season and has a history of concussions.
Also Considered: Kavon Stewart, Robert Morris, Darian Anderson, FDU, Marcquise Townes, FDU, Junior Robinson, Mount St. Mary’s, Shane McLaughlin, Bryant, Nura Zanna, LIU Brooklyn
Top Eight Players in Returning Possession Minutes
- Darian Anderson – 18.6%
- Cane Broome – 18.2%
- Rodney Pryor – 17.6%
- Dan Garvin – 16.3%
- Brandon Peel – 15.7%
- Shane McLaughlin – 15.4%
- Malik Harmon – 15.4%
- Martin Hermannsson – 15.1%
Finally, I wanted to highlight the returning players who had the biggest impact on their clubs last season. It’s a surprisingly young list. Only two seniors, Peel and McLaughlin, are in the group as the remaining six were either first or second year players last season.
Darian Anderson wasn’t timid as a freshman – he handled nearly 26% of FDU’s possessions when on the floor. If he can make the expected leap most young guards make in year two, then Anderson is a star in the making. Ditto for Broome and Hermansson. Overall, I’d expect everyone on the list, with the possible exception of Harmon, to take on more possessions and exceed 20% RPMs.
Feel free to disagree with my selections in the comments section!
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride