It went by way too fast, but here we are a few days away form the start of the NEC tournament. In the meantime, John and I diligently poured through the statistics and went through our recollections to determine the best NEC players of the 2016-17 season.This is never an easy task, but we feel pretty good about our selections, which I can promise you is devoid of team and class bias. I think.
Let’s begin with our main awards, following by the all-conference teams. Enjoy!
NYC Buckets NEC Player of the Year
Jerome Frink, LIU Brooklyn – The fifth year senior didn’t turn in a Julian Boyd-like performance from the 2011-12 season, but then again Frink didn’t have the supporting cast Boyd enjoyed from that championship campaign. Nevertheless, Frink’s senior accomplishments were still tremendous, as he displayed very good to elite skills in all facets of the game. He posted an above average offensive rating of 103.6 despite commanding more than 28% of his team’s possessions. He was exceptional at protecting the defensive glass (22.9% defensive rebounding rate, 96th nationally) and grew his game by nearing doubling his assist rate from 8.4% as a junior to 16.5% this season. On the defensive end, Frank protected the rim well (1.0 bpg) and the team was a better defensive unit when he was on the floor. There isn’t a better 2-way player in the NEC at the moment.
NYC Buckets NEC Rookie of the Year
Keith Braxton, Saint Francis University – The Red Flash are loaded with good, young contributors, but honestly Braxton may be the best of the bunch and that’s saying a lot. Among NEC players who had at least a 20% possession rate, Braxton had the second best offensive rating in the league. Furthermore, he landed in the conference’s top five in true shooting percentage (62.1%) and defensive rebounding rate (20.1%) while playing more than 85% of Saint Francis’ available minutes. He was also incredibly consistent for a newcomer, logging 19 games with at least 10 points and 5 rebounds. His insertion at the 4, despite his smallish 6-foot-4 frame, allowed Rob Krimmel more flexibility with his rotation and kept lesser frontcourt players from logging more minutes. In a league loaded with exceptional rookies, Braxton stood out by a fair margin.
NYC Buckets NEC Coach of the Year
Jack Perri, LIU Brooklyn – Admittedly, I was on the ‘Jamion Christian for COY’ bandwagon for much of February, but given LIU Brooklyn’s overall body of work, I have Christian narrowly losing to Perri, now in his fifth year. Despite plenty of unforeseen roster turnover culminating with Joel Hernandez’s injury and Martin Hermannsson leaving at the 11th hour to fulfill his professional basketball dream, Perri still squeezed 20 wins out of this roster. The Blackbirds upset Northeastern and St. John’s during the non-conference and finished second in league play with a 13-5 record. Arguably, this may be the best coaching accomplishment to date for Perri, and I’m including LIU Brooklyn’s 2013 NEC championship! As good as Christian and Rob Krimmel were, and they were terrific in their own right, Perri deserved this award the most for getting his team back on the championship track with reduced resources.
NYC Buckets NEC Most Improved Player
Elijah Long, Mount St. Mary’s – While there were many qualified candidates this season, Long was one of three players whose improvement positively impacted his team the most (Jamaal King and Iverson Fleming were arguably the others). If you disagree, please at least look at these numbers:
- Long as a sophomore: 97.5 ORtg, 14.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.5 apg, 52.4% true shooting %
- Long as a freshman: 80.9 ORtg, 5.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 40.7% TS%
On a team loaded with balance and viable scoring options, Long was the one who commanded the most attention on defensive scouting reports. With a myriad of skills, Long is following the same path as a similar Mount guard and NEC great, Julian Norfleet.
NYC Buckets Defensive Player of the Year
Josh Nebo, Saint Francis University – Without elite defensive options like Kenny Ortiz and Amdy Fall to fall back on, the selection of Nebo required a deep dive into John’s computer. May we present you with those findings:
- Josh Nebo – SFU allowed 23.7 fewer points per 100 possessions when in the game
- Iverson Fleming – LIU allowed 14.2 fewer points per 100 poss when in the game
- Chris Wray – Mount allowed 7.8 fewer points per 100 poss when in the game
All three players mentioned above were splendid defenders on top 4 programs, but it was Nebo’s effort that gives him the nod. Quite frankly, we’ve never seen a +23 on defense before, but given the sophomore’s surface statistics this makes sense. He posted the best block rate (8.5%) in the conference, while cleaning up the defensive glass with a 19.2% rebounding rate. Nebo’s foul rate was respectable for an active big man at 3.4 fouls committed per 40 minutes, affording Rob Krimmel the opportunity to plug him in the game 75% of the time. Basically, Nebo is just like Amdy Fall (the sophomore version), albeit with a more advanced offensive game.
NYC Buckets NEC All-Conference First Team
- Jerome Frink, LIU Brooklyn
- Elijah Long, Mount St. Mary’s
- Nisre Zouzoua, Bryant
- Darian Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson
- Quincy McKnight, Sacred Heart
Behind Frink in the NEC POY chase were three sophomores who had noteworthy seasons. Long transformed Mount St. Mary’s offense with his ability to score (14.6 ppg), facilitate (4.4 apg) and rebound (5.3 rpg) the basketball. In my opinion, there isn’t a better pure scorer in the league than Zouzoua. The athletic sophomore built on a promising freshman campaign by logging 20 or more points in 16 games by scoring a number of ways. Even though McKnight struggled with turnovers as Sacred Heart’s leading scorer, he made terrific strides in his sophomore season. He finished second in scoring (18.9 ppg), tied for third in steals (1.6 spg) and led the league by a mile in made free throws (165). Until now, you can argue that Anderson has been under appreciated within the conference, but it’s simply impossible to ignore a 16.9 ppg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 spg and 1.5 assist to turnover ratio line this season.
NYC Buckets NEC All-Conference Second Team
- Michael Carey, Wagner
- Corey Henson, Wagner
- Josh Nebo, Saint Francis University
- Junior Robinson, Mount St. Mary’s
- Joe Lopez, Sacred Heart
After a tough non-conference season, Carey shined as we all expected him to by registering 8 double doubles and posting a 113.9 offensive rating in league play. He also led the conference in rebounding at 9.0 rpg. Henson, Carey’s teammate, continued to established himself as a versatile combo guard, pouring in 14.5 ppg and a 18.5% assist rate. An all-NEC second team recipient last season, the wonderfully athletic Robinson actually had a more efficient season as a junior with the ninth best true shooting percentage (58.7%) in the NEC. Rounding out the top 10 are two excellent big men, Nebo and Lopez. As discussed earlier, Nebo had an immense impact on Saint Francis on both ends of the floor. Lopez, a 6-foot-7 bull around the rim, injected Sacred Heart with much needed offense in the paint. He converted 56.9% of his 2-point attempts while finishing fourth league wide in rebounding (8.6 rpg).
NYC Buckets NEC All-Conference Third Team
- Keith Braxton, Saint Francis University
- Isaiah Blackmon, Saint Francis University
- Chris Wray, Mount St. Mary’s
- Iverson Fleming, LIU Brooklyn
- Isaiah Still, Robert Morris
It doesn’t happen often, but Braxton’s rookie contributions were also good enough to place him just outside our top 10. Blackmon, another Saint Francis sophomore, was sensational after fully recovering from a torn ACL just a year prior. In league play, he finished third in offensive rating (119.6) and first in 3-point shooting (50.8%). There isn’t a more dynamic two-way player than Wray. His game changing athleticism at the four has even come through in the clutch on more than one occasion this season. Fleming was a defensive rock and model of consistency in his senior season, scoring in double figures in 16 of 18 conference games. Finally, a strong finish to the season – 19.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2 made 3s per game over the last eight contests – allowed Still to land on our all-conference third team. His recent streak has guided Robert Morris to six wins in their last eight games.
Also Considered: Stephen Jiggetts, Fairleigh Dickinson, Mike Holloway, Fairleigh Dickinson, Austin Nehls, Central Connecticut, Nura Zanna, LIU Brooklyn, Earl Potts, Fairleigh Dickinson, Bosco Kostur, Bryant
NYC Buckets All-Conference Rookie Team
- Keith Braxton, Saint Francis U
- Adam Grant, Bryant
- Miles Wilson, Mount St. Mary’s
- Rasheem Dunn, St. Francis Brooklyn
- Jashaun Agosto, LIU Brooklyn
This was a talented rookie class, where all five recipients displayed consistency throughout the season. As someone who broke double figures in 21 of 30 games, Grant gave Tim O’Shea a dependable combo guard alongside Zouzoua. If it wasn’t for Braxton’s performance, Wilson had a respectable shot to become the next Mount rookie of the year since Shivaughn Wiggins won it in 2013. For a rookie to make 54.4% of his 2s is pretty impressive. Lastly, two standout freshmen guards in Brooklyn round out the top five. Dunn was a proficient scorer who took on more than 25% of St. Francis Brooklyn’s possessions, while Agosto stabilized the point guard position on both ends of the floor for Perri.
Also Considered: Dachon Burke, Robert Morris, Randall Gaskins, Saint Francis University, Blake Francis, Wagner, Kaleb Bishop, Fairleigh Dickinson
Disagree with any of our selections? I’m sure you do in some way, so let’s us know in the comments section for a healthy debate!
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride