The MAAC handed out individual postseason awards Friday morning. Here’s a rundown of who took home the hardware:
Player of the Year
Monmouth’s Justin Robinson was named MAAC Player of the Year. Robinson also took home the award following the 2015-16 season, and thus becomes the first player to take home the award in consecutive seasons since Manhattan’s Luis Flores accomplished the feat in 2003 and 2004.
“I was able to stay focused just because I wanted to be known as one of the best guards in my school’s history,” Robinson said during the league’s award show Friday morning. “I think I’ve done that and solidified myself as that, and now two-time player of the year think I’m considered one of the best guards in MAAC history.”
A native of Lake Katrine NY, Robinson led the league with an average of 19.7 points per game, slightly eclipsing his average of 19.3 ppg a season ago. Listed at 5-foot-8, the Hawks’ point guard is one of the league’s shortest players, but has clearly proved height is no issue as his success over his time in West Long Branch has drawn the attention of NBA scouts.
“Absolute, I feel like I can play with the best of the best,” Robinson said in regard to dreams of reaching the NBA. “That’s my plan, but right now I’ve got a game at 7:00”
Robinson is the third Monmouth player to capture a league Player of the Year award, but the first to repeat the honor. Blake Hamilton (2004-05) and Rahsaan Johnson (2000-01) previously took home Player of the Year honors when Monmouth was a member of the Northeast Conference.
Rookie of the Year
Quinnipiac’s Mikey Dixon was named 2016-17 MAAC Rookie of the Year. The Delaware native finished the regular season the league’s sixth-most proficient scorer at 16.8 ppg and demolished the previous Division I record for scoring by a Quinnipiac freshman.
Rob Monroe held the previous record of 13.0 ppg in the 2001-02 season, a landmark which was also eclipsed by Dixon’s teammate Peter Kiss (13.3 ppg) The duo captured ten MAAC Rookie of the Week awards during the 2016-17 season, with Dixon owning six of them.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and a wispy 160 pounds, Dixon can easily get lost among the larger bodies on the court, but nonetheless plays without fear. Despite his size, Dixon can often be found charging through the lane, challenging opposing teams’ forward to stop him at the rim.
“That’s just always been my mentality growing up,” Dixon said of his aggressive nature. “I’ve always been smaller before I got my growth spurt. That was just something I always played with that gave me that edge.”
Dixon listed the success of Monmouth’s Robinson as repeat Player of the Year as an influence in his continued development.
“With Justin, seeing that he’s not the biggest guy and he just goes out there and he’s fearless, that just gives guys like me, younger guys, the same opportunity,” Dixon said. “You don’t have to be the biggest guy on the court to impact the game.”
Dixon joins Marist’s Khallid Hart as MAAC Rookies of the Year to have been developed by Delaware’s Sanford School. Hart took home the award as a redshirt freshman following the 2013-14 season. Dixon is also the first Quinnipiac player to win a league Rookie of the Year award since Rob Monroe took home the honor in the Northeast Conference in 2001-02.
Defensive Player of the Year
Saint Peter’s guard Chazz Patterson was named MAAC Defensive Player of the Year.
“It means a lot,” Patterson said when accepting the award. “It’s something that I wanted before the season started, even last year. I feel like a lot of my efforts sometimes go unnoticed because they don’t show up on the statistics, so I’m very honored.”
The Peacocks have been far and away the league’s strongest defensive squad, and Patterson is the glue that holds their wall together. The senior helped lead Saint Peter’s to a season average of 61.6 points allowed per game, good for ninth in the nation.
“I’ve been in this league a long time and guards don’t get recognized enough for what they bring to the table,” head coach John Dunne said earlier this week. “We’re a very good defensive team, he’s the best defensive player on our team.”
Guards have indeed been at a disadvantage in terms of gaining recognition for Defensive Player of the Year honors. Niagara’s Anthony Nelson was the last backcourt player to capture the award, following the 2010-11 season.
“I don’t know the last time a guard got it, but I’ve always taken pride in stopping the other team’s best player,” Patterson added. “It helps my team win, so that’s what I’ll do.”
Sixth Man of the Year
Top-ranked Monmouth received another honor when junior Austin Tilghman was named MAAC Sixth Player of the Year.
Tilghman averaged 6.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and shot 49.5% from the field in 19.7 minutes per game this season.
“Austin is a winner and if you came to our practices, he will lead the second unit or the third unit and beat the first unit every other day,” head coach King Rice said of Tilghman earlier this week. “If you put him on the court, he’s going to find a way to impact the game in a positive way.”
Tilghman has embraced his role, especially on the defensive end of the ball for a senior-laden Monmouth squad looking to make a push to its first NCAA Tournament since 2006.
“It’s not who starts the game, it’s who finishes the game,” Tilghman said. “Coach has a lot of confidence in me. I just want to be on that defensive aspect and try to get stops for my team.”
Coach of the Year
The Hawks capped off an impressive morning when coach King Rice was named MAAC Coach of the Year.
Rice, who took home the same award following Monmouth’s run to the regular season title last season, helped guide the Hawks to the first 18-win season for a team in league history.
“I think the regular season things are great, and that’s a major thing we want to get done,” Rice said of captured a second consecutive regular season title. “Our kids have talked about this ‘MAAC Championship or bust’ mission for two years.”
Never one to brag, Rice remained humble when accepting the award and even made the case another of his peers may have been more deserving.
“Any time you win an award because your peers chose you, it’s an honor,” Rice said. “I voted for John Dunne myself. I don’t know if I should have gotten this award this year, because John probably did a better job than me.”
Monmouth begins its MAAC tournament play with a 7:00 contest against Niagara Friday night. The Hawks will look to become the league’s first #1 seed to capture the tournament title since Siena in 2010.
“I’ve read all the things the #1 seed hasn’t won in a long time, but I believe we have as good a chance as any of the other teams,” Rice added. “We’re going to fight.”
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.