Let's cut right to the chase: Here are my reactions to the NEC awards announcement earlier this morning.
F - Jalen Cannon - Senior - SFC
F - Earl Brown - Senior - SFU
G - Marcus Burton - Senior - Wagner
G - Dyami Starks - Senior - Bryant
G - Brent Jones - Senior - SFC
No issues whatsoever here. My predictions included freshman guard Marcquise Reed over Starks, but it was close for me anyhow. Starks enjoyed a tremendous season to go along with three extremely productive years at Bryant; he deserved the nod here.
F - Dan Garvin - Sophomore - Bryant
G/F - Lucky Jones - Senior - RMU
G - Rodney Pryor - Junior - RMU
G - Marcquise Reed - Freshman - RMU
G - Matt Mobley - Sophomore - CCSU
I had Jones on the second-team in my predictions, but some could make a strong case for one team lower. Personally, had he not missed three conference games and played well in them, you could have maybe made an argument for the first-team if you were trying to predict how coaches might vote.
F - Gregory Graves - Junior - MSM
G - Evan Kelley - Senior - SHU
G - Joe O'Shea - Senior - Bryant
G - Gerrell Martin - Senior - LIU
G - Byron Ashe - Sophomore - MSM
The Sacred Heart Pioneers deserved at least one player here, and Kelley enjoyed a strong senior season. I think a strong case could be made for freshman guard Cane Broome to be included here over Martin. It's not hard to see the logic behind his selection, but even teammate, freshman guard Martin Hermannsson, had about as good a case as Martin, in my opinion.
Most Improved Player - Matt Mobley - Sophomore guard - CCSU
The loss of former guard Kyle Vinales certainly helped Mobley in terms of an individual award, but the seeds of his potential were already starting to sprout. It wasn't just that he became a better scorer, he became a monster one. Mobley crossed the 30-point plateau four times this season, three times during NEC play and more than any other player in the conference. Despite a small slip in his free throw percentage, he improved his accuracy from the field and beyond the arc with an increased workload.
Coach of the Year - Glenn Braica - SFC
A 15-3 record in NEC play, that even afforded them the ability to rest during their final game, is certainly a statement. Braica's team just didn't have a bad night. Their only two meaningful losses came against two teams (RMU and MSM) that finished in the top-4 in the regular-season standings. Despite losing forward Wayne Martin and Ben Mockford, his team lived up to being the preseason hype, and that's not an easy task.
Defensive Player of the Year - Amdy Fall - Junior forward - SFC
This pick seemed so obvious, but I thought that about former Wagner Seahawk Naofall Folahan last year. Fall's junior campaign wasn't vastly different than Folahan's final season. The former recorded 54 rejections during NEC play this year, while the latter swatted 55. Folahan played 60 more total minutes last year, but averaged about two less per game. My point: Fall was the clear winner in a race that wasn't that close, in my opinion, and Folahan basically enjoyed a similar year statistically last season. I may never drop this.
Rookie of the Year - Marcquise Reed - Freshman guard - RMU
I wrote an entire article on this a few weeks ago, and I don't want to rehash the same thing here, more or less. Reed has experienced some difficulty trying to adjust to being the top guy on opposing scouting reports, especially when Jones missed two games late in the season. Still, that probably serves him better in the long run and going into the conference tournament, which probably doesn't excite the seven other teams.
Player of the Year - Jalen Cannon - Senior forward - SFC
I went down with the ship on this one. My conviction that Brent Jones was the POY probably cost me any credibility I once had with a majority of media members that cover the NEC, sans Chris Cappella. Clearly, the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers are the best team in the conference, and in my opinion, have the best two players. I went with the one that I felt carried more individual value to the team, and perhaps that was too narrow in scope.
Let's get to Cannon, however. When you're career includes accomplishments such as the all-time leader in rebounds in the NEC and one of only two players to ever record 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds, you know you're one of the very best to have ever played in the conference. I've seen Cannon play live twice in his career: an 18 point, seven rebound, and 5 assist game in an OT loss against the Robert Morris Colonials last year, and a 5 point effort to go along with eight rebounds this past January. Guess which one I was more impressed with?
Cannon can absolutely fill a stat-sheet, there is no doubt about that. But of all the post players I saw this season, he was the only one who didn't express poor body language when he wasn't touching the ball, especially on the right block - a sweet spot for him. I saw a guy who officially recorded eight rebounds, but probably got his hands on at least 15. I saw a player who moved the ball well while on the move and adhered to the game plan that the coaching staff had prepared. He showed the leadership to assert himself early in the second half to cut into a double-digit lead, and was fine when the hot-hands took over the game late.
Do I stand by the method in which I selected the POY? Absolutely, it's my method after all. Still, Cannon is a very deserving recipient of the reward, and rose above everyone else over the last 2-3 weeks of the season.