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Basketball U. Postseason Awards

26 February, 2007

by Elliot Smilowitz

The rules for the Basketball U. Postseason Awards are simple: All players from Patriot League teams are eligible. The entire season is considered, with extra weight given to conference play.

Basketball U. Player of the Year: Keith Simmons, Holy Cross
Sometimes it’s hard to choose a top player among a group of great candidates. Sometimes you have to choose between the best scorers (17.2 points per game, first in the league), the best defensive players (second in steals, seventh in blocks), the most reliable shooters (49.6 shooting percentage, fifth in the league), the pound-for-pound best rebounders (6.0 rebounds per game, third in the league), and the biggest winners (13-1 in league play). Then again, sometimes there’s a Keith Simmons, who encompasses all of that. Simmons leaves the Patriot League as, with apologies to Charles Lee and Patrick Doctor, the best finished league product since Adonal Foyle.

First Team
Keith Simmons, Holy Cross

Torey Thomas, Holy Cross
Almost lost amidst Simmons’ spectacular season, fellow Crusader senior Thomas has been the top point guard in the league. Thomas has been a multi-dimensional offensive threat, drawing points from the arc (40.7 percent three-point shooting) as well as the line (165 free throw attempts at a 74.5 percent shooting clip), and running the offense in an explosive and efficient manner, with 4.8 assists per game, second in the league, and a 1.21:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Donald Brown, Bucknell
For 25 percent of the season, Donald Brown sat helplessly on the bench with injury. His team won every game he missed, and that can be held against him. But for 75 percent of the season, Brown was an unstoppable force, putting up 11.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, scoring on 58.2 percent of his field goal attempts. He was a match-up nightmare in and out of conference, a 6-6 swingman quick enough to embarrass forwards and strong enough to overpower wings. Yes, Donald Brown missed 25 percent of the season, but for what he gave Bucknell for the 75 percent that he played, he belongs here.

Matt Bell, Army
Teammate Jarell Brown has drawn more headlines and averaged 2.2 more points per game, but it was Bell that controlled the game and exerted his will for the Black Knights this year. Bell scored his 14.9 points per game by shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 51.2 percent for three. Bell, a four-year starter, was forced out of his comfort zone as he was responsible for running the offense most of the year while Jarell Brown became the focal point, but Bell took to the role with aplomb, becoming the high-efficiency backup option for the Knights.

Greg Sprink, Navy
Sprink finished second only to Simmons with 17.2 points per game, falling just 2 points shy of reaching 500 points on the season. Perhaps more importantly, Sprink held together the Midshipmen as a junior leader on a team with no seniors playing regularly. He became a strong defender, developed a sense of when to shoot (45.7 percent from the field) and when to pass (2.5 assists per game from a 6-5 swingman), and led Navy to its best record in years. As a scorer, few Patriot Leaguers can keep up with him; as a leader, Greg Sprink is unparalleled.

Second Team
Chris McNaughton, Bucknell
The Patriot League coaches’ choice for preseason player of the year seemed missing at times early in the season, but McNaughton came on strong as the league schedule wore on, especially when frontcourt-mate Donald Brown went down to injury. On the whole, McNaughton finished the year with 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, but McNaughton is a case of the cliché “he’s more than his stats show” being true: League coaches habitually double-teamed him, opening up the offense for Brown, Darren Mastropaolo and Patrick Behan. McNaughton sometimes seemed too passive because of the double-teams, but when allowed a window to shoot he made opponents pay to the tune of 55.7 percent field-goal shooting.

Jarell Brown, Army
It’s hard to be Jarell Brown. Really. You don’t think so? Try hitting the court with the other team knowing you take more than a quarter of your team’s shots. Try doing it as a 6-2 wing player in a guard’s league, where every team has a defensive specialist just iching to sidle up to you and never give you daylight. Try taking 399 shots in a season of those conditions. Will you hit 42.4 percent of your field goals, or 41.5 percent of your 200 (!!) three-point attempts? Jarell Brown will. Jarell Brown will take the ball and, when everybody knows what’s going to happen, Jarell Brown will still find a way over, through or around his defender to the tune of 17.1 points per game.

Andre Ingram, American
It’s sort of easy to not realize just how good Ingram’s been this season. Given what he did as a freshman and sophomore, unrealistic expectations have colored people’s views of Ingram’s performance. If it’s possible to have an under-the-radar career year, Ingram did it this year, putting up career highs of 15.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game, career-high shooting percentages of 41.9 percent from the floor, 42.8 percent from the arc and 82.6 percent from the line, and a career-high assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.39:1.

Jose Olivero, Lehigh
To the uninitiated, it may seem like Olivero started the year strong but began to struggle as the season progressed, as his scoring totals slowly fell. However, a closer look reveals an uncanny team instinct that Olivero lacked in years past. Olivero put himself out there in November and December, giving freshman point guard Marquis Hall enough slack to figure his game out. When Hall began showing that he could carry some scoring load, Olivero pulled back, lowering his shot attempts to clear space for Hall while raising his assists and lowering his turnovers. Much like with Ingram, some fans expected Olivero to become an unstoppable scoring machine by his senior year, but instead he worked on his weaknesses and developed into a complete player.

Marquis Hall, Lehigh
A freshman running point? It happens in the Patriot League every now and again. A freshman running point for the third-place team in the league? Not out of the question. A freshman running point for the third-place team in the league who becomes an alpha scoring option on a team with a 1,700-point scorer? Unheard of. A sophomore who gets picked as preseason player of the year? After Marquis Hall’s year, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

Basketball U. Freshman of the Year: Marquis Hall, Lehigh

All Freshman Team
Marquis Hall, Lehigh

Trey Stanton, Navy
6-10 with an outside shooting touch and a flair for dramatic blocks, Stanton fit immediately into Navy’s system. His efficiency waned as the season progressed, but the impact he had is something few freshmen achieve.

Eric Meister, Holy Cross
Injuries and ineffectiveness forced Meister into duty, and he responded by becoming something few Patriot League teams have: A competent and skilled frontcourt player off the bench. Meister grabbed 3.5 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game, and made teams pay for leaving him open by shooting 53.4 percent from the floor.

Chris Walker, Army
Walker’s slow finish to the season have soured some on him, but his composite production (5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game) warrants a spot on this list.

Zahir Carrington, Lehigh
This monster has “future rebounding champion” written all over him. With 5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, Carrington came together with Phil Anderson and Bryan White to form an effective frontcourt after Jason Mgrebroff went down with injury.

Basketball U. Coach of the Year: Jim Crews, Army
By a show of hands, who had the Black Knights winning 14 games this season? Ralph Willard and Pat Flannery have been great, and the middle-of-the-pack teams have shown a resiliency that only comes from strong leadership. But anytime a Patriot League team more than quadruples its win output from the previous season, something special is going on.

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