The talent within the Northeast Conference was on full display yet again last season. The NEC produced the top two assist leaders in the country, a top 10 scorer nationally, a top 10 ball stealer, a top 5 highest-scoring team nationally as well as the best rebounding team in the nation. The conference for the second consecutive season received three postseason bids which is a first for the NEC. The conference may lack in national hype but it doesn’t lack in quality players who help their team succeed.
With that, today I begin examining the 2013-14 NEC men’s basketball season by revealing the second annual Blackbirds Hoops Journal’s Top 30 players in the Northeast Conference. Those of you who follow the NEC will have a good idea who most of the players on this are. Some of you will ask where is so and so on the list or say who the heck is that guy? This is a subjective list created by myself based on how these players did last season and/or seasons prior on what impact they will have on their teams this season. Based on this premise, I came up with what I think are the 30 best players we will see representing NEC schools this season.
Let’s begin by looking at players 30 through 21.
30. Ben Mockford – Guard – Senior – St. Francis Brooklyn (’12-’13 stats: 30 GP/26 starts, 11.1 ppg, 39.0 FG%, 39.8 3FG%)
Mockford is a prototypical all-or-nothing player. Example: last season he had five games where he scored 18 or more points but then he also had 9 games where he scored 5 points or fewer including a pair of goose eggs. Mockford can shoot his team into a game and as quickly shoot them out of it. When he is squared up and has a good look, it is usually going in but he likes shooting too many off-balanced shots especially fade aways. If he can correct that part of his game, he is going to have a very good season for the Terriers.
29. Anthony Myers-Pate – Guard – Senior – Robert Morris (’12-’13 stats: 32 GP/8 starts, 5.9 ppg, 2.7 apg)
Myers-Pate was Velton Jones’ understudy for most of his career at RMU. Last season, due to Jones’ various injuries, Myers-Pate started in 8 games for the Colonials and held the fort very well for Andy O’Toole’s team. He even started in their biggest postseason win ever, the NIT first round win at home vs Kentucky. This season, he finally gets the key to the car and RMU will likely not skip a beat with him at the point guard spot. Look for Myers-Pate to help lead RMU to contention once again in the NEC.
28. Ben Millaud-Meunier – Guard – Sophomore – St. Francis (PA) (’12-’13 stats: 20 GP/4 starts, 9.3 ppg, 47.0 FG%, 47.6 3FG%)
Last season, the 6’1″ guard made the NEC All-Rookie Team even though he played in only 20 games. His excellent outside shooting is what got him on it. He shot over 47% from three last season and scored over 20 points in a game three times including a season-high 26 points. He will likely get his opportunity to start from game one this season on a young SFU team.
27. Jay Harris – Guard – R-Junior – Wagner (Sat out last season after transferring from Valparaiso)
Harris is being hyped as the missing piece to what could be a championship campaign for Bashir Mason’s team. Ryan Peters of Big Apple Buckets ranked him #1 on his Top NEC Impact Transfers List. Harris two seasons ago while at Valpo averaged 9 ppg and shot 40% from the field. He is an outside threat and will launch plenty of threes as his 383 career three-point attempts already shows. He is now on a team that already has plenty of long-range shooters on it but you can be sure he will find a way to get his shots.
26. Joe O’Shea – Guard/Forward – R-Junior- Bryant – (’12-’13 stats: 31 GP/3 starts, 8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
O’Shea made a nice impact in his first season playing under his uncle Tim O’Shea. Was Bryant’s fifth leading scorer and provided good punch off the bench. Could likely move into the starting lineup this season with the graduation of point guard Frankie Dobbs, opening up a guard spot. Shot barely over 30% from three-point range last season but did grabbed close to 4 boards a game which is not bad for a 6’4″ player.
25. Dwaun Anderson – Guard – R-Sophomore – Wagner (’12-’13 stats: 31 GP/9 starts, 4.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
Let’s call it as it is. Dwaun Anderson looked very rusty through most of last season after sitting out all of the 2011-12 season after transferring from Michigan State and then getting a late waiver to play the entire 2012-13 season instead of half. He had the most hype of any freshman player coming into the NEC with good reason. He was most people’s pick for NEC Rookie of the Year in the preseason last season and possibly some of that pressure along with the time off hurt him. No doubt he has remarkable talent as he showed glimpse of with some SportsCenter Top 10 high-flying acts such like this.
He showed he can dunk but he also showed his inaccuracies shooting the ball. He was a terrible 19.4 3FG% shooter and a not-so-good 60.7% free-throw shooter. I don’t expect him to play like this again this season with an offseason of motivation carrying him. The NEC may need to watch out for this kid, he could explode big time this season.
24. Mike McFadden – Forward – R-Senior – Robert Morris (’12-’13 stats: 33 GP/28 starts, 8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
McFadden will forever be known for making the two biggest free throws in RMU’s history when he drained two from the line with 8.7 seconds left to give RMU the 59-57 win against defending NCAA champs Kentucky in the NIT in March. That moment almost didn’t happen from McFadden who nearly left the team in early February but ended up only missing one game. You know what you get from McFadden who is fairly consistent. At 6’8″, his length is a problem for a lot of teams. Will once again be a key contributor to RMU’s success this season.
23. Mario Moody – Forward – Junior – Wagner (’12-’13 stats: 30 GP/8 starts, 6.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
This is the season for Mario Moody to shine at Wagner. Jonathon Williams has graduated so now Moody should be in line to take his spot in the starting lineup. Moody is athletic and has a nose for the ball inside. He grabbed nearly 7 boards a game in just under 17 minutes of playing time per game, which is outstanding work in brief playing time. He now becomes Wagner’s best inside weapon on a team with a lot of perimeter shooters.
22. Kevin Douglas – Forward – Junior – St. Francis Brooklyn (’12-’13 stats: 16 GP/14 starts, 7.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Through the first nine games last season, Douglas was doing his best Robin to Jalen Cannon’s Batman impression. He had six double-digit scoring games and was looking like he was heading for a great season. But a hand injury to his non-shooting hand, derailed his season and pretty much ended his season prematurely. I fully expect to see the same Douglas we saw before his hand injury. At 6’5″, 210 lbs, he takes up some room and he can shoot from the outside as well. If he comes back to form and plays the entire year, the Terriers should surprise a lot of folks this season.
21. Corey Maynard – Guard – Senior – Bryant (’12-’13 stats: 30 GP/28 starts, 9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg)
Maynard was part of the one-two shooting guard punch with breakout star Dyami Starks last season for Bryant. This season though Maynard could likely be moved to point guard position which would make him more of a facilitator than a scorer. It will more than likely be that he will split his time between point and shooting guard so you’ll probably won’t be see much drop in Maynard’s production this season. That is going to go a long way in Bryant repeating the success they had a year ago.
Tomorrow, I will continue with players 20 through 11.