Manning the point: 2014-15 NEC Point Guard Preview

Four of the top NEC returning point guards for the 2014-15 season. (Photo Credit: Top L: SFBK's Brent Jones -; Top R: SHU's Phil Gaetano -; Bot L: CCSU's Kyle Vinales -; Bot R: SFU's Malik Harmon -

Four of the top NEC returning point guards for the 2014-15 season. (Photo Credit: Top L: SFBK’s Brent Jones –; Top R: SHU’s Phil Gaetano –; Bot L: CCSU’s Kyle Vinales –; Bot R: SFU’s Malik Harmon –

For those of us who follow the Northeast Conference, in particular in the last few seasons, we have been sort of spoiled with the amount of high quality point guards that have being running the show from their respective teams.

We have seen point guards like Wagner’s Tyler Murray and Kenneth Ortiz, Robert Morris’ Velton Jones, Bryant’s Frankie Dobbs and Corey Maynard, Mount St. Mary’s Julian Norfleet, and LIU Brooklyn’s C.J. Garner and Jason Brickman excel in the NEC.

Now with all of these guys gone, it is time for a new crop of point guards to take the lead. Also, the spotlight now shines on guys who are returning who have been somewhat in the shadows of some of the top point guards of the past couple of seasons.

Let’s take a look at the group of point guards will be seeing leading their teams in the NEC.

The first name that pops to mind is St. Francis Brooklyn’s senior Brent Jones. Jones finally broke through the “potential” label to being a top flight NEC point guard last season. In 31 games last season, Jones averaged 7.5 ppg and a career-high 6.0 apg which was third in the NEC. Jones is the top returning assist man from last season. He had six games where he dished out 10-plus assists and had three double-doubles a year ago. The biggest difference in his game was Jones was able to shoot the ball better and cut down his turnovers. He shot a career-high 42.7% from the field and almost 34% from three last season while committing just 70 turnovers which was a career-low. He is the top returning NEC assist-to-turnover player. If he maintains or even betters his shooting numbers while continuing to take care of the basketball this coming season, this could be a pretty big season the Terriers.

Another point guard who will be stepping into the spotlight this season is Sacred Heart’s senior Phil Gaetano. Gaetano who has 545 career assists coming into this season will likely end his career in third place in the NEC career assist list behind LIU’s Jason Brickman (1,009) and Marist’s Drafton Davis (804), but is coming off a bit of a sub-par season by his standards from the his first two seasons. Although, he finished with a career-high 6.5 ppg, his assist numbers took a dip from 7.9 to 6.3 apg. That might have been attributed to not having a tremendous shooter like Shane Gibson last season as well as a rash of injuries which left the Pioneers 5-26 a year ago. Gaetano will likely lead the NEC in assist this season with Jason Brickman now gone and more talent surrounding him. His shooting numbers should also improve from the 34.7% from the floor he shot a year ago and the 33.9% he shot from three.

Now, if we are looking at scoring point guards, we don’t need to look any further than to Central Connecticut State’s senior Kyle Vinales. The 6’0” Detroit native has been a scoring machine since arriving at CCSU. A broken finger for Vinales last season caused him to miss nine games yet he still averaged 17.3 ppg and dished out 3.9 apg in what some called a down year for him after scoring 21.6 ppg the season before. If Vinales is on his game offensive, their isn’t much any defense can do to stop him. Even though, he gave most of his point guard chores last season to teammate senior Malcolm McMillan, Vinales can also distribute with the best of them. Speaking of McMillan, he also returns to give CCSU a one-two punch in the backcourt. McMillian finished with 10.8 ppg and 3.2 apg and had a good year shooting the ball at nearly 46 percent. In starting in all but two games last season, McMillan committed only 62 turnovers all season. With his sure handed play along with Vinales, CCSU should do better than the 11-19 record they had last season.

One point guard who made his name in the NEC in his very first season is Saint Francis U. sophomore point guard Malik Harmon. The former Christ the King High School point man started in every game for SFU last season. His 8.7 ppg and 2.8 apg in his freshman season along with 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio were good enough number to help win him NEC Rookie of the Year honors. He committed only 52 turnovers all season for the Red Flash which was the lowest turnover total for any starting NEC point guard with at least 25 or more starts. The scary thing is there is lot of room to improve. He only shot 33.5% from the floor and just under 35% from three last season while shooting 69.1% from the free throw line. He will likely see increase in all his numbers across the board in year two and will undoubtedly be one of the key reasons in which SFU will be considered a top contender in the NEC in 2014-15.

A point guard who will stepping into the forefront this season is Wagner’s senior Marcus Burton. Burton who has been playing behind Wagner great Kenneth Ortiz the past three seasons, will finally get his chance to run the show. Burton has only started in eight games in his entire college career, all in his sophomore season. Coming off the bench last season, Burton put up very respectable numbers. He averaged 11.0 ppg and 1.6 apg in just 22.4 mpg. He made nearly 42% of his shots from the floor last season and is an excellent free throw shooter at 86.8%. He is probably going to be asked to do a lot more for Wagner head coach Bashir Mason this season considering the amount of talent they lost from last season. With increased minutes, watch for Burton to possibly have a huge breakout season.

Other returning point guards who will be looking to begin making a name for themselves in the NEC as they move into their teams starting lineups are Robert Morris’ sophomore Kavon Stewart (4.9 ppg/2.8 apg), Bryant junior Shane McLaughlin (4.0 ppg/2.6 apg), and Mount St. Mary’s sophomore Khalid Nwandu (2.5 ppg/1.2 apg).

There will be a couple of interesting point guard battles on a couple of teams to see who will replace a pair of outstanding point guards who graduated at the end of last season. Fairleigh Dickinson will be looking for a new point guard to replace the departed Sidney Sanders Jr., last season’s NEC Most Improved Player. It looks like the battle is going to be between sophomore Malachi Nix (3.7 ppg/1.0 apg) and incoming freshman Darian Anderson.

The other battle is probably going to be the most interesting one in the NEC and that is at LIU Brooklyn and see who will be replacing 1,000 assist man Jason Brickman. The battle is going to likely end up being between two freshmen in Jamil Hood Jr. (16.7 ppg, 8.1 apg – HS SR yr) and Elvar Fridriksson (20.4 ppg/7.3 apg in Iceland) with some minutes also going to sophomore Iverson Fleming (3.9 ppg). Blackbirds Hoops Journal will delve deeper in this battle as the summer and fall goes along but it sure should be one to watch.

Here is BHJ’s Top Five returning NEC point guards going into the 2014-15 season (image courtesy of Basketball State {}):

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  1. Dan from Staten Island says:

    Nice summary. Hadn’t really focused on how many good point guards have come through the NEC recently. Of the crew you mentioned, other than Jason Brickman, who was in a class all by himself, the most effective point on both sides of the ball had to be Kenneth Ortiz. The guy was relentless either slashing to the basket or picking your pocket for an easy two. He’ll be missed on Grymes Hill. Burton might replace him offensively, but there is no replacing Ortiz’ ball-hawking skills. As a Terrier fan, hope that Brent Jones will shine this year. His growth at the point over the last three years has been incredible. Jones is another one of those diamonds in the rough that Coach Braica and his staff seem to mine successfully. Note for the future: Braica may have already captured his court leader for the following three years in incoming frosh Glenn Sanabria, a first-team Class AA All-New York State selection.

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