This season was a season of transition for the Northeast Conference. Nine of the fifteen players who were selected on the three All-NEC teams last season were seniors including the entire All-NEC first team.
With that, new opportunities emerged and the spotlight began shining on players who never previously got the playing time or were in the shadows of talented upperclassmen on their teams.
Now, that the 18-game, two-month grind that is the NEC regular season is now over, it is once again time to hand out our annual imaginary awards and recognized those here at Blackbirds Hoops Journal feel should get the recognition for a season of outstanding play for their teams.
Unlike in years past, the majority of elite players in the conference were not seniors. The juniors, sophomore and freshmen classes really showcased themselves this season and made it for an exciting and tight race in the NEC. The future of the NEC is undoubtedly bright and will be fun to watch as we continue forward in the next few years.
So without further delay, let’s get going! Here are my picks for All-NEC teams, NEC Rookie of the Year, NEC Most Improved Player of the Year, NEC Defensive Player of the Year, NEC Coach of the Year and NEC Player of the Year.
BHJ’s All-NEC Third Team
BHJ’s All-NEC Second Team
As far as our All-NEC Third team goes, I rewarded Brandon Peel for his excellent season and nice career at Central Connecticut even though they had another terrible season. BK Ashe fell to the third team because I felt there were more deserving players ahead of him but he had a great season for the Mount. Ben Millaud-Meunier had a very good season for SFU and should be on here. Tevin Falzon was a big key to Sacred Heart success this season. Aakim Saintil had a outstanding season and his numbers prove it and is deserving of an All-NEC selection.
For the All-NEC Second team, in any other year, these five could have warranted All-NEC first team selection and a couple of them were in very close consideration. Michael Carey had a wonderful first season with Wagner, nearing averaging a double-double. Earl Potts had an incredible sophomore season in helping FDU finish in second. Corey Henson, Junior Robinson and Darian Anderson are legit All-NEC first team guys and one of them finish there in the actual All-NEC first team. Robinson, I felt was Mount’s best player this season. Anderson, I saw first hand play tremendously for FDU this season. Henson, was Wagner’s best player on a team that has a lot of good players on it.
BHJ’s All-NEC First Team
Ronnie Drinnon (F) Saint Francis U. – Admittedly, one of my favorite inside players in the NEC to watch. First thing you think about with Drinnon is he is a rebounding machine. He built his college career around rebounding the ball and took it to even another level this season. Add that to his greatly improved offensive game and you have a player who averaged a double-double (13.0 ppg/10.6 rpg) this season. Well deserving of a All-NEC first team nod.
Jerome Frink (F) LIU Brooklyn – Frink came into the season with the expectation of being a first teamer and he didn’t disappoint. He finished the regular season third in the NEC in scoring, tied for second in rebounding, eighth in field goal percentage, sixth in three-point shooting percentage, tenth in steals, sixth in blocks. Finished with ten double-doubles and scored in double digits in all but four games. One of the best front court players in the NEC this season.
Cane Broome (G) Sacred Heart – Scored in double figures in all but one game this season. Had 19 games with 20 or more points. Finished tops in the NEC in scoring at 22.7 ppg which currently puts him 11th in the nation. One of the best shooters in the NEC and possibly in the nation. Helped keep Sacred Heart afloat until they got back guys from injury and then took off. A virtual iron man. Rarely saw the bench. Lead the NEC in minutes played and played less than 34 minutes in a game just twice the entire season.
Rodney Pryor (G) Robert Morris – Came into the season as the preseason NEC Player of the Year favorite. His numbers took a little dip this season due to having to be the main offensive weapon for the Colonials. Still finished second in the NEC in scoring at 18.3 points per game and led his team in rebounding at 8.0 rebounds per game. Had eight double-doubles in points and rebounds from the off-guard position. Was third in the NEC in free throw shooting at over 86 percent. Also added many highlight dunks to his resume this season.
Martin Hermannsson (G) LIU Brooklyn – Had a great overall season. He finished fourth in the NEC in scoring, third in assists, fourth in steals, 11th in the NEC in three-point shooting percentage and shot 46 percent overall from the field. A near 89 percent free-throw shooter who also lead the NEC in assists-to-turnover ratio as the only NEC player with a ratio over two. Played both the point and off-guard positions flawlessly. Turned his play on to another level last five weeks of the season. Put up stats in games only a handful of players in the nation has done and keep doing it without turning the ball over. Would be a crime if he doesn’t get a first-team nod because of LIU’s record and/or coaches don’t want to put two LIU players on the first team.
BHJ’s All-NEC Rookie Team
BHJ’s NEC Rookie of the Year
Marcel Pettway (F/C) Bryant – It was a very tight race this season between Pettway, Sacred Heart’s Quincy McKnight, and Bryant’s Nisre Zouzoua. In the end, I picked Pettway as this year’s Rookie of the Year. He finished third among all NEC freshmen in scoring (11.4 ppg) and first among all NEC freshman in rebounding (7.0 rpg) by nearly two rebounds over the next best freshman rebounder. He also shot nearly 60 percent from the field. He had four games of 20 or more points and put up back-to-back 26-point games against CCSU and FDU in his first two NEC games of his career. Will be a force in the middle for Bryant for the years to come.
BHJ’s NEC Most Improved Player
Yunus Hopkinson (G) St. Francis Brooklyn – When sophomore point guard Glenn Sanabria went down with a partially torn labrum back in November, many people felt the Terriers would be in big trouble. The Terriers turned to junior point guard Yunus Hopkinson who was pretty much the third string point guard and inserted him into the starting lineup. Hopkinson had only started twice as freshman prior to this season and became a valuable key player for the Terriers. He went from averaging 2.54 points per game his first two seasons to averaging 12.0 points per game this season. He finished second on St. Francis Brooklyn in scoring, first in assists, and led them in three-point shooting percentage. Easy choice for this award.
BHJ’s Defensive Player of the Year
Amdy Fall (F) St. Francis Brooklyn – Fall should win back-to-back NEC Defensive of the Year pretty much in another runaway. Didn’t put yup as dominant block numbers as he did last season but he had a huge run the last weekend of the season with 14 blocked shots including a season-high eight blocks against Bryant. He was the only player in the NEC to average over two blocks per game. He had at least four blocks in a game eight times. He also had a career-high in rebounds with 6.9 boards per game. Very much an intimidating force in the paint for the Terriers. He gets important blocks and rebounds at crucial times. Great help defender as well. Will come out of nowhere to get his hand on a ball. Not fun for opponents to go up against his long arms and great instincts.
BHJ’s NEC Coach of the Year
Greg Herenda – Fairleigh Dickinson – Wagner’s Bashir Mason was in the running as well but in the end this award should go to Greg Herenda. FDU had a bad season last year as they played a lot of young guys and took their lumps. This year, they were picked to finish ninth in the conference. All Herenda did was get this team to finish second in the NEC with an 11-6 conference record and put up 15 wins overall which finished tied for second-most in the NEC. He guided the Knights to finish first in the NEC in team scoring at 77.7 points per game, first in field goal percentage (46.3%), first in three-point field goal percentage (36.6%), first in assists (14.2 apg), third in free throw percentage, second in turnover margin, and first in assist-to-turnover ratio. It was a dramatic change from the season prior. Herenda took this program from one who won just seven games overall and two conference games the season prior to his arrival to an unlikely NEC tournament berth his first season and to a second-place finish his third season. Has done a fantastic job in turning around that program rather quickly.
BHJ’s NEC Player of the Year
Cane Broome (G) Sacred Heart – No doubt, Broome came into this season very focused and with a chip on his shoulder after not winning NEC Rookie of the Year last season which he was a definite candidate for. Put up 27 and 32 points in his two games of the season and right there you knew he was going to have a very strong year. Unbelievably enough, I didn’t think Sacred Heart would get a player as good as Shane Gibson after he graduated three years ago. It is hard to fathom, they might actually have a better player and just as good a shooter in Cane Broome. That is how great a season he has had this year. Plus he is only a sophomore. Already has 1000 points in his career and it only took him 57 games to do it. Number one player on opponent’s scouting reports and still killed teams all season long. Has one of the best looking jump shots in the conference and has remarkable range on his shot. He is also cold-blooded in late game situations. One of the hardest players to defend. No doubt the best player in the conference this season and worthy of the Player of the Year.