It was another season of change in the Northeast Conference in 2016-17. Only one NEC first-team selection and six players from the three All-NEC teams returned back this season resulting in a new wave of talent getting their opportunity to shine.
After four hard-fought months of basketball and two months of battling each other for NEC supremacy, it is time once again to dish out our version of the NEC postseason awards and gives recognition to all those who had excellent seasons in 2016-17 for their teams.
With all the turnover the NEC experience this season, there are a bunch of new names in our postseason awards. Once again, much like last season, the NEC had a high amount of juniors, sophomores, and freshmen excelling on the court this season. Hopefully, this year’s crop of stars will stick around for their teams for the foreseeable future. This group helped bring a tight and competitive race from one to eight in the NEC standing this season.
Ok, let’s get to it! Here are my 2016-17 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
Stephan Jiggetts (G) – Jr. – Fairleigh Dickinson
Isaiah Blackmon (G) – So. – Saint Francis U.
Joseph Lopez (F) – Jr. – Sacred Heart
Michael Carey (F) – Sr. – Wagner
Josh Nebo (F) – So. – Saint Francis U.
My All-NEC third team highlights the young star power in the NEC this season with just one senior named on the team. Michael Carey who was on my All-NEC second team last season and on my All-NEC preseason team this season didn’t have that expected jump season from his junior year to his senior year. His numbers nearly stayed exactly the same as last season. Stephan Jiggetts finished second in the NEC in assists and fourth in free throw percentage. Joseph Lopez first season in the NEC was a success finished second on SHU in scoring and fourth in the NEC in rebounding. Isaiah Blackmon put up great shooting percentages this season and led the NEC in three-point shooting percentage. Josh Nebo led the NEC in blocks per game and finished sixth in the conference in rebounding.
BHJ’s All-NEC Second Team
Isaiah Still (G) – So. – Robert Morris
Iverson Fleming (G) – Sr. – LIU Brooklyn
Corey Henson (G) – Jr. – Wagner
Junior Robinson (G) – Jr. – Mount St. Mary’s
Keith Braxton (G) – Fr. – Saint Francis U.
Just like in my All-NEC third team, the second team also includes just one senior and that is LIU guard Iverson Fleming. He started in every game this season for the Blackbirds and finished seventh in the NEC in scoring and in the top 15 in steals, free throw percentage and three-point percentage. Corey Henson finished eighth in scoring and is in the top ten in three-point shooting and free throw shooting. Junior Robinson leads the NEC in free throw shooting and is eleventh in the NEC in scoring. Isaiah Still finished fifth in the conference in scoring and averaged two threes made per game. Keith Braxton is the only freshman on my All-NEC team. The SFU rookie put up tremendous shooting percentages while being in the top 15 in scoring and third in the NEC in rebounding.
BHJ’s All-NEC First Team
Jerome Frink (F) – Sr. – LIU Brooklyn – Frink was the only returnee from last season’s All-NEC first team and he did not disappoint this season. He finished second in the NEC in rebounding at just under nine rebounds per game and was third in the NEC in scoring at 17.1 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 34 percent from three. He finished second behind teammate Nura Zanna in double-doubles with thirteen. Frink also finished tenth in the NEC in blocks per game. He scored in double figures in all but one game this season. Recently passed 1000 points in his LIU career.
Elijah Long (G) – So. – Mount St. Mary’s – Long had a tremendous season as a sophomore in 2016-17. His scoring average jumped from 5.6 ppg last season to 14.8 ppg this season. He finished sixth in the NEC in scoring while leading in the NEC in assists at 4.48 assists per game. He also finished eighth in the NEC in steals. He also shot 41 percent from three this season. He had a 1.34 assist-to-turnover ratio which was good for seventh in the conference.
Nisre Zouzoua (G) – So. – Bryant – Zouzoua took his All-NEC rookie team selection from last season and build on it to an outstanding season in which he led the NEC in scoring at 20.2 ppg. He shot 37 percent from three this season and led the conference in three-point field goals made per game at just under three per game. He also finished ninth in the conference in steals.
Quincy McKnight (G) – So. – Sacred Heart – Another All-NEC rookie team selection last season, McKnight took over as the main scorer for Sacred Heart with the transfer of last season NEC Player of the Year Cane Broome. McKnight finished just behind Zouzoua in scoring at 18.9 ppg while also averaging 2.94 assists per game. He finished tied for third in steals.
Darian Anderson (G) – Jr. – Fairleigh Dickinson – Anderson was an All-NEC second team selection last season and put up a great season in 2016-17 to earn a promotion to the All-NEC first team. He finished fourth in the NEC in scoring at 16.9 ppg and was eighth in assists. He led the NEC in steals with 1.96 steals per game. He shot 81.8
BHJ’s All-NEC Rookie Team
Keith Braxton (G) Saint Francis U.
Adam Grant (F) Bryant
Rasheem Dunn (G) St. Francis Brooklyn
Jashaun Agosto (G) LIU Brooklyn
Miles Wilson (G) Mount St. Mary’s
BHJ’s NEC Rookie of the Year
Keith Braxton (G) – Fr. – Saint Francis U. – In one of the more outstanding freshman classes the NEC has seen in a while, Braxton stood out among them all. Braxton took the NEC by storm in this rookie year and put up an impressive stat line. He shot 52.7 percent from the floor, 41.9 percent from three and 77.8 percent from the free throw line while scoring 13.1 points per game to finish second among all freshmen and led all freshmen in rebounding at 8.8 boards per game which was also good for third in the NEC. He won NEC rookie of the week honors seven times this season, by far the most of any NEC freshman. He wins this award running away.
BHJ’s NEC Most Improved Player
Elijah Long (G) – So. – Mount St. Mary’s – Long came a long way from his freshman season where he averaged just 5.6 ppg in 30 games last season to averaging 14.8 ppg to lead Mount St. Mary’s in scoring as a sophomore. He also improved his field goal, three-point shooting and free throw numbers this season. He scored 20 or more points in a game seven times this season, topping out with a 29-point performance against FDU a couple of weeks ago. It would not be at all surprising if he is named NEC Player of the Year as he is a strong candidate for that award as well.
BHJ’s Defensive Player of the Year
Josh Nebo (F) – So. – Saint Francis U. – In probably the most difficult choice I had to make, I picked Nebo over Mount’s Chris Wray by the slimmest of margins. Nebo led the NEC in blocked shots with 69 blocks and finished sixth in the NEC in rebounding at just under eight boards per game. He finished fifth in defensive rebounds at 5.2 a game. Seven times this season Nebo finished with four or more blocks in a game including a season-high seven blocks against Robert Morris in January. He had seven double-doubles this season and went for ten or more rebounds in a game nine times.
BHJ’s NEC C0-Coach of the Year
Jack Perri – LIU Brooklyn & Jamion Christian – Mount St. Mary’s – For me, this was an easy decision to split this award to two coaches who I felt both deserved it. Jack Perri led his LIU Brooklyn team to an NEC-high 20 regular season wins this season and finished one game back of the eventual NEC regular season champs Mount St. Mary’s. Perri endured the loss of senior guard Joel Hernandez in game one of the season and had to replace All-NEC first teamer Martin Hermannsson with freshman point guards this season and got to 13 NEC wins. Jamion Christian guided his team to their first NEC regular season championship since 1995-96. His team took on a hellacious non-conference schedule that saw them play on the road for their first nine games and start their season off 1-8. After a 2-11 non-conference season, Christian led his team to a 14-4 NEC season to earn the top-seed in this week’s NEC tournament. Ironically, both LIU and Mount were picked to finish tied for fourth in this year’s NEC Preseason Coaches Poll.
BHJ’s NEC Player of the Year
Jerome Frink (F) – Sr. – LIU Brooklyn – This award came down to two players, Frink and Mount’s Elijah Long and in the end, I believe Frink edged out Long to earn NEC Player of the Year. Frink lived up to the hype that he came with after transferring from Florida International to LIU Brooklyn a couple of years ago. Last season, he was on the All-NEC first team and this year with NEC defenses more prepared to defend him, Frink still put up outstanding numbers to the tune of 17.1 points per game, third-best in the NEC and finished just behind Michael Carey to finish second in the conference in rebounding with 8.9 rebounds per game. Frink shot 47.6 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from three. He also had a career-high 2.4 assists per game. He scored in double figures in 28 of 30 games played this season and was second in the NEC in double-doubles with thirteen. He scored 20 or more points ten times including a career-high 30 points against Bryant just days after his father passing. He has been the best forward in the NEC during his two years in the conference and he should cap it off with this honor.