Lee, Ford, Pierson, Smith earn All-CAA honors
At Thursday night’s Colonial Athletic Association awards banquet at the Richmond Marriott, two Northeastern Huskies were recognized for their on-court performance and two were recognized for off-the-court achievements.
For the fourth time in the seven years that Northeastern University has been affiliated with the CAA, a Husky earned a spot on the All-Rookie squad. Quincy Ford ranked third among all freshmen in the league in both scoring (11.1 points per game) and rebounding (4.7 per game), earning him a spot among the conference’s best first-year players. He was also fourth among rookies in free throw percentage at 75.3%, and was third in the conference, out of all players, with 2.0 steals per game, behind VCU freshman Briante Weber (2.3) and Old Dominion’s CAA Defensive Player of the Year Kent Bazemore (2.2). His 30 blocked shots ranked 12th in the league, also behind fellow rookies Erik Copes from George Mason (51) and Cedrick Williams of UNCW (43).
Northeastern’s junior co-captain, Jonathan Lee, was also rewarded for his play on the hardwood as he earned a spot on the All-CAA third team. Lee backed up his preseason Honorable Mention pick by leading the Huskies in scoring with 14.6 points per game, 9th in the league, and ranked among conference leaders in eight other categories. He was 8th in field goal percentage (46.9%), 6th in assists (3.6 per game), 11th in free throw percentage (78.3%), 9th in steals (1.6 per game), 3rd in 3-point field goal percentage (40.7%), 15th in 3-point field goals made (1.6 per game), 9th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.2, with 104 assists and 89 turnovers), and 2nd in minutes played at 35.7 per game.
Off the court, Ryan Pierson was named to the All-Academic squad while Jonathan Lee earned himself a spot among the league’s top 10 classroom achievers. He was named an All-Academic Second team player. Joel Smith was the Northeastern nominee for the Dean Ehler’s Leadership Award which is given to the player who “embod[ies] the highest standard of leadership, integrity and sportsmanship through their academic and athletic achievements.”
Here are all of the awards:
Player of the Year: Ryan Pearson (George Mason)
Coach of the Year: James “Bruiser” Flint (Drexel)
Rookie of the Year: Damion Lee (Drexel)
Defensive Player of the Year: Kent Bazemore (Old Dominion)
Dean Ehlers Leadership Award: Jihad Ali (Georgia State) and Quinn McDowell (William & Mary)
All-CAA First Team: Ryan Pearson (George Mason), Frantz Massenat (Drexel), Kent Bazemore (Old Dominion), Bradford Burgess (VCU), Keith Rendleman (UNCW)
All-CAA Second Team: Jamelle Hagins (Delaware), Devon Saddler (Delaware), Samme Givens (Drexel), Mike Moore (Hofstra), Chris Cooper (Old Dominion)
All-CAA Third Team*: Jonathan Lee (Northeastern), Eric Buckner (Georgia State), Jihad Ali (Georgia State), Juvonte Reddic (VCU), Humpty Hitchens (James Madison), Darius Theus (VCU)
All-Rookie Team: Damion Lee (Drexel), Quincy Ford (Northeastern), Adam Smith (UNCW), Marcus Thornton (William & Mary), Jarvis Threatt (Delaware)
All-Defensive Team: Kent Bazemore (Old Dominion), Eric Buckner (Georgia State), Jamelle Hagins (Delaware), Briante Weber (VCU), Robert Nwankwo (Towson)
All-Academic First Team: Jihad Ali (Georgia State), Trian Iliadis (Old Dominion), Quinn McDowell (William & Mary), Dwan McMillan (Hofstra), Tim Rusthoven (William & Mary)
All-Academic Second Team: Brandon Britt (William & Mary), James Fields (Georgia State), Erique Gumbs (Towson), Jonathan Lee (Northeastern), Tanner Milson (UNCW)
All-Academic Honorable Mention: Rob Brandenburg (VCU), Kyle Gaillard (William & Mary), Matt Grogan (Hofstra), Fred Heldring (William & Mary), Doug Howard (William & Mary), Anton Larsen (Old Dominion), Jacob Lerner (Drexel), Stevan Manojlovic (Drexel), Andrew Pavloff (William & Mary), Ryan Pierson (Northeastern), Gene Swindle (James Madison), Will Townsville (Delaware)
*Due to a tie in the voting between Darius Theus and Humpty Hitchens at 121 points each, six players were named to the all-conference third team.
Starting at the top, I thought Northeastern players deserved the awards they got and nothing more. Quincy Ford was a lock for the All-Rookie team, but in my eyes wasn’t better than Drexel’s Damion Lee for the top freshman prize. Lee earned 36 of the possible 48 votes for the award, while Ford earned eight. Marcus Thornton had two, while Adam Smith and Jarvis Threatt each had one. That’s probably a fair breakdown of the votes. Ford was perhaps the most versatile of the league’s rookies, as he was able to fill many roles on both offense and defense. However, it took him until about the end of December to really find his consistency whereas Lee started every game of the regular season and was reliable from the first game to the last game. In most other years, Ford may have won the award. This year, though, the deep freshman class provided more competition and even kept Reggie Spencer off the list of the top five rookies when he may have made it in the majority of recent seasons with the solid year he had.
Jon Lee’s third team placement is fitting. He certainly deserved to be recognized, but most of the guys above him had slightly better numbers in one way or another. Like Ford, Lee brings versatility in addition to his strong leadership to the team. He will likely be on the preseason second team, if not the first, come 2012-13.
All-Academic awards are based off of academic performance, which is a little bit more concrete than on-court performance, so we’ll trust the conference office that Ryan Pierson and Jonathan Lee deserved their recognition. Based on my interactions with them, it’s not surprising that either earned a spot among the CAA’s top academically talented athletes. The Dean Ehlers Leadership Award is less concrete, but it’s another award that is tough for outsiders to predict. McDowell also won the award last year, so it certainly makes sense that he would get it again. While it may be unusual for two players to receive the recognition, I’ll trust the folks who know better than I do. Each team nominates one player, and Bill Coen apparently thought Joel Smith best fit the description. Last year, the Northeastern nominee was Vinny Lima.
Moving on to the rest of the conference honors, I can’t argue with Ryan Pearson as the Player of the Year. Without him, a top-four finish is highly unlikely. George Mason was the only squad not to have multiple players average double-digit scoring, and his 8.5 rebounds per game also led the team. The Patriots could definitely struggle next year, and though I don’t think they’ll fall to the bottom four, it may be similar to Hofstra losing Charles Jenkins after 2010-11. Next season will be a test for Paul Hewitt, who some argued could have been the best coach this year even though he didn’t receive a single vote for the Coach of the Year award. I could have seen Frantz Massenat walking away with Player of the Year because of his importance to the Drexel Dragons, but he had a stronger supporting cast and is only a sophomore. Voting tends to favor upperclassmen.
Massenat definitely deserved his spot on the All-CAA First Team, and my only possible quibble with the selection of the five players who made it would be Bradford Burgess. Many people had him picked as their preseason Player of the Year, though Kent Bazemore got that honor, and while he didn’t play poorly he didn’t have an All-Conference type season. This seems to be more of a ‘lifetime achievement award’ than anything else, as he has been a rock for VCU and at the end of the regular season was 2nd on the NCAA’s all-time consecutive games started list at 141. Patrick Ewing is the only man ahead of him, at 142. That’s not bad company to be in.
Jamelle Hagins of Delaware, in my opinion, deserved a spot on the first team. For those curious, he was sixth in the voting, 69 points behind Keith Rendleman and 71 points behind Burgess. Beyond that, it’s hard to find fault with the results of the poll that that tallied votes from each of the twelve coaches and sports information directors in the league, as well as two media members from the market each conference team is in. If there were to be a fourth team, it would have been A.J. Davis, Quinn McDowell, Robert Nwankwo, Damion Lee, and Mike Morrison. I was somewhat surprised McDowell didn’t receive recognition on the third team, also mostly as a lifetime achievement award.
Finally, the defensive awards. Eric Buckner of Georgia State and Jamelle Hagins of Delaware were getting a lot of talk for Defensive Player of the Year based on their top-notch numbers in the blocks and steals statistical categories. Brian Mull of the Wilmington Star News last year tabbed the All-Defensive team the “all-blocks-and-steals team” due to the nature of voters who look at those stats before casting their ballots. Both of Buckner and Hagins, along with Towson’s Robert Nwankwo, dominated the paint and were tough for any opponent to get around for sure. However, Kent Bazemore has long been recognized for his defensive prowess and went back-to-back on the award after also receiving it last year. One last thought: It’s interesting to see freshman Briante Weber make it to the all-defensive team, but not be recognized on the all-rookie team.
With all the talent in this year’s freshman class, the next three seasons in CAA basketball will certainly be interesting to watch.