Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

OBW Post Season Awards: OBW America East Player of the Year + Defensive Player of the Year

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

OBW America East Defensive Player of the Year: Brian Voelkel, Vermont
OBW America East Player of the Year: Brian Voelkel, Vermont

Vermont senior Brian Voelkel is our OBW America East Player of the Year

Vermont senior Brian Voelkel is our OBW America East Player of the Year. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Unlike previous seasons, this year our Defensive Player of the Year decision required about five seconds of thought. Vermont posted what may be the best defensive efficiency in the history of the conference – KenPom data goes back to 2003, and during that span, Vermont’s conference DE figure of 82.2 is the best on record – and Voelkel was the anchor. The Catamount senior was among the league leaders in defensive rebounding percentage, led his team in steal percentage, and was regularly asked to shut down the opposing team’s best offensive player. This may have been too much to ask from Voelkel when he was an underclassman, but his man defense has improved massively since then; during conference play he was more than up to the task. Despite taking on such a heavy defensive load, Voelkel had a knack for avoiding foul trouble, which had two effects: it allowed Vermont to keep him on the floor for extended minutes to maximize his impact, and it gave opponents no respite from the Catamounts’ suffocating half-court defense.

It’s on the other end of the floor, though, where Voelkel made individual history. The point-forward is the only player in Division-I history with more than 1000 rebounds and 600 assists; we may never see another. And he’s in that club by a comfortable margin – there is a small but non-zero chance that he establishes the 1000-700 club before his season ends (he’s 37 assists away). Despite not being a major threat off the dribble, Voelkel was able to pick out passes with such ease that he led the conference in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio.

The one hole in Voelkel’s game, historically, was as a scorer. As a senior, Brian remained a reticent shooter, but incremental improvements have added up to the point that ignoring Voelkel on offense is no longer an option. His perimeter shooting, featuring even uglier form than you might expect, is nevertheless effective enough that he cannot be left wide open – and if teams sag off too far, Voelkel is more than willing to wade into the interior and pick teams apart from the inside. And for all his limitations while creating for himself off the dribble, Voelkel is a devastatingly effective offensive rebounder.

Nothing about the above would be described as beautiful by a casual observer, but winning ugly is still winning – and from a Catamount perspective, there’s been nothing ugly about the scoreboard.

OBW Post Season Awards: OBW America East Rookie of the Year

Friday, March 7th, 2014

OBW America East Rookie of the Year: Rodney Elliot, UMBC

Elliot, a Maryland native, had perhaps the greatest freshman season in Retrievers’ history, and wasn’t simply the best freshman point guard, or best freshman in the league, but one of the best point guards and players in the America East. Period.

Elliot was UMBC this season, running the point, quarterbacking the offense and serving as the team’s go-to scorer. He also got better – A LOT better – as the season wore on, going from a foul-magnet, turnover-machine who struggled to hit water falling out of a canoe, to a very solid defender and high-percentage shooter who handled the ball with a vice-like grip.

Elliot ranked fourth in the league in scoring (14.9 ppg), fourth in assists (3.5 apg) and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio overall. In conference games, the six-foot freshman ranked second (15.4 ppg). Elliot ranked fifth in kenpom offensive rating among all America East players who accounted for at least 24 percent of their teams possessions – meaning he was highly efficient despite carrying a large workload for any player and a downright massive one for a freshman.

OBW Post Season Awards: OBW America East Coach of the Year

Friday, March 7th, 2014

OBW America East Coach of the Year: John Becker, Vermont

Vermont head coach John Becker.

Vermont head coach John Becker.

UMass Lowell head coach Pat Duquette did a phenomenal job this year; coaching a River Hawks squad that finished eighth in the Division II Northeast-10 last season to a fifth place finish and .500 record in the America East. Every player in uniform was recruited to play Division II basketball (or not recruited at all in the case of freshman Tyler Livingston) and the fact that Duquette was able to get a roster of DII walk-ons and players that he hadn’t recruited to buy in and play incredibly hard, let alone win, was remarkable.

In a year with a typical – or average – regular season champion, Duquette would have walked away with Coach of the Year honors.

There was nothing typical or average about this year’s Vermont Catamounts squad, or the job that head coach John Becker did.

When compared to their conference peers, the 2013-2014 Vermont Catamounts were the most dominant America East school in conference history. The Catamounts didn’t simply go 15-1 in conference play; they annihilated the rest of the league. Vermont’s scoring margin of +20.9 points per game in America East action set the league record and the Catamounts led the conference in 16 different statistical categories (among them scoring offense and defense, points per game, rebounding margin, field goal percentage, field goal percent defense, 3-point field goal percent and 3-point field goal-percent defense).

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, as Vermont was battered and bruised by injuries and the league’s toughest non-conference schedule. But Becker managed to keep spirits up; right the ship after early season losses; reinvent the offense from a slowed-down, deliberate flex to an up-tempo system; and blend together older vets with key newcomers.

What Becker has done this season, and over the course of his first three years at the helm at Vermont is nothing short of remarkable. Becker is one of just 16 active head coaches in all of Division I hoops to have won 20 or more games in each of his first three years as head coach. His current career record at Vermont is 66-33 – in his first three years, he has won exactly twice as many games as he has lost.

Yet, tune into the TV broadcast when Vermont is hosting – and pasting – Hartford, and all you hear is the announcers rave about Hartford head coach John Gallagher. Switch over to Vermont blasting Stony Brook, and the talking heads are gushing over the job Seawolves’ head coach Steve Pikiell has done building a program.

Perhaps Becker has been too good for his own good in his first three years – he’s skipped right over the honeymoon period and on to being taken for granted.

No matter, his most recent season is impossible to ignore as, statistically, the greatest season any America East team has had in conference play. Certainly won befitting a Coach of the Year.

OBW Post Season Awards: OBW America East All-Conference First Team

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

OBW America East First Team All-Conference
A lot goes in to selecting our all-conference teams — posturing, pouting, screaming, crying, Matt Whitrock beating me over the head with a copy of “Moneyball”. Suffice to say, it’s a process… It’s a process, it’s a process, it’s a process… After a great deal of debating, pointing, counter pointing, Here’s a look at the five best players in the America East this season, with my naked-eye, scouting breakdown, followed by Whitrock’s no-nonsense analytical analysis. (more…)

OBW Post Season Awards: OBW America East All-Conference Second Team

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

OBW America East Second Team All-Conference

Vermont point guard Sandro Carissimo . OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Vermont point guard Sandro Carissimo . OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Sandro Carissimo, Sr., G, Vermont
If Sandro Carissimo had a selfish bone in his body, he might be on the First Team. If he played on lesser team and was forced to take more shots and kept up his same efficiency rating, he’d be on our First Team. Those are the unanswerable “what ifs”. As is, Carissimo had a brilliant senior season and was the last man off our First Team. Carissimo ranked eighth in the league in Kenpom offensive rating, and fourth among players who accounted for at least 20 percent of their teams possessions. Beyond that, The soft-spoken six-footer was heady, steady, efficient and consistent for the Catamounts, hitting big shots, getting to the rack at will for stretches, and always remaining calm, cool and collected.

Peter Hooley, R-Soph., G, Albany
Hooley avoided a sophomore slump and instead made the leap from solid supporting cast member to spotlight star, emerging as the Great Danes’ go to scorer. After spending last season as a combo-guard, running the point when Mike Black needed a blow, the 6’3” Australian has focuses solely on putting the ball in the hoop this year and he’s filled it up all season long. Hooley tied for third in scoring in league games (15.4 ppg) and ranked sixth overall (14.8 ppg). He also ranked sixth overall in Kenpom offensive rating while showing the ability to knock down the 3-ball, master the mid-range game and get to the hoop.

Mark Nwakamma, Jr., F, Hartford
Nwakamma is a tricky case, because his advanced stats and efficiency rankings when combined with his usage rate stack up favorably against most players in the conference, but his propensity to rack up fouls and spend extended periods of time on the bench continued to handicap the Hawks. A super athletic, incredibly skilled and extremely talented 6’6” 230-pound power forward, Nwakamma plays with relentless effort and energy, and scored from everywhere on the floor, ranking seventh in the league in scoring in conference games (13.6 ppg) and third in overall scoring (15.1 ppg). His nearly four fouls per contest and extended time on the bench is what keeps him off of our All-Conference First Team.

Xavier Pollard, Jr., G, Maine
Who knows what Pollard might have done if he was on any team other than the Titanic that is Maine. He also battled injuries, a suspension and saw his spot in the starting lineup come and go as the Black Bears seemingly threw lineups against the wall to see what stuck. Despite the vortex of dysfunction and disarray swirling around him, the 6’2” junior did it all for Maine, stuffing the stat sheet, tying for fourth in the league in scoring at 14.9 points per game, while ranking third in assists (4 apg), second in steals (1.7 spg) and 18th in rebounds despite playing the point guard position (4.4 rpg). He was also an outstanding on-ball defender.

Carson Puriefoy, Soph., G, Stony Brook
Puriefoy was phenomenal for stretches for the Seawolves, and who knows that might have been if he didn’t spend the first half of the season coming off the bench and also hadn’t battled injuries for spells. The dynamic six-foot point guard ranked 11th in overall scoring (12.7 ppg) and eighth in scoring in conference games (13.5 ppg). He was also the only player on the Seawolves capable of dribble penetration or of generating offense, pushing the pace in transition and getting to the hoop in the halfcourt.

If you enjoy One-Bid Wonders’ continued coverage of the America East, Patriot League, Ivy League and commitment to telling the stories of players who toil in the empty-gym obscurity of mid-major hoops, please consider making a donation. OBW is a not for profit website and every dollar raised goes directly back into the website. No donation is too small and every cent goes a tremendously long way towards helping us cover fantastic young men playing for love of the game.

OBW Post Season Awards: America East All-Conference Third Team

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

OBW America East Third Team All-Conference

Albany forward Sam Rowley. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Albany forward Sam Rowley. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Antonio Bivins, Sr., F, UMass Lowell
Had Bivins played the entire year and continued to put up the numbers and percentages he did in half a season – and coming off an Achilles tendon tear in August, no less – he’d be a strong candidate for First Team honors and perhaps in the discussion for Player of the Year. As is, his season was wonderful as is. The super-athletic 6’5” scored from everywhere on the floor – from in-your-face posterizations all the way out to a beautiful mid-range game – while impacting the game on the glass, on defense and in the locker room. Bivins ranked sixth in the league in scoring in conference games (14 ppg) while his offensive rating ranked 11th among all players and his usage rate ranked 10th.

Dave Coley, Sr., G, Stony Brook
Coley had a very pedestrian year offensively, igniting for short stretches but then going cold for prolonged ones. Still, he ranked 14th in scoring in conference games (11.6 ppg), and 12th in overall rebounding. Coley made a far larger impact on the defensive end, where he drew the nightly task of defending the opponents best back court scorer and on most nights shut them down.

Gary Johnson, Sr., F, Albany
Johnson quietly had a very surprising and outright stellar senior year, going from a defensive specialist a season ago to a legitimate scorer. A very long, lanky and athletic 6’6”, last year Johnson used his length to blanket defenders, but was all but helpless on offense. This year, he has made a massive leap, ranking 14th in the league among all players in offensive rating. Johnson’s shooting percentage has taken a massive jump from the low 34.6 percent as a first year JUCO transfer last season to 52.8 percent as a senior, while nearly quadrupling his scoring from 3.3 ppg to 11.1.

Rodney Elliott, Fr., G, UMBC
Elliott hasn’t simply been one of the best freshmen in the league, he has been one of the best players and top point guards, keeping the throttle down and pushing the pace while playing at 110-percent effort at all times. Elliot ranked fourth overall in the conference in scoring and assists (14.9 points and 3.5 assists per game) and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio, while shooting at a very high percentage for a point guard (45.3 percent from the floor).

Sam Rowley, Jr., F, Albany
Halfway through the year, Rowley looked like a contender for Player of the Year honors and a lock for the first team – scoring at will while shooting at an insane percentage from the floor. A bad wrist injury hindered him for much of the conference slate and, even after returning to health, he simply hasn’t been the same. Still, he is a legit low-post scorer, a big time rebounder and continues to demand double-teams on the blocks. Rowley ranked 13th overall in scoring (11.3 points per game) and fourth in rebounding (6.8 rpg).

If you enjoy One-Bid Wonders’ continued coverage of the America East, Patriot League, Ivy League and commitment to telling the stories of players who toil in the empty-gym obscurity of mid-major hoops, please consider making a donation. OBW is a not for profit website and every dollar raised goes directly back into the website. No donation is too small and every cent goes a tremendously long way towards helping us cover fantastic young men playing for love of the game.

OBW Post Season Awards: OBW America East All-Defensive Team

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

OBW America East All-Defensive Team
Gary Johnson and Josh Elbaum were incredibly tough omits from this list.

Dave Coley has been blanketing scorers for four years. OBW File Photo / Sam Perkins

Dave Coley has been blanketing scorers for four years. OBW File Photo / Sam Perkins

Jordan Bronner, Sr., G, New Hampshire
UNH head coach Bill Herrion called Bronner one of the best back court defenders he has seen in his career – strong praise considering the coach’s career. Generously listed at 6-feet, Bronner has been relentless, almost single-handedly turning the clock back on to the program’s glory years on the defensive end.

Dave Coley, Sr., G, Stony Brook
Since day one four years ago, the 6’2” bundle of energy has been a lock-down, game-changing perimeter defender, blanketing the opponent’s best back-court scorer.

Brian Voelkel, Sr., F, Vermont
What can you say about Voelkel? He might not be able to outrun a broken down city bus or jump over a park bench, but he is relentless and has a Good Will Hunting-esque Basketball IQ and unparallel understanding of angles, numbers and defensive positioning. He’s also as strong as an ox and un-matched when it comes to bodying up, beating down, and scaring the bejesus out of opponents.

Kerry Weldon, Sr., F, UMass Lowell
UMass Lowell was a shockingly solid defensive team this season – downright outstanding defending against the three – and Weldon was the team’s best defender. The 6’5” senior blocked shots, ripped down defensive boards and clogged up the paint, but also did a terrific job at both the top and bottom of the 1-3-1 zone.

Corban Wroe, Jr., G, Hartford
If you took Brian Voelkel, shrunk him down about four inches, gave him some hops and an Australian accent, you’d have someone similar to Wroe on the defensive end. The junior guard from the land down under is a relentless on-ball defender who gets under opponents’ skin while blanketing them on D.

If you enjoy One-Bid Wonders’ continued coverage of the America East, Patriot League, Ivy League and commitment to telling the stories of players who toil in the empty-gym obscurity of mid-major hoops, please consider making a donation. OBW is a not for profit website and every dollar raised goes directly back into the website. No donation is too small and every cent goes a tremendously long way towards helping us cover fantastic young men playing for love of the game.

Post Season Awards: OBW America East All-Rookie Team

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

OBW America East All-Rookie Team
Here’s our top-5 America East Rookies of 2013-2014. These picks are not necessarily based on the top-5 “talents” or the rookies we see as having the most potential for long-term stardom (although they might also be those), but rather the five rookies who had the best individual years.

UNH freshman Jacoby Armstrong soars to the hoop for an authoritative dunk plus the foul against UMass Lowell. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

UNH freshman Jacoby Armstrong soars to the hoop for an authoritative dunk plus the foul against UMass Lowell. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

Jacoby Armstrong, F, New Hampshire
Armstrong’s efficiency numbers weren’t great, but he showed as much raw-talent and ability as anyone. He was also a bear on the glass, ranking 13th in the league in offensive rebounding percent, 11th in defensive rebounding percent and 10th in the league in rebounds per game – all three marks rank second among Rookies. He was also a beast on the blocks, showcasing a terrific low post game.

Rodney Elliott, G, UMBC
Elliot led America East Rookies in scoring and assists, ranking fourth overall in the conference in both (14.9 points and 3.5 assists per game). According to Kenpom, Elliot was first among AE rookies in usage rate and ranked first in offensive rating among players who accounted for at least 20-percent of their team’s usage. Elliot was also the only freshman in the league with a usage rate of at least 24 percent of his team’s possessions. Elliot became just the second player in school history to post 400 points, 100 assists and 100 rebounds in a season. More than that, he was one of the best creators and point guards in the league, regardless of grade.

Nick Madray, F, Binghamton
Madray’s insane 3-point shooting to begin the year fell back down to earth as the year wore on and the 6’9” Canadian missed the final eight games of the regular season due to injury. Still, his impact on offense (his Kenpom offensive rating of 103.2 ranks first among all AE rookies) was undeniable, as the long and lanky shooter changed the game from behind the arc, hitting 38 percent of his trey’s while also adding a nice touch around the rim and in the mid-range.

Kurt Steidl, G, Vermont
If Steidl wasn’t playing on such a senior-laden powerhouse, and was seeing more minutes and getting more touches as a result, he might have run away with the league Rookie of the Year award and landed on one of the high All-Conference teams – his ability to both fill it up and create on offense is that good. Still, even in moderate minutes, the 6’5″ shooting guard was perhaps THE game-changer for the first place Catamounts, drilling more than 48 percent of his 3-pointers on the season and 52 percent in conference play.

Ahmad Walker, F, Stony Brook
Walker’s offense doesn’t consist of much more than dunks and dirty-work second chance baskets around the rim, but he made a huge impact on the glass and in the effort department for the Seawolves. The 6’4” forward ranked first among America East freshmen in rebounds, offensive rebounding percent and defensive rebounding percent – ranking amongst the conference leaders in each category.

If you enjoy One-Bid Wonders’ continued coverage of the America East, Patriot League, Ivy League and commitment to telling the stories of players who toil in the empty-gym obscurity of mid-major hoops, please consider making a donation. OBW is a not for profit website and every dollar raised goes directly back into the website. No donation is too small and every cent goes a tremendously long way towards helping us cover fantastic young men playing for love of the game.

Post Season Awards: OBW America East All-Rim-Wreckers (in-game dunkers)

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

OBW America East All-Rim Wreckers (in game dunkers)

Kerry Weldon was rattling the rims for UMass Lowell this season. OBW File Photo / Sam Perkins

Kerry Weldon was rattling the rims for UMass Lowell this season. OBW File Photo / Sam Perkins

It was a pretty down year for the America East in most regards, but a surprisingly strong year when it came to the crowd-pleasing act of the slam dunk.

Antonio Bivins, Sr., F, UMass Lowell
Bivins was a one-man dunk show and human-highlight reel. Despite playing only half of the season, the crazy-athletic 6-foot-5 forward likely had as many (if not more) dunks than anyone else on this team. Bivins slammin’ season was highlighted by a five-dunk game at Maine, and a thrilling posterization of Maine forward Kilian Cato for the final points of his college career.

Eric McAlister, R-Sr., F, Stony Brook
At 6’8” with crazy length and bounce, McAlister cleaned up around the rim this year, scoring on an assortment of lops and put-back slams over opponents who can only crane their necks helplessly below.

Jordan Reed, Soph., F, Binghamton
Reed stands just 6-foot-3 but played elbows above the rim this year. A rare blend of strength, power and high-flying hops, the sophomore threw down a slew of authoritative alley-oop slams, finishing off back-door cuts in the half court with authority.

Clancy Rugg, Sr., F, Vermont
Statistics were kept for pure, disrespectful, in your face posterizations, Rugg likely would have led the league. The 6’8” forward not only has good hops and great length, but he has the brass. When defenders impede his path to the hoop, Rugg reaches back to put the extra “FU” factor on his slams.

Charles Taylor, Fr., G/F, UMBC
Only a freshman, Taylor may be the best pure leaper in the conference. At somewhere in the vicinity of 6-foot-3, he’s been a terror on the fast break, posterizing 6’8” Maine center Christian Ejiga, and catching multiple George Washington defenders on a lob.

Kerry Weldon, Sr., F, UMass Lowell
The thunder to Bivins’ lightening, the 6’5″ Weldon threw down several authoritative dunks in his own right, including a rock-the-cradle double-pump-reverse on the fast break against Duquesne and a monster alley-oop slam in traffic in the season finale against Maine.

If you enjoy One-Bid Wonders’ continued coverage of the America East, Patriot League, Ivy League and commitment to telling the stories of players who toil in the empty-gym obscurity of mid-major hoops, please consider making a donation. OBW is a not for profit website and every dollar raised goes directly back into the website. No donation is too small and every cent goes a tremendously long way towards helping us cover fantastic young men playing for love of the game.

Post-Season Awards: OBW Player of the Year

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

This was a very difficult award to decide. As late as the last week of the season, we were in disagreement over who was the true player of the year – not violent disagreement (by that point each of us had the other’s choice as our runner-up), but significant enough that we had composed relatively detailed arguments for and against the two candidates.

One option is to just go with the best player on the best team – and this year our choice coincidentally lines up with that approach – but what happens when your two finalists are teammates? As strongly as we feel that our Player of the Year is a truly special player, in several areas it’s extremely difficult to discern where his contributions end and OBW Rookie of the Year Jameel Warney’s contributions begin. The Seawolf defense, good as it was, wasn’t anywhere near this good before Warney’s arrival. Who’s primarily responsible for Stony Brook’s domination on the glass? When Stony Brook’s perimeter shooters get open looks, who deserves the lion’s share of the credit – is it the seemingly omniscient point forward who made the pass, or the obscenely efficient whose very presence on the low block sucks the defense in? We can observe all we want, but the very thing that makes basketball beautiful – the continual, fluid interaction among ten players across 94 feet of hardwood – creates a web not so easily untangled.

Jameel Warney is a magnificent player, a battering ram taken to an opponent’s defense. He is a devastating weapon, one which very few defenses have weathered successfully. But the guy who directs the ram into the wall – the guy who keeps the ram, and every other weapon at his disposal, functioning to the greatest possible effect (cue Alasdair Fraser begging for someone to -please- give him the ball during the last five minutes of a close game) – is our Player of the Year. (more…)