OBW CAA men’s basketball Player of the Year
Marcus Thornton, Sr., G, William & Mary
He says he doesn’t dwell on the heartbreaking loss to Delaware in last season’s CAA championship. By the way he performed this year, people should start believing him. Thornton was incredible this year, averaging 19.4 PPG and 2.9 3-pointers made per game. The senior led his young Tribe to the first seed in one of the more competitive years in the CAA, earning some notable individual accolades along the way. Thornton’s 2081 points are No.1 on the Tribe’s all-time scoring list.
OBW CAA men’s basketball Coach of the Year Kevin Keatts UNC-Wilmington
Keatts completely changed the Seahawks program in his first year at the helm. One year removed from finishing 9-23 overall and 3-13 in CAA play (ninth place), and being picked to again finish ninth in this year’s preseason poll, Keatts guided virtually the same Seahawks roster to a 12-6 record in conference and a share of the CAA regular-season title for the first time since 2006.
OBW CAA men’s basketball Rookie of the Year
Kory Holden, FR, G, Delaware
You can bet Northeastern, who will play Delaware in the first round, knows about Holden’s outstanding rookie campaign. Holden scored 15 points against the Huskies in Boston on 5-10 shooting and that performance was no where near his best. The freshman had four 20-plus games, averaged 12.1 PPG and 5.0 APG, good for second best in the CAA.
OBW CAA men’s basketball Defensive Player of the Year
Terry Tarpey, Jr., G/F, William & Mary
This was the easiest decision of all. Name a defensive statistical category and Tarpey owned it. Rebounds? At the wing position, Tarpey pulled down a league-best 8.4 a game. Steals? He picked off a league-best 1.4 a game. Then there was the blocks. At a modest 6-5, he swatted 1.4 attempts a game. His defense was the yin to Marcus Thornton’s offensive yang. Without him, there was no way the Tribe only let up 66.1 points a game.
OBW CAA men’s basketball All-Conference First Team Marcus Thornton, SR, G, William & Mary
If Thornton is in the conversation for best player in all of mid-major basketball, I think it’s safe to say he has earned a spot on this team. He wreaked havoc on opposing defenses, shattered the Tribe’s all-time scoring records and led his team to a shared regular-season championship. Thornton averaged 19.4 PPG on 46 percent shooting and 2.9 made 3-pointers a game.
Terry Tarpey, JR, F, William & Mary
The best defensive player in the CAA, Tarpey did a little bit of everything for the Tribe. He led the league in rebounding (8.4 per game), steals (1.8 per game), blocked shots (1.4 per game), was third in field goal percentage (54 percent), sixth in free throw percentage (81 percent), and seventh in assists (3.2 per game). Tarpey’s versatility was as impressive as Thornton’s dominance.
Scott Eatherton, SR, C, Northeastern
The best big man in the CAA, Eatherton remained the go-to guy for the Huskies even with the improvement in coach Bill Coen’s guards. The Huskies struggled last year when opposing teams double teamed Eatherton in the post, but the center added passing to his overall game (had a season-high seven assists against JMU). Eatherton averaged 14.7 PPG and 6.6 RPG.
Damion Lee, R-JR, G, Drexel
Nobody was better than Lee in January and early February. The red-shirt junior put the Dragons on his back in conference play and the weight was just too much for his body. A hand injury will keep Lee out of the conference tournament, but his 21.4 PPG and 6.1 RPG can’t be ignored.
Addison Spruill, SR, F, UNC-Wilmington
The heart of UNC-W, Spruill brought sheer grit to the Seahawks. His scoring (14.5 PPG) and rebounding (6.5 RPG) made him one of the toughest match-ups in the league. He also exemplified the toughness of UNC-W on the defensive end. Spruill might not be a threat from outside, but if he has momentum going towards the hoop, watch out.
OBW CAA men’s basketball All-Conference Second Team Juan’ya Green, JR, G, Hofstra
Don’t be mistaken; Green was one of the more prolific scorers and facilitators in the CAA. If not for his team’s dreadfully inconsistent second half of the season, he would be a player-of-the-year candidate. Even during that period, Green continued to impress, recording four double doubles in conference play and eight total on the season. Now if he could just convince his team to play consistent defense…
Ron Curry, JR, G, James Madison
The clear leader of a young JMU team that shockingly ended the season as one of four regular-season CAA champs. Curry was a well-rounded guard who hurt teams with his shot as well as his passing ability. The junior was ninth in the CAA in scoring (13.8 PPG) and third in assists (4.4 RPG).
David Walker, JR, G, Northeastern
Gone is the shy rookie in the shadow of Jon Lee and Joel Smith. Walker was the best player for the Huskies at times this season, averaging 13.3 PPG, 3.5 APG and 3.3 RPG. He posted 20-plus points in seven games this season, two of which coming in big games against FSU and Hofstra. “SkyWalker” also may be the best dunker in the league.
Ameen Tanksley, JR, G, Hofstra
A nightmare for opposing defenses, Tanksley was one of the finer scorers in the league. The guard averaged 16.7 PPG but also had a knack for getting rebounds, averaging 5.6 RPG. The junior gave coaches headaches with his ability to draw contact and earn points at the line. Tanksley hit eight or more free throws in three games of the season, including a 14 of 15 performance against Towson.
Freddie Jackson, SR, G, UNC-Wilmington
A senior leader for the Seahawks, Jackson made first-year coach Kevin Keatts’ job a little easier with consistent effort on a nightly basis. What was more impressive than the guard’s 13.8 PPG was his effort on the boards (5.8 RPG).
OBW CAA men’s basketball Third Team All-Conference
Kyle Anderson, SR, G, Delaware
After sitting out the first seven games of the season, Anderson became a consistent scoring presence for a Delaware team that has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the season. The senior scored in single digits in just two games played this year and made a 3-pointer in all but two games. He averaged 14.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 2.0 APG.
TJ Williams, SO, PG, Northeastern
The Texas-native followed up an impressive rookie campaign with an outstanding sophomore season. With one of the best starting lineups in the league, it can be hard to score the basketball while facilitating but Williams took ownership of his role as coach Bill Coen’s point guard. He improved in scoring (10.4 PPG), assists (3.4 APG) and rebounds (3.7 PPG) and had a season-high 20 points against Richmond.
Daniel Dixon, SO, G, William & Mary
He made William & Mary history when he went a perfect 6 for 6 from behind the arc but Dixon’s most important contribution to the Tribe might be his perimeter defense. When he sat out five games towards the end of the season, the Tribe gave up 70-plus points three times and suffered losses to Delaware and Northeastern. Dixon, averaging 11.3 PPG on 45 percent shooting from the field and 46 percent shooting from behind the arc, was the perfect compliment to Marcus Thornton.
Kory Holden, FR, G, Delaware
Without Holden, Delaware is in last place and Kyle Anderson is one unhappy senior. The Maryland-native was outstanding for coach Monte Ross and despite his young age, he quickly emerged as a leader for the Blue Hens. The point guard averaged 12.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 5.0 APG, good for second best in the CAA.
Elijah Bryant, FR, G, Elon
The future is bright for the Phoenix with the versatile Elijah Bryant leading the way. If that wasn’t evident when he had 32 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes against Drexel, maybe it was in the last two games of the season when he led his team to wins over two of the four CAA regular season champs; Northeastern and UNC-Wilmington.
Why do you cry? It could be for many reasons. Maybe it’s tears of joy, maybe it’s happiness coming out of you, or like most the time, it’s fear or pain. Life… Something that can’t be defined, Love…. Something that messed up ones state of mind. Death… Something we all will look in the face. But GOD… The powerful king that instilled in us what we call faith. We all go through what we go through. But it’s up to us to make it better. We all hope to come out dry in the stormy wet weather. Feeling lost is just a stage. A moment we can bare. Cause right when you feel like it’s over, the great king will be right there. Picking you up, putting the pieces back together. A leader leads with the God given wisdom from above. Givin one courage, hope, faith, not hate but love. Friends are temporary, pain is too. So overcome all the things that weigh you down to become something stronger.
-Kory Holden, Delaware freshman point guard
Most basketball players will tell you the court provides refuge from all of the real world stresses that plague a college student. But what about when the hardwood is the source for those daily stresses?
Where does a player turn for a therapeutic outlet?
Delaware point guard Kory Holden, a favorite for CAA Rookie of the Year, found his escape in poetry. And in a historically bad start for Delaware, the freshman had never needed it more.
“If basketball is not going well for me than I can put it into a life perspective in a poem,” says the freshman.
After making his collegiate debut on Nov. 17th, the Salisbury, M.D., native had to wait a month to know what it feels like to win a NCAA game. Delaware lost its first 10 games in non-conference play.
Losing was foreign to Holden. In his junior and senior year he led Maryland’s James M. Bennett high school to a combined 34-9 record. The four-year starter broke the school’s scoring record and averaged 29.7 points and 8.6 assists in his senior year.
The high school to collegiate transition is already difficult for a point guard. But going from a winning team to losing? Whole new ball game.
“We did go [0-10] so that’s not easy to handle,” Holden says.
Holden says coach Monte’ Ross consistently told his players that they “would start to gel” and to “be patient” but that’s still not easy for a freshman guard.
So in a time when winless was synonymous with Delaware, Holden found peace in creative writing. It didn’t matter where the setting was – Holden was becoming as comfortable with using metaphors as he is with his crossover.
“Airplane rides, bus rides, even just chilling in the hotel room before a game; that’s usually when I have to do it,” Holden says.
Do not be mistaken: the point guard has been on an absolute tear and led Delaware to multiple big wins.
In the Blue Hens’ first win of the season against St. Bonaventure, the guard scored a collegiate career-high 27 points. In their first conference win against Charleston, Holden scored 14 and went 8 of 10 from the line. He followed it up with 24 points against Towson to give Delaware its first winning streak of the season.
He essentially has been the biggest factor in turning Delaware into the kryptonite for top teams in the CAA. In an 84-80 upset win against William & Mary, Holden had 24 points on 9 of 13 shooting and nine assists. In a win against Northeastern, he had 15 points and he matched that in Delaware’s second win against William & Mary.
“You always want to play against the best,” Holden says. “William & Mary has Marcus Thornton so I obviously want to play well against them.”
He says the person seen on the court – the player displaying “toughness and just being gritty” – doesn’t encapsulate who he is. That’s when poetry comes in.
“I’m just more hungry and determined on the court and relaxed and in my own world in the poems,” Holden says. “…if one is not working out for me than I can’t do the other.”
Holden’s great play has many drawing comparisons to last year’s first-team All-CAA guard Devon Saddler. The balance Holden gets from his dual passions provides distance from the hype.
“I want to be in the names of the greatest that came here but I’m not trying to live up to him,” Holden says. “I just want to play my own game. Whatever comes is what comes.”
One thing he does know is that his team is capable of making noise in March.
“I think we got a chance,” Holden says. “If we can play defense, we can beat anybody.
“…I don’t think any of the top teams want to come across us anyways.”
The freshman is currently in his last week of practice before the tournament. Don’t be surprised if he writes a poem or two on the plane to Baltimore.
OBW CAA men’s basketball All-Rookie Team
Kory Holden, PG, Delaware
Devon Saddler who? The future is bright for the Blue Hens with Holden at the helm, who showed his maturity by ranking second in the CAA in assists (5.0 per game). He also showed he can light up the score board – just ask the top teams in the CAA.
Elijah Bryant, G, Elon
Whether he’s running the one, two or three position, Bryant always seemed to control the Phoenix’s tempo with poise. He showed his all-around game in the last three games of the season, in wins against Delaware, Northeastern and UNC-W. Bryant scored in the double figures and pulled down at least eight rebounds in the wins.
Jordon Talley, G, UNC-W
Talley handled the pressure of being on a contending team beautifully and showed he wasn’t afraid to have the ball in late game situations. His most impressive performance came against fellow contender Northeastern, when he erupted for 21 points at Matthews Arena.
Rokas Gustys, C, Hofstra
The Lithuanian big man will bring toughness to the CAA for years to come. He struggled to adjust to the different hand-checking rules and got into foul trouble early in the season but came into his own towards the end of conference play. The big man’s defensive presence in the paint may just be just as important as their dynamic backcourt in the conference tournament.
Dmitri Thompson, F, Elon
The rookie showed signs of potential for a young Elon team. He came up big against top teams, recording 10 points against William & Mary and 12 points and five rebounds against Northeastern. Thompson averaged 6.1 PPG and 3.7 APG.
CHARLESTON, SC – Even in the last home game of his college basketball life on Saturday, Colllege of Charleston senior Pat Branin set an example for his little brother and teammate, Tim Branin II.
Branin was one of three seniors honored by the CofC home crowd, before making the first start of his career against Northeastern.
“It gave me an image of what it’s going to be like in my senior year to come,” said Tim, a freshman.
The 65-56 loss capped the end to a regular season in which the Branin brothers constantly pushed CofC starters in practice, regardless of how much playing time they received.
Both from Richmond, Pat provided Tim with the guidance the guard needed in his first year of college.
“He’s always been my role model growing up,” said Tim, a preferred walk-on. “He’s always been a great leader in school and his opportunity to start [tonight] was great.”
Prior to this season, the two brothers had only played a year of organized basketball together, when Pat was a senior and Tim a freshman at The Steward School in Richmond, VA.
Only three years apart, growing up, the hyper-competitiveness between the two often made led to clashes between the two when they were younger. Both brothers agreed the year of college basketball excelled their maturity and strengthened their relationship.
“[This season] elevated his game and it’s elevated my game but I also think we’ve gotten a lot closer the past few years being down here,” said Pat.
The senior also showed Tim the rewards of hard work when he got a boost in minutes when senior point guard Anthony Stitt went down with injury earlier in the year, appearing in 21 games, 10 more than in his junior campaign.
Still, starting on Saturday felt foreign to the older brother.
“The game seemed like it went by faster,” said Pat. “When I came out I was like ‘oh wow there’s only ten minutes left in the half.”
After those 10 minutes, the Cougars led Northeastern 33-32, but were held to just 33 percent shooting from the field in the second half. Junior David Walker had led the Huskies with 19 points and Northeastern led by as much as 18 points in the second half.
But with his younger brother by his side, Pat confidently said his teammates would not be stymied by the offensive woes.
“We didn’t get the final result we wanted tonight but then again in college basketball you always have a chance going into the conference tournament to do something.”
COR: An earlier version of this story said Pat Branin was a walk-on. He is in fact a four-year scholarship player.