OBW America East men’s basketball Rookie of the Year
Jahad Thomas, F, UMass Lowell
This, along with the fifth spot on the OBW First Team All-Conference, were easily our closest and toughest decisions, and both came down to the same two players: New Hampshire freshman forward Tanner Leissner, and UMass Lowell red-shirt freshman forward Jahad Thomas.
Both Leissner and Thomas had brilliant seasons, and both – at least provided Thomas can return to health from a second torn ACL in as many years (albeit the opposite knee of the one he tore last year – appear to be sure-fire America East stars in the making.
Leissner, a 6’6” forward, finished sixth in the league in overall scoring (12.8 ppg) and fourth in rebounding (7.4 rpg), and in conference play boosted his numbers to 13.1 ppg (sixth) and 8.5 rpg (third). He was the best player on the best New Hampshire squad in two decades, and showed the ability to score in a variety of unorthodox ways from anywhere on the floor.
Thomas played six fewer games than Leissner after tearing his ACL, but during his time on the floor, was even more dominant, tying for second in the league in scoring (14.3 ppg), and fifth in rebounds (6.5 rpg), while carrying an even bigger portion of the River Hawks offensive and defensive load, drawing nightly double and triple teams (largely a result of being surrounded by much less of a supporting cast), and still finding ways to help Lowell win when, by every measure, they had no business winning. Despite standing just 6’2” on a very good day, Thomas towered over opponents in the post.