There were a few AE games this year that left us wondering whether anyone was ever going to score a basket. The cynical side of us might blame the league’s offenses – and there were definitely some bad offenses in the AE in 2011-12 – but at the same time there were some AE teams and players playing some damn good defense this year. In a year with no elite shotblockers in the frontcourt, this may be the most perimeter-oriented All-Defensive team we ever name. Even the guys sitting right on the edge of the team, Brendan Bald and Clayton Brothers, were both perimeter players.
Without further ado, here’s our All-Defensive Team:
Tommy Brenton, R-Jr., F, Stony Brook: The league’s most physical and versatile defender, Brenton was handed the nightly assignment of guarding the opponent’s best scorer, regardless of position. From Chase Plummer, Darryl Partin, Gerardo Suero, Gerald McLemore, to even Andres Torres and Alasdair Fraser, Brenton defended them all – and more often than not, shut them down. Brenton ranked amongst the league-leaders in steals and defensive rebounds while using his athleticism to bottle up scorers and his guts and guile – and at times Oscar-caliber acting – to lead the league in charges taken.
Justin Edwards, Fr., G, Maine: 6’2” with insane leaping ability, Edwards was a tornado on defense, not only finishing amongst the league leaders in steals, but also in blocked-shots and defensive (as well as total) rebounds – incredible numbers considering his relatively diminutive size. Edwards was a bit of a miniature Marqus Blakely: Taking big gambles on the defensive end, but often coming up with big steals and blocks that led to even bigger dunks in transition.
D.J. Irving, Soph., G, Boston University: Perhaps the most underrated defender in the conference, Irving used his blinding speed to frustrate opposing ball-handlers and back-court scorers. Irving was particularly effective as the energy guy in the Terriers press, as well as applying on-ball pressure to opponents’ point guards, and greatly disrupted the opponent’s ability to set up and run their offenses.
Chandler Rhoads, G, Jr., New Hampshire: For America East guards, going off the dribble against Rhoads was akin to going 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, leaving them battered, bruised, and often with few points to show for it. Rhoads doesn’t defend opposing guards; he beats the bag out of them.
Brian Voelkel, F, So., Vermont: Behind the scenes, several players and coaches around the league have quietly noted Voelkel’s massive improvement year-over-year at the defensive end. Voelkel has always been a strong defensive rebounder – he led the league in defensive rebounding percentage this season after finishing second in that category as a freshman – but the difference between a freshman’s understanding of defensive role and scheme and a sophomore’s understanding of those aspects can be significant. Voelkel’s not Vermont’s best defender on an island, but neither was Marqus Blakely. What Voelkel is is Vermont’s most important defender. He makes up for his physical limitations with heady play and consistently gets his hands on the ball (Voelkel has the most steals among all AE frontcourt players). Most importantly, he’s that hard-to-find defender who makes his teammates better at the defensive end. The value in that is hard to measure, but it’s value nonetheless.