The America East has seen some remarkable walk-ons over the years. From Marques Cox’s constant effort on the defensive end, to Sean Regan’s grit and toughness, to Dan Daccarett’s constant energy and enthusiasm and Joe Campbell’s work ethic, there has been no shortage of great players who gave everything they had in a true “all guts, no glory” tradition.
This award, which recognizes the top America East walk-on, is named in honor of former walk-ons Chris Brown (New Hampshire ’02) and Mahamoud Jabbi (Binghamton ’11). Both players began their college careers as walk-ons before blossoming into All-Conference players. Furthermore, they displayed tremendous enthusiasm, work ethic, and dedication to their teammates, with each serving as the heart and soul of their respective teams.
Jabbi did not begin playing basketball until high school, and after a stint playing Division-III ball, made the Bearcats out of an open tryout. He would go on to earn All-Conference Third-Team and All-Defensive Team honors. Brown walked on at UNH, and as a senior was named to the First-Team All-Conference, the only former walk-on in America East history to achieve such an honor.
Vermont sophomore Clancy Rugg was a strong candidate for the award, excelling in a strong supporting role for a conference contender. However, Ryan Cook’s production and numbers were impossible to ignore.
(And yes, the name of the award is awkward. We also find it strangely endearing, probably for that exact reason. Kind of like walk-ons. Just roll with it.)
Ryan Cook, R-Jr., G, UMBC: Cook began his career as a Division-II walk-on at Chestnut Hill College in suburban Philadelphia. This year – his first eligible at UMBC – he established himself as the Retrievers’ second-best player (behind only Chase Plummer). “Flyin’ Ryan” started 20 of the 24 games in which he played for the Retrievers, scoring 12.4 points per game overall and 12 points per game in conference play, good for 13th and 16th, respectively, on the conference leader board. 6’2” (maybe) in his shoes, Cook shot .854 (70-of-82) from the charity stripe, good for fourth in the league, and also pulled down four rebounds per game while throwing down some eye-opening dunks. Despite playing for a conference bottom-feeder, he played with great energy, effort, and enthusiasm, constantly encouraging teammates while never taking a play off. Cook broke the 20-point mark three times during the season, including a career-high 28 in a head-to-head matchup with Albany star Gerardo Suero. Against Suero, Cook nearly matched arguably the most talented player in the league – and the conference’s leading scorer – shot-for-shot.