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NEC 2002-03 Season Recap

May 23, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Northeast Conference 2002-03 Season Recap

by Adam Shandler

2002-03 was the Year of the Seahawk. Dereck Whittenburg’s Staten Island club threshed through the season with a 21-11 overall record (14-4 in the NEC), while dominating at home with a 14-1 mark. The Seahawks, the clear favorite going into the NEC tournament, took home the conference crown then took an early but valiant exit against Pittsburgh in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Monmouth, at 13-5, and Central Connecticut, at 12-6, gave chase, but down the stretch, the Seahawks were just more poised.

NEC Tournament:

The Terriers were tough, but not tough enough for Wagner. St. Francis of New York tried to play spoiler in the conference tournament. The sixth seeded Terriers upset Cenn-Conn, 67-62, by hitting 13 3-pointers in the quarterfinals and followed that victory up with a semifinal smacking of Farleigh Dickinson, 88-66. (FDU, incidentally, upset No. 2 seed Monmouth in the quarterfinal round.) But it was Wagner who held on for the championship, a 78-61 W over its interborough rival. Jermaine Hall scored 27 points and hauled in 12 rebounds in the contest and took home NEC tourney honors — all under the watchful eye of hizzoner, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Maryland-Baltimore County, who defects to the America East next year, Robert Morris, Mt. St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart failed to make the NEC tourney this season. Only the top eight schools qualify.

NCAA Tournament:

Pittsburgh’s 56-0 record against teams from the Northeast Conference was probably an omen of sorts. In its NCAA tournament game against Pitt, the 15th-seeded Seahawks were overmatched on two accounts — physicality and depth, and fell to the second-seeded (Midwest Region) Panthers, 87-61. NEC Player of the Year Jermaine Hall did not end his career without effort though. Hall hit for 17 points in the loss and finished with 2,278 points — good for fourth on the all-time NEC scoring chart.

First Team All-NEC
Antawn Dobie, Graduate Student Guard, Long Island
Darshan Luckey, Freshman Guard, St. Francis-PA
Jermaine Hall, Senior Forward, Wagner
Ron Robinson, Junior Forward, Central Connecticut
Clifford Strong, Senior Forward, St. Francis-NY

Honorable Mention
Joe Quintana, Freshman Guard, St. Francis-NY
Kason Mims, Junior Guard, Quinnipiac
Rashaun Banjo, Junior Forward, Quinnipiac
Rich Pittman, Sophomore Forward, Central Connecticut
Kevin Owens, Senior Center, Monmouth

Conference Player of the Year:

Jermaine Hall, Senior Forward, Wagner

A five-time player of the week this year, Hall opened up a bottle of offense and never corked it back up. The poor man’s James Worthy averaged 21.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg and became Wagner’s fourth all-time leading scorer. The Dublin, GA native tallied 47 straight double-digit games this year and poured in 17 in a loss to Pittsburgh in the first round of the Midwest Regionals of the NCAA tourney.

Rookie of the Year

Darshan Luckey, Freshman Guard, St. Francis-PA

In a conference laden with guards and rookies, Luckey stood out as the best of both. An eight-time NEC rookie of the week selection this year, Luckey was his team’s game-high scorer in 21 of 28 games. With a staggering average of 21.6 points a game, the Baltimore native was tops in NEC scoring among all players — not just frosh. Luckey dropped in 38 in a 102-89 loss to Wagner on February 3.

Defensive Player of the Year

Kevin Owens, Senior Center, Monmouth

Despite a tough opening round NEC loss to FDU in the conference tourney, the Hawks can hang their hat on the yeoman-like efforts of senior center Kevin Owens. At 6-10, Owens was one of the tallest and more dominating big men in the league. The native Jersey boy collected a league-best 6.54 defensive rebounds per game and was tops in blocks at 1.75.

Coach of the Year

Dereck Whittenburg, Wagner

He may be off to Fordham next year, but the NEC 2002-03 Coach of the Year is resoundingly Dereck Whittenburg. The man who made the 30-foot airball-pass to Lorenzo Charles in 1983 pulled off another miracle on Staten Island, taking an abysmal Seahawks team that was 6-12, 11-16 (overall) two seasons ago and making them the “it” team in the NEC. Whittenburg faces yet another uphill battle in the Bronx, where he inherits a struggling Rams program that has yet to find its footing in the A-10.

1. Wagner Seahawks (21-11, 14-4)

Team Leaders:
Jermaine Hall, Senior Forward, 21.4 ppg
Nigel Wyatte, Junior Forward, 8.6 rpg
Courtney Pritchard, Junior Guard, 4.9 apg

Coach: Dereck Whittenburg

Of Note: Wagner loses NEC conference and tournament player of the year Jermaine Hall, who came in first in team scoring, second in the conference. Dedrick Dye, second on the team at just over 12 ppg, also exits due to graduation…The Seahawks return nine of their eleven players next year…Wagner lost its last three regular season games but rallied to win three straight in the NEC tourney…Head coach Dereck Whittenburg has accepted the Fordham vacancy left by the embattled Bob Hill. No successor has been named at Wagner as of yet.

2. Monmouth Hawks (15-13, 13-5)

Team Leaders:
Dwayne Byfield, Sophomore Guard, 15.1 ppg, 1.6 spg
Kevin Owens, Senior Center, 8.6 rpg, 1.8 bpg
Tyler Azzarelli, Freshman Guard, 3.2 apg, 1.6 spg

Coach: Dave Calloway

Of Note: Also a very young team, Monmouth loses just two seniors to graduation, but one of them is NEC Defensive Player of the Year Kevin Owens…Chris Kenny, an important freshman bench player this year, hit for 38% from 3-point range. He will join a very solid backcourt for next year…Hawks upset by Farleigh Dickinson, 63-51, in semifinal round of NEC Tournament.

3. Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (15-13, 12-6)

Team Leaders:
Ricardo Scott, Junior Guard/Forward, 12.9 ppg
Ron Robinson, Junior Forward, 9.2 rpg

Head Coach: Howie Dickenman

Of Note: One senior leaves this program this year, team assist leader John Alexander…Forward Ron Robinson, the NEC’s leading rebounder is an all-NEC first team selection…Though his team has plenty of building blocks for the future, coach Howie Dickenman has been on a recruiting tear. He just signed forward Jemino Sobers (Scarborough, Ont.) and point guard T-Ron Christy of nearby Stratford, CT. Christy is an all-state selection and Top 15 player from the Nutmeg State. Sobers is a Canadian National Junior Team member who participated at Canada’s Nike Camp. The two new recruits join four others that were signed in the fall.

4. Quinnipiac Bobcats (17-12, 10-8)

Team Leaders:
Rashaun Banjo, Junior Forward, 13.4 ppg
Kason Mims, Junior Guard, 13.4 ppg, 4.6 apg
Jeremy Bishop, Senior Forward, 7.1 rpg

Coach: Joe DeSantis

Of Note: Quinnipiac enjoyed its second most successful season at the Division I level, and eighth-year coach Joe DeSantis is getting rewarded with a contract extension through 2007…Bobcats reached NEC tournament semifinals and placed Junior Forward Rashaun Banjo on the all-NEC tourney team after putting up an 18.5 postseason average…The “Q” graduates three seniors, including Jeremy Bishop, the team’s rebounding stud…Pierre Faye of the famed Trinity Valley (TX) Junior College has signed a letter of intent with the Bobcats. The 6-9 power forward from Senegal will have two years of eligibility left. He’ll fill the void left by Bishop nicely…Small forward Christian Burns of Hamilton (N.J.) High School has also agree to be a Bobcat. Burns averaged 19.8 ppg and 15.3 rpg, while leading his club to a 21-5 mark last season.

5. St. Francis of Pennsylvania Red Flash (14-14, 10-8)

Team Leaders:
Darshan Luckey, Freshman Guard, 21.6 ppg
Jason Osbourne, Sophomore Forward, 5.2 rpg
Dan Swoger, Senior Guard, 3.6 apg, 49.1% 3-Pt. Average
Erick WIlls, Junior Guard, 1.7 spg

Coach: Bob Jones

Of Note: Bob Jones got the most out of a very young team — especially out his youngest; freshman point guard Darshan Luckey, the NEC leading scorer…The Red Flash lose Dan Swoger, a very accurate guard and consummate team player…Six new faces will be seen on the St. Francis-PA roster next year, including power forward George Wright-Easy from Maine Central Institute — a real recruiting coup for Coach Jones. “[He’s] a good rebounder who should bolster our inside game”, says Jones (source: team website)…SFC-PA will be very balanced next year: Three seniors, six juniors, one sophomore, five freshman and one redshirt.

6. Farleigh Dickinson Knights (15-14, 9-9)

Team Leaders:
Lionel Bomayako, Senior Forward, 12.4 ppg, 39% 3-Pt. Avg.
Gordon Klaiber, Freshman Forward, 4.0 rpg
Marcus Whitaker, Junior Guard, 2.4 apg

Coach: Tom Green

Of Note: Improved from 4-25 a year ago to 15-14 this season…Knights upset 2-seed Monmouth in the Quarterfinals of NEC tournament, 63-51, just five days after falling to the Hawks in OT in the last game of the regular season…FDU graduates four seniors, namely leading scorer Lionel Bomayako, a forward from Paris…Freshman guard Chad Timberlake was named to the NEC all-rookie team, averaging 6.5 ppg — 11 in the last five regular season games…Tom Green keeps with his overseas theme. 6-10, 245-pound center Andrea Crosariol of Italy recently signed a letter of intent to join the Knights. Crosariol played his high school ball at Long Island Lutheran in Brookville, NY. He’ll join fellow Knights from Croatia and Israel.

7. St. Francis of New York Terriers (14-16, 9-9)

Team Leaders:
Bronski Dockery, Senior Guard, 15.4 ppg
Clifford Strong, Senior Forward, 7.8 rpg
Tory Cavalieri, Sophomore Guard, 5.6 apg, 1.9 spg

Coach: Ron Ganulin

Of Note: The Terriers lose its two most potent weapons next year: guard and leading scorer Bronski Dockery and second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Clifford Strong. Strong was named to the 2002-03 all NEC first team…Terriers shocked NEC faithful by upsetting CCSU and FDU to earn a challenge against Wagner. SFU-NY fell to the Seahawks, 78-61…Terriers were 1-8 in January but won eight of their last ten games…Freshman guard John Quintana was named to the NEC all-rookie team.

8. Long Island Blackbirds (9-19, 7-11)

Team Leaders:
Antawn Dobie, Graduate Student Guard, 19.1 ppg, 7.4 apg, 1.7 spg
Derek Bell, Sophomore Forward, 7.6 rpg
JaJa Bey, Senior Forward, 82% FT

Coach: Jim Ferry

Of Note: Antawn Dobie received one extra year of eligibility this year and played as a grad student. The senior guard was an all-NEC first team selection this year and led the Blackbirds in ten statistical categories this year…Dobie scored 53 points and had 15 assists against St. Francis-NY in a double OT loss on Feb. 24…LIU averaged 17.3 turnovers a game, four less than opponents…Team loses five players next season, including Dobie and free throw shooting leader JaJa Bey.

9. Robert Morris Colonials (10-17, 7-11)

Team Leaders:
Maurice Carter, Sophomore Guard, 19.1 ppg
Chaz McCrommon, Junior Forward, 6.0 rpg
Aaron Thomas, Junior Forward, 6.0 rpg

Coach: Mark Schmidt

Of Note: Colonials had four players average in double figures but lost games by an average of four points…Failed to make NEC tournament…Graduates one senior this year, forward DeMarcus Ellis…Aaron Thomas named player of the week on November 25 for scoring 39 points in a win over UMKC…Schmidt signed four recruits and Penn State transfer Daren Tielsch, a sophomore forward who will be eligible at the end of the Fall semester 2003.

10. Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (11-16, 6-12)

Team Leaders:
Landy Thompson, Freshman Guard, 15.6 ppg
Pat Atangana, Junior Forward, 5.0 rpg
Chris Sumner, Freshman Guard, 4.5 apg

Coach: Jim Phelan

Of Note: After 49 seasons and 1,354 games (the most by any coach at any level), Jim Phelan (and his bowtie) says goodbye to college hoops. Phelan, 73, won 830 games, all with Mount St. Mary’s. The National Coach of the Year Award will henceforth be named after him…Freshman Guard Landy Thompson was named to the NEC All-Rookie First Team with his 15.6 ppg average and conference fourth-best 62 3-pointers. Thompson scored 28 in his debut against NC State.

11. Sacred Heart Pioneers (8-21, 6-12)

Team Leaders:
Maurice Bailey, Junior Guard, 16.0 ppg
Zach Spivey, Junior Center, 4.6 rpg
Omar Wellington, Junior Guard, 4.6 apg, 2.2 spg

Head Coach: Dave Bike

Of Note: Lost nine out of their first 10 games this season…Outscored 2231 to 2007 in total this year, 1039 to 877 in the first half…Pioneers graduate two seniors this year and Bailey, Spivey and Wellington should make up nucleus…Four players were from overseas, including the nations of Luxembourg, Sudan, Cameroon and Trinidad.

12. Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers (7-20, 5-13)

Team Leaders:
Kareem Washington, Junior Guard, 15.8 ppg, 2.9 apg
Andrew Feely, Sophomore, Forward/Center, 7.8 rpg, 55% FG

Coach: Tom Sullivan

Of Note: UMBC defects to the American East conference, effective next year. That bolsters the A-East at ten teams but leaves the NEC with eleven…finished 2002-03 campaign 1-10. Victory came in the last game of the season — an 80-58 quashing of Quinnipiac…Retrievers graduate two seniors, return nine…Assistant Coach Randy Monroe was one of only 21 Division I coaches (from all sports) to be honored as an AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year.

     

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