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2015 CAA postseason awards – how one man voted

March 4, 2015 Columns No Comments
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On Thursday night, the CAA will hand out its postseason awards just before the conference tournament. It’s been quite a year in the conference, as was to be expected. With no clear favorite aside from perhaps Northeastern, if you go by returning talent and experience, this figured to be an interesting and highly competitive year, and it was just that. For the first time in the conference’s history, four teams finished tied for first, as evidence of it, and all four were 12-6.

As I am one of the voters for the conference’s postseason awards, I feel it is worth sharing how I voted and some of what went into each selection. It also gives some insight into how the conference looks overall as we head into the conference tournament in Baltimore this weekend.

With that, here is a look at how I voted this year.

Player of the Year: Marcus Thornton, William & Mary

This was a difficult vote until late in the year. It came down to Thornton, Juan’ya Green and Damion Lee. Arguments could be made for the other two, with Green leading the conference in assists as well as being right there in the scoring race, and Lee leading the conference in scoring and keeping a battered and bruised Drexel team in contention longer than they probably should have been. But Thornton gets the nod, as he was the leader all year for the team that grabbed the top seed for the tournament, became their all-time leading scorer and led a high-powered offense.

Rookie of the Year: Elijah Bryant, Elon

This was the toughest vote, as it came down to Bryant and Delaware’s Kory Holden. You can’t go wrong with choosing either one; it’s a two-horse race by far, and I’d argue that the only other remote candidate was UNCW’s Jordon Talley, and he was a ways off these two. Simply put, Bryant got better as the season went along and did a lot for his team, and while Holden led Delaware from the depths of an 0-10 start in non-conference to a 9-9 CAA record that included several wins over some of the co-champions, I gave a very slight edge to Bryant. I’m eager to see the results of this vote as I imagine it will be a close one.

Defensive Player of the Year: Terry Tarpey, William & Mary

This is always a hard award to vote for, along with the All-Defensive team, for reasons previously talked about. It was even harder this year because there wasn’t a dominant shot-blocker or someone who breezed to the CAA lead in steals, even though those are a small part of playing defense. Tarpey did a great deal for this team, guarding all over the place and leading the conference in the three categories most connected with defense: steals, blocked shots and rebounding. He was a big part of the Tribe being one of the conference’s better defensive teams this season.

Coach of the Year: Kevin Keatts, UNCW

First of all, let’s acknowledge that there were several great coaching jobs done this season in the CAA for a variety of different reasons. Bruiser Flint had a Drexel team that was full of injuries still in the hunt for the top in mid-February. Monte Ross took a young team that lost their first ten games of the season to a 9-9 CAA record, including wins over a few of the teams tied for the top spot. Matt Brady had to suspend and subsequently boot his team’s most talented player from a team already reeling with personnel losses from last season’s team, and had James Madison in the four-way tie for the top. But the award can only go to one person, and in his first year at UNCW, Keatts got this team without many new pieces to buy into what they are and improve in pretty much every facet of the game. The first year in a program with a coaching change because of performance is usually a transition year, and for UNCW, it was a transition indeed – into contention for the top spot.

First Team
Scott Eatherton, Northeastern
Juan’ya Green, Hofstra
Damion Lee, Drexel
Addison Spruill, UNCW
Marcus Thornton, William & Mary

Eatherton led a well-balanced Northeastern team, and a sign of that balance was that he wasn’t quite the double-double machine he was a year ago but still produced plenty for the Huskies as he finished in the top five in the conference in scoring and rebounding as well as a few other categories. Green made an instant impact leading the Pride back to contention, leading the conference in assists by a wide margin and assist-to-turnover ratio while finishing third in scoring. Lee did everything for a constantly under-manned Drexel team this season, successfully returning from a knee injury last year. Spruill is the guy that surely no one imagined making this team back in October, but he had a big year to lead UNCW’s resurgence. Thornton closed out a great career for the Tribe, becoming their all-time leading scorer and leading them to a tie for the regular season title.

Second Team
Ron Curry, James Madison
Freddie Jackson, UNCW
Ameen Tanksley, Hofstra
Terry Tarpey, William & Mary
David Walker, Northeastern

Curry was a close call for the first team, as he took the reins of James Madison and grew into an even better player to continue a steady development over his career. Jackson helped lead UNCW’s group of essentially a four-guard lineup, having the best year of his career. Tanksley did a lot of things for Hofstra in combining with his long-time friend Green to turn Hofstra into a contender, and was strongly considered for the first team. Tarpey did it all for William & Mary, filling the stat sheet on a nightly basis and impacting the Tribe with his infectious energy. Walker spent two years quietly impacting games, then became a more aggressive player now that he was counted on for more for the Huskies as they contended, and it showed in the stat sheet as well as observation of the games.

Third Team
Kyle Anderson, Delaware
Elijah Bryant, Elon
John Davis, Towson
Kory Holden, Delaware
Omar Prewitt, William & Mary

Anderson’s return from an injury that kept out at for the first seven games was a welcome sight for the young Blue Hens, and he was a leader as well as a top scorer as they surged during conference play. Bryant made an impact right from the get-go for conference newcomer Elon and should either win or be the runner-up for Rookie of the Year. Davis led Towson in scoring and rebounding, blossoming with an expanded role and better health. Holden was right there with Bryant among the top rookies, and along with Anderson led Delaware’s surge as the conference season wore on. Prewitt was the conference’s top rookie last season and only got better this year, as he was a fine complement to Thornton and Tarpey on the Tribe.

All-Rookie Team
Elijah Bryant, Elon
Chivarsky Corbett, Delaware
Rokas Gustys, Hofstra
Kory Holden, Delaware
Jordon Talley, UNCW

As noted earlier, I give the nod for the top rookie to Bryant by a nose. Corbett was part of the Blue Hens’ young core that really grew up as the season went on, especially defensively. Gustys helped Hofstra as a role player alongside its stars, complementing them well. Holden was right there with Bryant for the top spot and was a big part of Delaware’s rise as the season went on. Talley was probably the clear third-best rookie, as he made his presence felt right away in helping UNCW become a contender in part from injecting some toughness into the team.

A number of other freshmen showed promise, but didn’t produce the entire season the way this group did. Down the road, don’t be surprised if a few current freshmen are winning all-conference honors with more development and expanded roles.

All-Defensive Team
Yohanny Dalembert, James Madison
Daniel Dixon, William & Mary
Scott Eatherton, Northeastern
Timajh Parker-Rivera, Towson
Terry Tarpey, William & Mary

As tough as picking the winner of the award in this category was, picking a whole team was even tougher. Dalembert anchored James Madison’s front line as their primary presence and was among the leaders in blocked shots and rebounding. Dixon is the Tribe’s most talented defender, and when he was out with an injury, the Tribe’s defense suffered noticeably, especially guarding the three-point line. Eatherton anchored Northeastern’s interior and was second in the conference in rebounding. Parker-Rivera was Towson’s steadiest defender all year, not surprising since he was their most experienced coming into the year, and the Tigers were the conference’s top defensive team. As noted earlier, Tarpey did it all for the Tribe at that end of the floor and led the conference in the three statistical categories connected with defense.

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