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2017 CAA Postseason Awards: One Man’s Vote

March 2, 2017 Columns No Comments

The CAA Tournament is ahead this weekend, and before that happens, the conference will hand out its usual postseason awards. The tournament moves to North Charleston for the first of a three-year run after three years in Baltimore.

I have been a voter for these awards for over a decade now, having covered the conference closely over that time. This year, the votes were a little tougher than in many years. The race for Player of the Year was wide open, in particular, and from that, you may deduce that the all-conference teams were also a challenge – and you would be correct there. As is often the case, the all-CAA and Player of the Year considerations involved quite a balancing act between a player’s individual accomplishments and how his team did – a little more so than usual.

With that established, here is one man’s vote for the 2016-17 CAA postseason awards and some accompanying thoughts.

Player of the Year: Joe Chealey, College of Charleston

You could have gone a few ways with this one, and I expect the voting on this to be very interesting. UNCW had a couple of solid candidates, and saying that they cancel each other out is not accurate. There is a reasonable case to be made for Northeastern’s T.J. Williams, who led the conference in scoring by a good margin and was also high in assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and field goal percentage, though Northeastern finished sixth and that doesn’t help in some votes. The call here was a highly unlikely one at the beginning of the year, as Chealey redshirted last year due to an Achilles injury. Previously, he was a solid player, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would have labeled him a future CAA Player of the Year candidate. His play makes the case well, as his numbers not only rank high, but all of his important numbers were up in CAA play and he played like a leader on this team.

Rookie of the Year: Ryan Daly, Delaware

The freshman crop this year looks pretty good, though in terms of qualifications for this award, there were four clear contenders and then a bit of a drop off. Daly led all of them in both scoring and rebounding, and that was enough to put him over Drexel’s Kurk Lee and College of Charleston’s Grant Riller among the best contenders. Riller was an interesting case as unlike the others, he played on a contending team.

Defensive Player of the Year: Devontae Cacok, UNCW

This is always a tough one because measuring individual defense is incredibly tough, and this year as much as ever as there was no one player who stood out by the conventional measures – no one led the CAA in blocked shots or steals by a wide margin. Cacok ranked high in both rebounding and blocked shots, and was arguably the best combination of two measures.

Coach of the Year: Kevin Keatts, UNCW

In my time voting for these awards, this might be the toughest this award has been. Two schools of thought usually lead the way: the coach of a team viewed as an over-achiever, or the coach of the champion if they had an exceptional year. While UNCW has certainly had a great year, setting a school record for wins, it’s not as if they ran away with the title, and they were picked to win. There were some good coaching jobs done this season for a variety of reasons – Bill Coen at Northeastern through injuries and Louis Rowe at James Madison getting his team to rebound in CAA play after struggling mightily in non-conference play come to mind among coaches who surely no one would give this award to this year. Ultimately, Keatts gets the nod, coaching a well-balanced team to the regular season title, some talk of the NCAA Tournament bubble and the aforementioned school record for wins.

First Team
C.J. Bryce, UNCW
Joe Chealey, College of Charleston
Daniel Dixon, William & Mary
Denzel Ingram, UNCW
T.J. Williams, Northeastern

It wouldn’t be a surprise if all five of these players get votes for Player of the Year as none was so clearly ahead of the pack. Bryce filled the stat sheet consistently for UNCW. Chealey really turned it on in CAA play for College of Charleston. Dixon had a banner senior year, having always shown the potential to be a star but always being overshadowed by others, including previous Player of the Year Marcus Thornton. Ingram led the conference in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio to make the well-balanced Seahawks go. Williams did it all for Northeastern this season, leading the conference in scoring while also getting teammates involved, and doing all of it consistently.

Second Team
Jarrell Brantley, College of Charleston
Chris Flemmings, UNCW
Mike Morsell, Towson
Tyler Seibring, Elon
Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra

Brantley built upon his solid freshman season and was the key inside force for the Cougars to complement the perimeter force that Joe Chealey and Grant Riller led. Flemmings was one of several key players on the well-balanced Seahawks and will probably get plenty of first team votes. Morsell not only had a good year all around, as he has built towards during his career, but he picked it up when John Davis went down for the remainder of the season in February. Seibring did it all for an Elon team that finished higher than many probably projected. Wright-Foreman led the way for Hofstra as one of the conference’s best guards, not only scoring but shooting a solid percentage from the field for a guard.

Third Team
Devontae Cacok, UNCW
John Davis, Towson
Rokas Gustys, Hofstra
Omar Prewitt, William & Mary
Rodney Williams, Drexel

The conference’s second-leading rebounder, Cacok nearly averaged a double-double for the season; in CAA play, he did. Davis was fourth in the conference in rebounding and third on his team in scoring, and he did that with the fourth-best field goal percentage in the conference. Gustys led the conference in rebounding by a wide margin and is fourth in the nation in that category. Prewitt didn’t have as good a year as some expected, but was still a key cog for William & Mary alongside Daniel Dixon. Williams was one of the bright spots in a challenging year for Drexel, harnessing some of the potential he showed early in his college career as he was sixth in the conference in scoring, third in field goal percentage and seventh in rebounding.

All-Rookie Team
Ryan Daly, Delaware
Nathan Knight, William & Mary
Kurk Lee, Drexel
Eli Pemberton, Hofstra
Grant Riller, College of Charleston

Daly led conference freshmen in scoring and rebounding as the biggest bright spot for the rebuilding Blue Hens. Knight gave the Tribe a presence up front at both ends of the floor, leading the conference in blocked shots. Lee was one of the few bright spots for Drexel at both ends of the floor and is a key building block for the Dragons the next three years. Pemberton delivered on a lot of the promise he showed as a high schooler right out of the gates for the Pride. Riller became a key player for College of Charleston right away and looks like he will be a solid All-CAA candidate the next few years. Of note, Knight was the fifth selection on this team, and while the other four were easy selections, there were several contenders he beat out in consideration for the final spot, implying that there are some other promising freshmen that did not make an appearance here.

All-Defensive Team
Devon Begley, Northeastern
Devontae Cacok, UNCW
John Davis, Towson
Chris Flemmings, UNCW
Rokas Gustys, Hofstra

Though known more for his offense, Begley led the conference in steals. Cacok was second in the conference in rebounding, tied for second in blocked shots and in the top 10 in steals. Davis was fourth in rebounding to help lead the conference’s best defensive team. Flemmings was among the leaders in steals and further down the list in rebounding. Gustys led the conference in rebounding by a wide margin and was in the top ten in blocked shots as one of the few bright spots for Hofstra.

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