Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 Men's Basketball Metro Area Award Winners

The local college basketball scene recognizes its standout performers on Tuesday night, when the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown once again hosts the annual MBWA Haggerty Awards dinner. As we were privileged enough to do last season, we will once again offer our own set of recognitions for the best and brightest in the metropolitan area.

***For a list of our 2014 women's basketball award winners, click here***

Player of the Year: George Beamon, Manhattan (Photo courtesy of Jaden Daly)
2013-14 Stats: 18.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 37% 3pt
This selection may raise a few eyebrows, but Beamon's biggest value lies within what does not show up in the box scores, as his defensive awareness was probably the most underlying facet of his game, one that brought Manhattan back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004. In a conference loaded with the star power of Billy Baron and Sean Armand, Beamon was as equally strong on the defensive end for the Jaspers as he was offensively, providing Steve Masiello with a dual threat on both sides of the floor that would do everything within his power to not only win games for Manhattan, but also keep them within reach when the final outcome did not go their way. If selected by the writers, Beamon would become the first Jasper to be honored with the Haggerty Award since the great Luis Flores captured the honor a decade ago.

Rookie of the Year: Rysheed Jordan, St. John's (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)
2013-14 Stats: 9.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.2 SPG
Many can argue that Fordham's Jon Severe is more deserving of this honor by virtue of his gaudy statistics, but while Severe was a greater scorer, Jordan has a greater set of intangibles that made his teammates better throughout the season. Despite not meeting the media during the year, part of head coach Steve Lavin's strategy to keep his young point guard focused, Jordan let his skills speak for themselves, feeding D'Angelo Harrison for numerous scoring opportunities as the Red Storm won 20 games for the second time in four years, not to mention singlehandedly setting the tone in the opening minutes of the Johnnies' 82-60 rout of Big East rival Georgetown, in which the Philadelphian ignited a 15-0 run to start the game.

Most Improved Player: Zeke Upshaw, Hofstra (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)
2013-14 Stats: 19.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 35% 3pt
Upshaw only played one season at Hofstra after graduating from Illinois State, where he played sparingly, but what the swingman did for Joe Mihalich during his limited time in Hempstead rivals what most other players in the nation did for bigger programs. Consider this: Upshaw scored exactly one hundred points during his career with the Redbirds. It only took five-plus games in a Hofstra uniform for him to equal that total. Only twice was Upshaw held to a single-digit point total, which underscores the fact that he had 18 games of 20 points or more on his way to a CAA scoring title that ensures his one year on Long Island truly was the best of his career. In an unrelated note, Upshaw becomes the second straight Pride player to earn our Most Improved Player honor, following Stevie Mejia, who captured this recognition a year ago.

Sixth Man of the Year: Maurice Barrow, Fairfield (Photo courtesy of the Connecticut Post)
2013-14 Stats: 14.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG
Had he not started 15 games early in the year, Iona's David Laury would be eligible for this honor both in this space and in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Laury's loss is Barrow's gain, as the senior swingman served as a voice of experience and mentor to a youthful Stags squad finding their way in the MAAC following the departure of Derek Needham and Desmond Wade in their backcourt. Despite a 7-25 season, the former Christ the King standout's impact was so profound and indelible to where head coach Sydney Johnson was incredibly emotional following Fairfield's MAAC tournament loss to Saint Peter's, overcome by how much of a joy Barrow was to coach, and dejected that he would be unable to coach him next season.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rhamel Brown, Manhattan (Photo courtesy of Jaden Daly)
2013-14 Stats: 10.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.6 BPG, 55% FG
Who better than the best big man in the area? No one was a better rim protector or stronger paint presence this season than Brown, the bruising Brooklyn forward whom Steve Masiello declared "one of the greatest players to ever put on a Manhattan uniform." The MAAC version of former Pittsburgh star and San Antonio Spur DeJuan Blair, Brown's abilities on both ends of the ball were a major reason behind Manhattan's first conference championship and NCAA Tournament berth since 2004, as his shot blocking and emphatic dunks lifted the Jaspers to a 25-8 record and finished what George Beamon and Michael Alvarado started. Even with Ashton Pankey and Emmy Andujar leading the charge for Manhattan next season, Brown will be irreplaceable until proven otherwise.

Coach of the Year: Kyle Smith, Columbia (Photo courtesy of Columbia University)
In a city where Steve Masiello and Steve Lavin get the lion's share of media attention, and justifiably so, Smith did what many before him found impossible: Win 21 games and get to the postseason, reaching the quarterfinals of the Tournament before falling to Ivy League rival Yale, the first time the Lions reached a postseason since the Lyndon Johnson administration in 1968. Through four years, Smith has transformed a once-dormant program into a deceptively strong outfit, with this past season proving that his 2012 upset of Villanova was not an aberration. Look for this rising star to build his profile even further in the years to come.

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