As we not-so-patiently await this weekend’s playoff games, it’s time to hand out some regular season hardware. This was a particularly fun year in NESCAC baseball. In Tufts we had a juggernaut dominate the regular season in a way not seen in several years. We had Bates’ insanely hot 7-0 start to league play, followed by an insanely cold 0-5 finish. Williams made a furious run at their playoff spot, but to no avail. And on the other side of the conference, we saw a real-life Cinderella story unfold before our eyes, as Middlebury rose from years of mediocrity to become a real championship contender. We will see how those storylines shift come this weekend. In the meantime, let’s recognize the top regular season performers in the award categories. As always, these are our opinions, so we welcome and expect criticism from all sides. We also urge you to check out the midseason awards article here for more info on most of these candidates.
There are several players who could win this award. Tufts alone has three players who have the stats to contend for it in Nick Falkson ‘18, Tommy O’Hara ‘18 and Will Shackelford ‘19. However, it is precisely that lineup strength that keeps them from winning this award. Pitchers can’t afford to pitch around any of those players because the rest of the lineup is so dangerous. This award is better suited for a player who dominates despite a lesser supporting cast. Enter Thanopolous. Not to diss the rest of the Amherst lineup (NbN’s own Harry Roberson ‘18 excels as a table setter at the top of the order.) But Thanopolous’ run producing is the key to Amherst’s lineup. Additionally, Amherst’s pitching has struggled mightily for most of the season. Without a strong lineup, Amherst would not even be a playoff contender, and Thanopolous is the engine that makes it all run.
Runner-Up: Tufts IF Tommy O’Hara ‘18 (.343/.503/.528, 4 HR, 35 RBI)
Unlike the Player of the Year award, this race has never been close. Varinos has dominated the league as much as any NESCAC pitcher in recent memory. He struck out double digit hitters three times in his nine starts, and the only blemish on his won-loss record came in his last start, a meaningless non-league matchup against Middlebury. Varinos combined with Tim Superko ‘17 to form the most dynamic starting pitching duo in the league. However, Tufts as a team has struggled to find an effective third starter, and even Superko posted a 3.55 ERA this season. He benefitted a great deal from Tufts’ stellar offense to post his 6-0 record. Therefore, Varinos is the key to Tufts rotation, which will be the most important factor in the playoffs as they contend with Thanopolous and the rest of Amherst’s lineup.
Runner-Up: Williams SP John Lamont ‘20 (4-1, 1.80 ERA, 4 CG)
Runner-Up: Trinity P Eric Mohl ‘19 (16 APP, 7-2, 2.55 ERA)
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Middlebury OF Justin Han ‘20 (.308/.411/.490, 4 HR, 13:7 BB/K)
Middlebury is both one of the best teams in the league and maybe the youngest team, a testament to the recruiting of new HC Mike Leonard and his assistant Mike Phelps. And based on this season, Justin Han looks to be the biggest prize of that strong recruiting class. He showed tremendous power, finishing second in the league with four home runs. But the thing that sets Han apart from other first year players is his maturity. He only struck out seven times all year against thirteen walks. That kind of plate discipline is uncommon among any player, let alone a rookie. His stats were also better in the elevated competition of NESCAC play. In eleven league games, he hit .324 with two home runs and nine RBI, numbers that are better than his overall stats if you project them out to the same amount of games. Han also showed a clutch gene, hitting a game winning grand slam against Amherst to help Middlebury salvage a crucial game and avoid a sweep. With Han and his classmates, Middlebury is set up to be relevant for years to come.
Runner-Up: Williams SP John Lamont ‘20 (4-1, 1.80 ERA, 4 CG)
*Editor’s Note: We feel bad for Lamont here. Not only does he finish second in two awards, but he has to live with a dud of an older brother (former NbM editor Adam Lamont.) We regret adding salt to that wound, and hope John doesn’t resent it too much in the future.
Runner-Up: Trinity C Alex Rodriguez ‘20 (.342/.361/.465 23 RBI)
We’re nearing the halfway point of the baseball season, and you all know what means…the seniors are mere weeks away from entering the ever-expanding void of adult life! Yes, that. But also, it’s time to break down where the various NESCAC awards races stand. There will only be one winner of each award at the end of the year, but I’ve given acontender from each division as a way to get more names out there. As always with
articles like this, there will be some disagreements. I’ve tried my best to be fair and make reasonable choices, but as American Idol showed in season 8 when Kris Allen won over Adam Lambert, mistakes can be made. If you disagree with any of these names, feel free to email the blog or comment on the post.
Player of the Year
Frontrunner East: Tufts IF Nick Falkson ‘18 (.402/.457/.502, T-1st in league with 28 RBI)
Not to sow seeds of discontent within the Jumbo locker room, but there is quite a battle brewing for this spot between Falkson and outfielder Oscar Kutch ‘17. Kutch’s 1.133 OPS is a compelling argument in his favor, but Falkson ultimately takes it with a deadly combination of run production, fundamentals and excellent defense. Falkson is a terrific all around hitter, with quick enough hands to pull inside pitches. But he is also adept at shortening up and going the other way. Long story short, Falkson knows how to hit the baseball. And in a lineup like Tufts’ that is filled to the brim with guys who get on base, Falkson occupies a crucial spot as a run producer. All the guys in front of him have to do is get on, and there’s a good chance Falkson knocks them in. He also plays terrific defense at first base, which is a key component of Tufts’ success. Falkson plays on a great team, but his all around excellence may be what makes them great.
Frontrunner West: Wesleyan OF Matt Jeye ‘18 (.315/.388/.489, T-1st w/ 3 HR, T-1st w/ 28 RBI)
Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I don’t know much. But I do know one thing; when you lead the thing in home runs and RBI, that makes you a contender for the Player of the Year trophy. A powerful outfielder, Jeye provides the muscle in a Wesleyan lineup that has overachieved to some extent this season. Unlike Tufts, Wesleyan’s offense is not tremendously threatening outside of Jeye, making his 28 RBI arguably more impressive. Pitchers are able to focus more of their attention on Jeye than they are Falkson, and he has fewer weapons in front of him to get on base and give him RBI chances. This is not to say that Wesleyan is a non threatening offense, their team splits are a very solid .293/.381/.391. I’m just saying that Jeye might play a larger role in making his team’s offense threatening than Falkson does.
Middlebury 1B Jason Lock ‘17 (.397/.453/.575, 23 RBI, 5 SO in 73 AB)
Amherst OF Yanni Thannapoulos ‘17 (.400/.462/.550, 26 RBI)
Tufts OF Oscar Kutch ‘17 (.400/.520/.613)
Williams IF Kellen Hatheway ‘19 (.446/.500/.662, 7 steals, 3 triples)
Pitcher of the Year:
Frontrunner East: Tufts SP Speros Varinos ‘17 (6-0, 1.50 ERA, 46 SO in 42 innings)
Unlike the Player of the Year race, the contest for Pitcher of the Year in the conference appears to be Varinos’ to lose. Varinos has quite simply been the best in every measurable category this season. He leads the league in wins, innings and strikeouts, and is second in the league in ERA despite having made two more starts than the leader. Of course, Varinos does benefit from excellent run support in the vaunted Tufts offense, and has a great defense behind him. But he has two games with 13 strikeouts this season, with one of them coming in his last start against a very good Castleton team. Varinos is only getting better as the season goes on, and should be ready to lead Tufts to a tournament run.
Frontrunner West: Williams SP John Lamont ‘20 (2-1, 2.77 ERA, 28 SO in 26 innings)
It is perhaps questionable that much of Lamont’s qualifications for this spot come from one start. But what a start it was. On April 9th, Lamont shut down Matt Jeye and Wesleyan, giving up just one earned run and striking out 15. It was the biggest pitching performance of the season, as it helped Williams avoid a catastrophic sweep in their division, and it showed off the electric talent that Lamont possesses. He will probably need another excellent outing in a league game to stay in the running in his rookie year, but Lamont is the centerpiece of a very bright future in Williamstown.
Wesleyan SP Mike McCaffrey ’19 (3-1, 3.06 ERA, 36 K in 32.1 innings)
Trinity RP Erik Mohl ’19 (12 appearances, 6-1, 2.62 ERA)
Frontrunner East: Trinity C Alex Rodriguez ‘20 (.370/.379/.494, 19 RBI)
That’s right, when he’s not busy being a surprisingly good TV analyst and “dating” (I doubt they’ve ever held hands without a camera on them) Jennifer Lopez, A-Rod spends his time as a precocious first year catcher at Trinity College. Rodriguez required very little time to adjust to college pitching, as he hit .432 in March. This is particularly remarkable for a young catcher, who has to learn how to handle a pitching staff in addition to the offensive adjustment. He has hit something of a learning curve in league play, dropping down to .303 with a .298 OBP in league games. This is may be due in large part to fatigue from the catching duties he has handled for much of the year. In any case, Rodriguez is having an incredible rookie season, and should be a force for the forseeable future.
Frontrunner West: Williams SP John Lamont ‘20 (2-1, 2.77 ERA, 28 SO in 26 innings)
After a wild stretch of upsets (pretty much all at the hands of Williams), the NESCAC tournament wrapped up this weekend. However, the All-NESCAC selections are chosen based on a season worth of play – not just one game, not just the playoffs, not just team success. Individual players who rose to the occasion again and again are those most deserving of All-NESCAC honors, not players who rose to an individual occasion. Some teams have clearer leaders than others, while some are just stacked with players in the running for All-Conference recognition. At the end of the day, way more than the following 10 players could be considered All-NESCAC performers, but that’s exactly why receiving the honor is so prestigious. Pete and I came up with the following list together. Some disagreement definitely occurred in our discussion of who to select, but ultimately, our lists were nearly identical. So, here it is – the most official All-NESCAC list you’ll ever read!
Player of the Year
Trinity Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17 – 16.6 PPG, 11.5 REB/G, 1.5 BLK/G
For the second year in a row, I believe that the NESCAC POY honors should go back to Hartford. Shay Ajayi ‘16 deserved the award pretty clearly last season, and his old teammate Ogundeko has taken the reigns this year as the leader of the team. Big Ed is a beast, that much we can all agree on. But did he perform POY well? There’s certainly an argument to be made for Middlebury’s Matt St. Amour, and maybe even one for Williams’ Dan Aronowitz, but at the end of the day, Ogundeko deserves this. While Trinity only ended at 16-10 (6-4 in conference), without Ogundeko I don’t even think the Bantams are a .500 team. He is the glue that keeps them together, and without a doubt he was the best big man in this league this year. His 11.5 REB/G lead the NESCAC, and also make him the only NESCAC player to average double figures rebounding the ball. Ogundeko also averaged 16.6 PPG overall and 18.5 PPG in conference play, showing the ability to step up whenever his team needed it. That being said, he kind of folded in the NESCAC tournament, scoring just 8 against Wesleyan and a meager 3 points against Middlebury, which is why Pete and the rest of Panther Nation is going to kill me for giving this to Ogundeko instead of St. Amour. However, as I said above, these awards are based on a culmination of play over the course of the season, not just a couple games. Without Ogundeko, the Bantams are an average team at best – he makes them one of the toughest teams in the league to play, and that’s why he deserves this award.
Though it took him until his senior year to finally realize his potential, I think that Malcolm Delpeche finally showed everyone in the league what all the hype was about. In true rim protector fashion, Malcolm led the league in blocks, and he did it pretty handily. In 24 games, the lanky senior swatted 74 shots. Amherst’s David George ranked second with just 53 blocks. Malcolm was the Bobcat that made opponents fear the paint, and a big reason that Bates was able to pull off their biggest upset of the season when they dominated Tufts in Lewiston. To add to his resume, the first of the two Delpeche twins (I have no idea whether Malcolm or Marcus is the elder twin) averaged an astounding 8.8 REB/G, good enough for fourth in the league. Malcolm Delpeche made his presence felt throughout the season, and he was a huge reason that the Bobcats were as good as they were this season.
Kena Gilmour made a splash on the second-highest scoring team in the NESCAC this season. It didn’t take the freshman long to become accustomed to the college game; while Gilmour didn’t score in Hamilton’s opener (he played just 8 minutes), he then went on to score 16, 15 and 26 in their next three games, all of which the Continentals won. Overall, Gilmour averaged 12.0 PPG, but he actually stepped up his production a bit in conference play, dropping 13.3 PPG in NESCAC play. These rates were good for 19th and 12th in the conference respectively, but if you look at another interesting stat, you can see how explosive a scorer Gilmour truly is. Due to his minutes, which were hampered a bit by his youth and the fact that he was coming off the bench, Gilmour’s overall scoring totals weren’t as impressive as I am trying to make them sound. However, if you look at Gilmour’s scoring in terms of Points per 40 minutes, he ranks third in the conference, trailing only the two leading scorers, St. Amour and Jayde Dawson. Assuming the same rate of scoring, Gilmour would drop an average of 26.4 points in 40 minutes. This kid is a weapon, and one that will certainly sniff some All-NESCAC Honors as he matures.
Coach of the Year
Middlebury Coach Jeff Brown
It’s pretty difficult to write about the Coach of the Year, especially since I don’t have stats to fall back on for information. However, looking at the easiest stat to judge a coach by, Middlebury is 24-3. That is pure dominance. They had just one non-conference loss, and the two conference losses came to the top-seed in the NESCAC tournament and the NESCAC tournament runner up. That’s pretty damn good. Oh, and I guess they won the NESCAC tournament too – not bad, Midd, not bad at all. What’s most impressive to me is that having a preseason All-NESCAC candidate (Zach Baines) transfer midway through the season didn’t slow down the Panthers at all, and I think that Coach Brown is largely responsible for that. It’d be very easy for a team to fall into a slump after facing that kind of adversity, but the Panthers did not falter, they thrived. A gut-wrenching loss to Tufts over winter break set the stage for a second straight Middlebury NESCAC Championship run, and after their worst loss of the year to Williams, the Panthers went on to win 11-straight to accomplish that task. Hands down, Coach Brown deserves Coach of the Year recognition.
Jayde Dawson could be my most controversial pick for first team, especially due to the Jake Brown fan club that hawks this page waiting for a chance to pounce. I know the critiques – he is a volume scorer, he’s out of control at times, and he is inefficient. Even if those are all true (which I’m not saying I agree with all of them completely), he’s a stud. Having played Dawson in high school, I never wanted to believe that he was that good, but his 19.1 PPG/19.7 PPG in conference speaks for itself. Does he take a lot of shots? Yes. But Dawson also makes a lot of shots. He shoots 41.3% from the field and 36.4% from the three-point line. He also had a handful of buzzer beaters, including one against Babson that handed the #1 ranked Beavers their only loss of the season. Amherst is really a two-headed monster this year featuring two prolific scorers in Dawson and Johnny McCarthy. If you take Dawson out of the equation, Amherst is a much, much different team, and I would argue that they are much, much worse. For you Middlebury fans, this is the difference between Dawson and Brown. You take Brown off of Middlebury, they’re still in the NESCAC finals. You take Dawson off, they aren’t even hosting the quarterfinals. Overall, Dawson is a dynamic guard that can get to the rim consistently with a streaky three-point shot. He is well-deserving of First Team All-NESCAC honors.
Middlebury Guard Matt St. Amour ‘17 – 22.0 PPG, 4.7 REB/G, 3.0 AST/G
Though I snubbed him on my pick for Player of the Year, there is no question that St. Amour is a First Teamer. He led the league in scoring, and is the only NESCAC player to average over 20 a game (he averaged 22.0 PPG). One reason that he was able to score so much is that St. Amour was able to do a ton of damage from the perimeter. He hit the most threes with 103 on the season (and counting), and shot the 4th highest three-point percentage in the conference. Another truly impressive stat is that St. Amour played the third most MIN/G this year, highlighting his durability and consistency. Coach Brown was always able to count on St. Amour. He hasn’t scored under 10 points in a game since December 7th, and he averaged 24.0 PPG in the NESCAC tournament. St. Amour is a beast, end of story. He will do damage in the NCAA tournament.
Williams Guard Dan Aronowitz ‘17 -17.2 PPG, 6.1 REB/G, 2.0 AST/G
Aronowitz was my preseason pick for POY, and though he did perform at a POY level, he was darn close. After a season of ups and downs for the Ephs, the senior rallied the troops in the NESCAC tournament and pulled off back-to-back upsets over the three-seed Amherst and the one-seed Tufts. Against Williams’ bitter rival Amherst, Aronowitz led the team in scoring with 22 points on 8-18 shooting, following that up with 13 points against the Jumbos. Evidenced by his 8 rebounds against Tufts in the NESCAC semis, Aronowitz was willing to do anything he could to help his team win. His 6.1 rebounds were just behind forward Kyle Scadlock, who led the Ephs on the boards, and Aronowitz was constantly battling for loose balls, diving on the floor, and defending the best opposing players. Even on days when his shot wasn’t falling (which were few and far between), Aronowitz found a way to contribute. Easy pick here.
This was a tough pick for me because his brother had such impressive numbers as well, but it was Malcolm’s defense that really earned him the First Team nod here. If you want to hear me rave about his defense, read the blurb above on Malcolm’s DPOY title, but let’s discuss his offense for a second. Without much of a jumper, Malcolm relies on banging around down low for most of his points. He gets a lot of put back opportunities because he gets great position on the offensive boards, and he has his rank of 7th in the conference in offensive rebounds to show for it. The Bobcats, in my opinion, performed well over their heads at times this year. Malcolm was consistently effective and had a huge part in Bates earning a playoff berth.
Trinity Center Ed Ogundeko ‘17 – 16.6 PPG, 11.5 REB/G, 1.5 BLK/G
Again, I’ve said pretty much all there is to say about Ogundeko above. I hope (though I don’t have much faith) that Trinity did enough to earn an NCAA bid, because I really want to watch Ogundeko play a few more games. The selection show is on now, so we will see!
As I sit, curled up in my new Red Sox snuggie with a cup of hot cocoa and Star Wars on the TV, a feeling of deep contentment washes over
me.But soon I am disturbed by a thought, which gnaws and picks at my brain like a cockroach in a wall: Who are the frontrunners for the NESCAC Basketball awards, and who are their NBA counterparts? Such is the life of a sports blogger. So here I am, I haven’t showered in three days, and I’m presenting you with this article. It may still be too early for awards considerations, as league play has a tendency to change statistics a great deal, but I DON’T CARE. I have included the top three contenders for each award, as well as the NBA player whom I see as the closest comparison to the NESCAC player, based both style of play, role on their team and spot within the framework of the league. And by the way, I should be leading the NbN writer Power Rankings at this point. I don’t see Rory or Colby putting anything out here while on vacation.
Player of the Year
Bowdoin Guard Jack Simonds ‘19: Andrew Wiggins (Timberwolves)
Just as there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, there must always be a NESCAC leading scorer in Brunswick. Simonds has picked up right where Lucas Hausman left off, leading the league in scoring at 23.6 points per game. Despite having the green light from pretty much anywhere on the court, he has gotten his buckets very efficiently, putting up a 47/37/89 shooting line and leading the league in free throws made per game. The Wiggins comparison stems largely from their style of play. The key to mini-leap Wiggins has made this season has been adding an outside shot to his arsenal, something that Simonds utilizes with extreme precision. However, both players are also at their best when going to the basket, as evidenced by the high amount of free throws that both players shoot. Simonds and Wiggins also both play alongside excellent distributors who are shooting liabilities, in Tim Ahn ‘19 and Ricky Rubio. And finally, both players will see their award recognition be largely dependent on where their teams finish, as they both carry teams that have struggled thus far.
Dawson has catapulted himself into Player of the Year consideration on the strength of several strong performances in the last couple weeks. The junior guard has averaged nearly 27 PPG over his last four, including 32 points (and a game winner) in Amherst’s double overtime win over #2 Babson. Dawson has risen to the top of a very deep Amherst team, and has even become something of a volume scorer, taking 72 shots over the last three games. This is where the comparison to DeRozan becomes appropriate. DeRozan is in the top 5 in the league in scoring due to a relentless style that necessitates a lot of shots. Dawson, like DeRozan, subscribes to the “shoot your way out of it” approach to scoring. Additionally, both high scoring two guards play on very deep teams, with a point guard who is considerably more efficient in Johnny McCarthy ‘18 and Kyle Lowry. Dawson and DeRozan both keep their teams in games with their scoring ability, but also run the risk of shooting their teams out of games.
Williams Forward Daniel Aronowitz ‘17: Paul George (Pacers)
One of the most versatile players in the league, Aronowitz has been the key to Williams’ strong start to 2016-2017. At 6’5”, Aronowitz is longer than many of the other guards in the league, which allows him to crash the boards and shoot over smaller defenders in the post. For all their perimeter depth, Williams has serious weaknesses inside. They lack a real interior scoring threat, and Wesleyan exposed their lack of rebounding toughness in their ten point win earlier in December. Aronowitz may well be the player who is most important to their team in the league, due to his rebounding and interior scoring responsibilities as well as holding down the perimeter. Aronowitz’s combination of post scoring, shooting and defense remind me of Paul George. George plays on a team (the Pacers) who lack a dominant inside scorer, as Myles Turner is only in his second year and is something of stretch-five anyway, and therefore he absorbs much of the rebounding burden. Like George, Aronowitz carries a very heavy load for his team. We will see if that is sustainable come league play.
Connecticut College Forward Zuri Pavlin ‘17: Nikola Vucevic (Magic)
Pavlin has been an excellent player for four years, averaging a double-double over his 20 year (it seems like) career at Connecticut College. But his senior season has seen him raise his game to a new level. Pavlin is again near the top of the league in rebounding, as he has been for his whole career, but his offensive game has taken a major step forward. He is averaging 14.6 PPG on 54% shooting, both career highs. Connecticut College leads the league in scoring despite being eighth in three pointers. Pavlin anchors this interior-focused offense. While the Orlando Magic’s offense is considerably less effective than Connecticut College’s (in relation to the rest of their league,) they share an offense that is highly focused on the paint, contrary to the direction that the game is going. Vucevic is an excellent rebounder despite being undersized, and is also a versatile offensive weapon. He and Pavlin share a tenacity on the boards and a versatile offensive game in the paint, although Pavin is far more crucial to his team’s success than Vucevic.
Defensive Player of the Year
Bates Forward Malcolm Delpeche ‘17: John Henson (Bucks)
While Delpeche’s offensive game has been a work in progress throughout his career, defensively he has always been a stud. He has averaged over 1.5 blocks per game three out of his four seasons, and has forced countless more missed shots due to his presence. This season he has been even better than his first three seasons, leading the league in blocks with 3 per game. He has paired with his brother Marcus to give Bates one of the most formidable defenses in the league (third in the league in opponents points and second in blocks.) And with Bates sitting dead last in the league in points per game themselves, their defense is critical to any success they may have. Delpeche’s shot-blocking ability stems mostly from his quick feet and tremendous wingspan, making him very reminiscient of former UNC and current Milwaukee Bucks big man John Henson. Henson uses his tremendous wingspan and footwork to anchor an elite defense that keeps his team in games even when they struggle to score, just as Delpeche does for Bates.
Hamilton Forward Peter Hoffmann ‘19: Paul Millsap (Hawks)
Former ESPN writer and current head of The Ringer (and chief role model of yours truly) Bill Simmons invented the statistic “stocks” in order to measure how destructive a player is defensively. The formula is kind of complicated, but see if you can keep up: blocks plus steals equals stocks. Hoffmann is dominating the NESCAC stocks race, averaging 4.3 stocks per game. Hoffmann is the only player in the league in the top five in both steals and blocks, and has been crucial in keeping Hamilton in the middle of the pack defensively. At 6’5,” Hoffmann has the size to outmuscle guards on the perimeter. And despite being undersized for a forward, he is long and athletic enough make an impact in the paint as well. This is where the Paul Millsap comparison comes to fruition. Millsap has made his mark in the NBA by being an undersized forward whose remarkably quick hands and feet allow him to guard perimeter players and get steals. He can also move down to the post and block shots, making him the centerpiece of an excellent Hawks defense. Hoffmann has been a dominating defensive force this season, and could vault into Player of the Year consideration if he can keep it up in league play.
Middlebury Guard Jack Daly ‘18: Marcus Smart (Celtics)
Middlebury’s greatest strength is their guard trio of Matt St. Amour ‘17, Jake Brown ‘17 and Daly. The three guards are fourth, seventh and second in the league in steals, and are also three of the top four scorers on the team. But with St. Amour’s recent shooting struggles and Brown’s responsibilities to run the offense, Daly has emerged as arguably Middlebury’s best player so far this season. He and Brown share defensive responsibilities on point guards, but Daly’s sneaky-long arms and and strong upper body allow him to body larger shooting guards and forwards. He is also possibly Middlebury’s best rebounder, averaging nearly 6 per game despite being only 6’2”. Daly is not an outside threat in any sense of the word, and yet averages 11 points per game due to pure tenacity and strength in the paint. Daly fills a similar role for Middlebury that Marcus Smart does for the Celtics. Both are devastating perimeter defenders who can guard nearly any position on the court, and also carry a great deal of rebounding responsibility on teams that struggle on the glass. They also both have the horribly cliche “nose for the ball.” If there’s a big play on defense for Middlebury or the Celtics, you can bet that Daly or Smart was involved.
Rookie of the Year
Hamilton Guard Kena Gilmour ‘20: Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
Hamilton is enjoying a youth movement in 2016-2017, and Gilmore looks like the freshman centerpiece. A 26 point outing against Clarkson has skewed his numbers towards the high side a bit, but he has been a consistent contributor all season for the Continentals. Here are his numbers if you project them out over 30 minutes (approximately, since I can’t find a calculator and can’t do math): 21 PPG, 6.0 REB/G, 1.2 A/G, 55.8% shooting. He has shown confidence, if not success, in his jump shot, taking 3 threes per 30 minutes. But his real skill is in the paint, where he gets to often due to his size and athleticism. Gilmore, as is the case with all freshman, has been turnover and defensive-lapse prone, but his offensive contributions speak for themselves. Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown plays a similar style. Despite being far from a threat from three, Brown is a very effective slasher, and has already had two or three monster dunks this season. Brown and Gilmore are both important contributors early in their careers, and Gilmore could be an x factor come league play.
Middlebury Forward Matt Folger ‘20: Domantas Sabonis (Oklahoma City)
The skill that stands out most about Matt Folger if you watch him in warm-ups is his feather soft jump shot. At the beginning of the season, Folger projected as a prototypical stretch four. However, this season has seen him struggle from three, shooting only 18%. But his struggles from outside have allowed him to showcase his other skills. Despite only playing around 12 minutes, Folger averages 1.1 blocks and .6 steals per game. He is also shooting a ridiculous 80% on two point shots, showing good hands and a soft touch around the rim, as well as from mid-range. Sabonis of the Thunder shows a similar skill-set. He entered the league as little more than a stretch four, but has shown already this season that he can be dangerous in the paint on offense and defense. Middlebury and Oklahoma City have problems at the five right now, but if Folger and Sabonis continue developing, they may not in the future.
It’s probably obvious, but there are A LOT of opinions in this article. I changed my mind on both the awards and the comparisons roughly a thousand times, and even now I’m not sure I like any of them. So I welcome any argument about either the NESCAC players in the running for the awards or their NBA counterparts. Arguing about NESCAC basketball is my second favorite thing in the world to do, and arguing about the NBA is first. So come at me on Twitter, on the blog post, on Facebook, or the blog email. I welcome it.