College Court Report 2017-18 Preseason Awards: America East

Jahad Thomas does it all for the UMass-Lowell River Hawks, as evident by his two triple-double performances in 2016-17.

CANMORE, Alta. — The 2017-18 season tips off on November 10th, which means the final month without college basketball is finally upon us.

Fans all across the country are gearing up for another exciting college basketball season, and with the recent scandal involving the FBI and several power conference programs across the NCAA, the level of anticipation is through the roof.

Conference preview pieces are starting to circulate from various media outlets, and conferences are hosting their annual media days and announcing their preseason polls and award winners. It’s always interesting to see how coaches and media rank teams in their respective conferences.

With the season right around the corner, we are starting to release our Preseason Player of the Year awards for each conference, along with three All-Conference teams. Picked at random, we will release two sets of awards each day.

Last season, the Vermont Catamounts rolled over the rest of the America East, and all signs point to another dominating team in 2017-18. Canadian guard Trae Bell-Haynes took home the America East Player of the Year award last season, and will be looking to become a two-time winner to close out his career.

However, there are several talented players in the conference who are all worthy of the award. Even though Vermont is the team to beat, the Player of the Year award winner could come from one of the other eight programs in the conference.

Take a look below at who we have selected as America East Player of the Year, and who falls where on our All-America East teams, which feature at least one player from all nine teams!

2017-18 Player of the Year: Anthony Lamb, Vermont Catamounts

For the second year in a row, the America East Player of the Year award will remain in Burlington, VT with the Catamounts. But, it will have a new owner, as sophomore forward Anthony Lamb looks poised for a big season with Vermont, and will take over the award after teammate Trae Bell-Haynes claimed the hardware in 2016-17.

Lamb is a special player who impacts the game on both ends of the floor, and demands the attention of his opponents at all times. The 6’6” forward averaged 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest, all while playing an average of 22.5 minutes per game. Adjusted to 40 minutes per night, that equates to an average of close to 23 points and 10 rebounds.

This season, Lamb will become a regular in the starting lineup. With his ability to stretch the floor and knock down jumpers out to the three point arc, the floor opens up for his teammates to get god looks at the basket, while also creating high quality chances for himself.

Anthony Lamb. Don’t forget the name.

2017-18 All-America East Teams

Canadian point guard Trae Bell-Haynes is the reigning America East Player of the Year after helping guide Vermont to a perfect record in conference play as a junior in 2016-17. The 6’2” guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game, while shooting a career-best 48.3% from the free throw line. Bell-Haynes recorded an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.13, recording 136 assists (career-high) to just 64 turnovers (career low). On the back end, Bell-Haynes is as solid as they come in the NCAA. His numbers aren’t flashy, but he takes care of the ball and gets the job done, which is all you can ask at the end of the day.

From his freshman to sophomore seasons, it was like night and day for guard David Nichols. He saw his minutes increase from 5.1 per night to 33.8, and in turn, he led the Albany Great Danes in scoring with an average of 17.9 points per game. Nichols scored in double-figures in all but two games last season, and put up 40 points against the Hartford Hawks, just days after he lost his 24-year-old sister, Cecilia Coleman, to leukemia. After his impressive breakout season in 2016-17, what will Nichols have in store for 2017-18? We’re willing to bet that it’s more of the same as the Great Danes look to contend with Vermont atop the conference standings.

It’s hard to think that with the career that Jahad Thomas has had with the UMass-Lowell River Hawks through his first two seasons that he could improve as much as he did as a junior. But, 2016-17 was a career year for the 6’2” guard across the board. Thomas averaged 18.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, while shooting 58.9% from the field and 67.6% from the free throw line. All of those figures were career-high marks. Thomas put together a pair of triple-doubles, highlighted by a 19-point, 19 rebound, and 10-assist game against the Hartford Hawks on January 14th. To top things off, he was a perfect 2-of-2 from three point range for the season. Shooters shoot their shot.

Despite seeing limited minutes as a freshman, Lamb still managed to average 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in 2016-17. With Lamb expected to step into the starting five on a regular basis come 2017-18, a big year should be in store for the 6’6” forward from Rochester, NY.

From day one, Tanner Leissner has been a star for the New Hampshire Wildcats, and if the team can contend atop the America East this season, Leissner could very well take home Player of the Year accolades. The 6’7” forward from Converse, TX has averaged at least 12.3 points per game in each of his three seasons, and hasn’t shot worse than 43.7% from the field. He’s capable of taking a lead role on offense and carrying the load, as evident by his three games with 30 or more points last season alone. Add in his effectiveness on the glass on both ends of the floor, and Leissner is as steady as they come.

Joe Cremo stepped into a starring role last season with the Great Danes, and alongside Nichols, gives Albany the top scoring guard tandem in the conference. The Scotia, NY native put up 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and shot 45.2% from the field. Cremo kicked off his strong season with a 22-point, 10-rebound game against the Penn State Nittany Lions, a game in which Albany won by six, 87-81.

Jairus Lyles is the do-everything guard for the UMBC Retrievers. The 6’2” guard from Silver Spring, MD can score in bunches, he can rebound, and he can dish out a few assists here and there for good measure. Last season, Lyles finished the season averaging 18.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.7 steals per contest. On December 19th against The Citadel Bulldogs, Lyles went for 32 points and 20 rebounds in the Retrievers’ 120-112 win in double overtime. He scored in double-figures in all but two games for UMBC, showcasing his consistency and effectiveness on the offensive end of the floor.

The Binghamton Bearcats entered last season with a ton of potential on the hardwood, but were unable to live up to the preseason expectations. A big factor was the season-ending injury to sophomore guard J.C. Show, who was averaging 13.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 35.8% from behind the three point line. The Bearcats were 7-5 with Show in the lineup, and finished 12-20 overall. Show is back healthy this season, and looking to make up for lost time a season ago.

Tyrell Sturdivant might not average a ton of minutes on a nightly basis, the 6’7” forward emerged as an effective paint presence last season for the Stony Brook Seawolves. In just 23.8 minutes per game last season, Sturdivant averaged 10.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest, while shooting 44.5% from the field. He had 16 games with double-digit points, while scoring at least six points in 27 of the Seawolves’ 32 games. He can go off in terms of scoring at any time, evident by his three 20+ point performances, including a 26-point effort in January against UMass-Lowell.

In his first season with the Catamounts after transferring from the Tulane Green Wave, forward Payton Henson helped to add some depth to the front court rotation at Vermont. Henson enjoyed a career year with Vermont, averaging 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. He also improved his free throw shooting to over 81%, while also shooting above 50% from the field for the first time in his collegiate career (51.6%). His career at Vermont opened with six double-digit point efforts over his first seven games, including three straight to open the year. Henson and Lamb give the Catamounts a nice one-two punch up front.

Like Nichols at Albany, guard Jason Dunne had himself a breakout year as he stepped into a starting role for the Hartford Hawks. The 6’4” guard improved his scoring average to 13.7 points per contest, while also shooting a much-improved 36.5% from three point range. Dunne closed out the season with eight double-digit scoring efforts over his final nine games, and he will look to build off that to open the 2017-18 season.

The sharp-shooting Ernie Duncan took a slight step back after a strong sophomore campaign in 2015-16, where he averaged 11.5 points and shot 44.2% from three point range. Duncan put up 8.7 points and 2.2 assists per game last season as a junior, and hit 39.9% of his attempts from beyond the arc. It’s hard to picture a second straight step backwards for Duncan, so look for him to average numbers that closely resemble his 2015-16 stat line.

On the back end, Stony Brook may have found their scoring guard for the future in London, England native Akwasi Yeboah. The 6’6”, 235-pound guard brings size and versatility to the back court rotation for the Seawolves. He averaged 9.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2016-17, while shooting just over 34% from three point range. With the graduation of Lucas Woodhouse, look for Yeboah to step into an expanded role and watch his production increase as a sophomore.

Up front for New Hampshire, the bulk of the attention goes to Leissner. However, fellow senior Iba Camara has flown under the radar for the majority of his collegiate career. The 6’9” forward enjoyed a career-year in 2016-17, averaging career-highs in minutes (24.1), points (9.1), and rebounds (9.2) per game, while shooting 56.4% from the field. Camara pulled down double-digit rebounds in 15 games in 2016-17. That trend should continue over his senior season.

Andre Fleming was a freshman standout for the Maine Black Bears last season, emerging as a potential star in the paint over the next three seasons. The 6’7” forward put up 10.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and is Maine’s top returning scorer with the transfer of Wesley Myers. Fleming recorded three double-doubles on the year, and they all came on the road within a ten-day stretch from December 20th – 30th.

– T. Bennett

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