NEC Year in the Rear-View (Installment 1 of 4) – Notable Newcomers

With Memorial Day and the 2010-11 NEC academic year in the rear-view mirror, Overtime! will spend the first few weeks of summer highlighting some of the most-memorable moments that occurred over the past nine months.  The NEC Year in the Rear-View series will feature four installments, which will be released on a weekly basis beginning on Tuesday, May 31.  Each installment will feature five student-athletes/events.

The inaugural installment, entitled “Notable Newcomers,” examines five impactful first-year athletes who immediately came to mind when we took a look in the rear-view. (Note: This is not a top-5 list, nor a scientific study)

Jason Brickman (Men’s Basketball), Long Island
Brickman’s point guard play made opposing coaches jealous.  The freshman combined tremendous basketball instincts, great court vision, and precise passing to wow the crowd nearly every night out.

In fact, at their annual postseason meeting, NEC coaches were uttering the phrase “Brickman Stats.” 

For example, take a look at Brickman’s statistical performance during the Blackbirds’ 85-82 overtime win over Robert Morris in the NEC Championship Game – 15 points, 8 assists, and 3 turnovers.  The 15 points were somewhat uncharacteristic for Brickman, who averaged 6.2 points per contest, but the assist and turnover totals simply signify another day at the office for the freshman floor general. 

The 5-foot-10 Texan came off the bench in all 33 of LIU’s games this season, but a reserve role didn’t stop him from leading the league in assists (5.45 apg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.81).

Not even Roy Williams’ Carolina Tar Heels could prevent Brickman from putting up “Brickman Stats” in the NCAA Second Round.  The Met Writers’ Division I Rookie of the Year dished out 8 assists and committed 3 turnovers in 24 minutes against UNC.

Check Out Brickman’s Postgame Comments at 2011 NEC Championship Game…

Artemis Spanou, (Women’s Basketball), Robert Morris
The NEC’s rebounding leader was only a freshman.  In her first season competing for Robert Morris, 6-foot forward Artemis Spanou brought back images of two-time NEC Tournament MVP Chinata Nesbit.  Dangerous no matter where she has the ball, Spanou ranked amongst the league’s top-10 leaders in scoring, rebounding, and assists. She pulled down 9.6 boards per contest on her way to the NEC statistical title.  Her 13.1 points per game were sixth and her 91 assists in 30 games stood sixth at year’s end.

Spanou tallied 12 double-doubles on her way to the NEC Rookie of the Year award.  That total matched that of Sacred Heart’s Callan Taylor for the league lead. The Greek National Team member started all 30 games for Sal Buscaglia’s Colonials, only one of two players on the roster to do so, logging 38 three-point makes, 34 blocks, and 33 steals.

Assuming she stays healthy for four years, she’s a 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound, 500-assist candidate.

Check Out Spanou’s double-double against Wagner…

Denzell Jones (Men’s Indoor T&F), Central Connecticut
Central Connecticut stunned the crowd on hand at the 2011 NEC Indoor Track & Field Championships by snatching the program’s first-ever men’s team title.  The Blue Devils topped 2010 champion Long Island by a mere five points with Sacred Heart finishing only six points behind CCSU in third. Such a feat would not have been possible had it not been for the 16 points provided by freshman Denzell Jones.

After serving as a backup quarterback during Central’s run to a share of the NEC football crown in the fall, Jones hit the track where he harnessed his raw athletic ability and instantly became a title contender in the high jump.  Jones cleared 2.10m to out-duel pre-meet favorite David Fajoyomi (St. Francis [NY]), who high jumped over 7 feet on a couple of occasions during the season.  He also picked up a bronze medal in the triple jump en-route to being named the 2011 NEC Indoor Most Outstanding Rookie.

Nick Leiningen (Baseball), Sacred Heart
The freshman lefty burst onto the scene during the Pioneers’ trip to Mississippi State and LSU and followed by posting a 6-1 record during Northeast Conference play.  After capturing the NEC Rookie of the Year award, the 6-foot-1 hurler went out and threw a complete-game victory in his first career postseason start at the NEC Tournament. 

Leiningen has started 11 games thus far for the NCAA Regional-bound Pioneers, and gone the distance in seven of those contests.  He has allowed only 3 homers and 26 walks in 80.2 innings pitched.  This soft-tossing southpaw is a master at keeping hitters uncomfortable and off balance in the box. He limited LSU to one earned run over 6.0 innings in a hard-luck loss and twirled 4.0 scoreless innings to pick up a save against Mississippi State. 

Check Out Highlights from Leiningen’s NEC Tournament start…

Laura Williams (Women’s Outdoor T&F), Monmouth
The freshman sprinter helped make Monmouth’s three-peat possible.  Williams accounted for 15.25 points as the Hawks claimed their third consecutive NEC outdoor team title. 

She medaled in two events – 200m (third) and 400m (second) – and had potential to score in a third event (400 hurdles) had the team needed her in that spot.  Williams was named the NEC Outdoor Most Outstanding Rookie for her performance which also included running the leadoff leg of the Hawks fourth-place 4×400 relay team.

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