The Best #NECMBB All-Decade Teams and a Crossword Puzzle!

As my family and I are finishing up our sixth week of quarantine here at home, it’s been…. um fun! As we continue to navigate through the unchartered waters of no sports – and for me, copious amounts of time to do other activities instead of watching sports – I figured I would have fun in what will be my last NEC Overtime! Blog post of the 2019-20 season. I want to thank everyone for reading my stuff over the past season, which remarkably ended more than one month ago in Moon Township.

As I wrap a bow on this season, I wanted to partake in some fun with this tweet from the Northeast Conference some three weeks ago.

This exercise absolutely filled some of the “no sports” gap! But rather than just give you my favorite $15 roster, I decided to come up with a series of teams, which allowed me to reminisce further on what was a terrific decade of NEC hoops. Let’s begin!

The Championship Hoisters

  • PG – Jason Brickman ($4)
  • G – Darian Anderson ($1)
  • G – Darnell Edge ($3)
  • G – Julian Norfleet ($2)
  • F – Jamal Olasewere ($5)

My apologies to Julian Boyd ($5) and Lucky Jones ($2). Julian Boyd was too expensive (I couldn’t afford all of the Blackbirds), yet the collection of starters above compiled a mind-numbing 10 championships and countless success on the court. Of course, 6 of those titles were collected by the LIU duo Jason Brickman and Jamal Olasewere, with the pair helping accumulate 72 victories over the program’s most successful 3-year span from 2010-2013.

A pair of FDU teammates also made the cut. Darnell Edge was a two time champion and an irreplaceable piece as a senior, while Darian Anderson was the only $1 player to earn a tournament championship. Julian Norfleet, along with Rashad Whack and Sam Prescott, got to two NEC tournament finals, winning the last one in convincing fashion at Robert Morris in 2014.

The Self Made Squad

  • PG – Velton Jones ($3)
  • G – Darnell Edge ($3)
  • F- Raiquan Clark ($3)
  • PF – Jalen Cannon ($5)
  • PF – Earl Brown ($1)

These five were self-made in different respects. Velton Jones and Jalen Cannon came into their collegiate programs as under-recruited gems – Jones a 6’0” bulldog from Philly and Jalen Cannon as a late blooming high school star out of Allentown, PA. The latter, who enjoyed a growth spurt as a 16 year old, scored a grand total of 2 points on his high school varsity squad as a sophomore.

The other three had quiet rookie campaigns that didn’t amount to much fanfare, yet a tenacious desire to improve themselves eventually led to a rise into the conference’s elite tier. Edge went from end-of-bench guard to postseason hero and free throw champion during the latter half of his FDU career. Everyone is cognizant of Clark’s ascent from a Jack Perri walk-on to an unguardable slasher that attacked the rim with reckless abandon. And as one of the first examples of Eric Taylor’s wisdom on the bench, Earl Brown went from averaging 6 points and 3 rebounds per contest as a freshman to averaging double figures in scoring and 8 rebounds per game over his next three seasons. 

I love me a great rags to riches story, and these five are surely that!

The Bombs Away, Chuck-N-Duck Squad

  • G – Latif Rivers ($1)
  • G – Dyami Starks ($1)
  • G – Shane Gibson ($4)
  • G – Karvel Anderson ($4)
  • PF – Jerome Frink ($3)

*My apologies to Adam Grant ($2)

Who needs a true five man and a point guard when you can just fire away from deep! If you catch this team on a good shooting day, 100 points over a 40-minute game is certainly possible. This is the kind of roster that would have Jared Grasso salivating!

Dyami Starks, a Bulldog alum, drained 300 career trifectas, en route to an impressive long distance percentage of 37.2%. Latif Rivers wasn’t the most prolific shotmaker, but he certainly had stretches where he couldn’t miss – he finished 6th during the 2012-13 NEC season in 3-point percentage (43.8%) in league play.

Karvel Anderson and Shane Gibson had two of the greatest seasons any Northeast Conference guard has ever produced, buoyed by their prowess from deep. Anderson shot an insane 45% on 444 career 3-point attempts, while Gibson – always the sole focus of the opponent’s scouting report – managed to convert 41.4% of his 691 attempts in the red and white. 

Filling out the middle is the highly accomplished 2017 NEC Player of the Year, Jerome Frink. In that award winning season, the LIU star shot 40.9% from 3 during league play. Bombs away!

The Supremely Versatile, Jack of All Trades Roster

  • PG – Jamaal King ($1)
  • G – Romone Saunders ($2)
  • F – Lucky Jones ($2)
  • F – Keith Braxton ($5)
  • F- Kenny Horton ($5)

*Apologies to Isaiah Blackmon ($2)

No roster is complete without possessing someone who can excel in a little bit of everything on the court, so I figured, why not be versatile one through five! I led off with Jamaal King, a scoring point guard, who’s competitive fire and playmaking skill was second to none. Like King, although with more length and power to his game, Romone Saunders could do everything in Bashir Mason’s backcourt. As a senior he led Wagner in scoring, grabbed 18.2% of the opponent’s misses when on the floor and had a 26% assist rate. Versatile!

Lucky Jones and Kenny Horton possessed that game changing athleticism that made them difficult to contain offensively, and a true menace on the other end of the floor. Horton, in particular, used his playmaking moxie to become the last Player of the Year recipient at CCSU after a sensational 2010-11 season.

Keith Braxton, arguably the greatest player in league history, rounds out the roster. He was a matchup nightmare as a perimeter oriented stretch four, and become the only NEC player to register 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds in his career. There wasn’t an opposing big that could keep Braxton away from the rim.

The All-Clutch Team

  • G – Junior Robinson ($4)
  • G – Darian Anderson ($1)
  • G – Adam Grant ($2)
  • PF – Michael Carey ($3)
  • PF – Julian Boyd ($5)

In what was a precursor to a fantastic final act as a senior, Junior Robinson put forth this line in the 2017 NEC tournament and the NCAA tournament First Four game – 85 points, 10 assists, 50% FG and 27 made free throws. It was a magical four game stretch culminating with that 23-point performance in front of a national audience against NCAA tournament foe New Orleans.

Named to the 2016 NEC All-Tournament team, Anderson turned in an incredible performance in the championship game with 28 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. The athletic combo guard never let the moment get too big and it showed during FDU’s magical 2015-16 run to the Big Dance.

Maybe it’s just me as a Sacred Heart alum, but it always seemed like Adam Grant was the king of big shots. He certainly wasn’t afraid of the big moment, and that unwavering confidence is just what I want out of my shooting guard.

Lost in the “Keith Braxton shot heard round the world” stunner that was the NEC semifinals at Wagner, Michael Carey put forth a monster effort (29 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists) in what turned out to be a devastating, career ending defeat. The effort should have come as no surprise. Over the course of 5 NEC tournament games, Carey averaged 23.2 ppg and 11 rpg while posting a 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting 86% from the charity stripe. Onions!

Last but certainly not least was the formidable Julian Boyd, whose performance in the 2012 NEC tournament title game (18 points, 10 rebounds, 8 of 10 shooting) was special. Remember this alley oop?!

Finally, The Ryan Peters Special!

  • G – Julian Norfleet ($2)
  • G – Karvel Anderson ($4)
  • G – Isaiah Blackmon ($2)
  • PF – Alex Francis ($4)
  • PF – Michael Carey ($3)

I’ll take my chances with three unstoppable guards – guys who can get a bucket, and in Norfleet’s case set up a teammate, any time they want. Good luck trying to contain both Anderson and Isaiah Blackmon, two leading scorers that came away with Player of the Year honors. Pair them with double-double machine and underrated Bryant stud Alex Francis – his career numbers are insane (17.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 54.4% FG) – and the clutch Michael Carey, and I’m ready to roll! I got some elite playmaking, shotmaking, rebounding and versatility. This team is averaging 1.20 points per possession easy!

NEC Crossword Puzzle Time!

Finally, I had some downtime the other day (don’t we all), so I decided to make a Northeast Conference All-Decade crossword puzzle. Major props if you can complete this without having to peruse Google!

Everyone please stay safe. Let’s get through this together so we can enjoy Northeast Conference basketball next November!

2 thoughts on “The Best #NECMBB All-Decade Teams and a Crossword Puzzle!

  1. Thanks, Ryan for trying to keep us in NEC basketball mode. Much appreciated. Looking forward to next hoops season already. Hope everyone stays safe and healthy.

  2. Update 9/17/20: Know you trying to put together an All-NEC First Team for 2020-21 and you’re looking to add another to the four guys who were selected All-NEC last year. You mentioned Peter Kiss, who transferred into Bryant from Rutgers as a grad student, as a possibility. Like Kiss, there are a number of top-level grad transfers coming into the NEC this year and all of these guys have the pedigree and credentials that make them legitimate candidates for that 5th spot. Several at Bryant. But one guy who shouldn’t be overlooked is Travis Atson, who’s now at St. Francis Brooklyn after getting his undergrad degree from Quinnipiac. He may be the most impactful NEC grad transfer this season. Another grad Terrier who should not be overlooked is Unique McLean, who already had an extremely impressive first year for Coach Braica. McLean will again be one of the most athletic and exciting players in the NEC and had put up some impressive numbers after transferring from UMass. There’s no guard in the Conference who can clean the glass like he can. Good luck. Picking All-Conference Teams isn’t easy.

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