American senior guard Derrick Mercer was named Patriot League Player of the Year on Monday.
March 2, 2009
March 2, 2009
Center Valley, Pa. - The American Eagles earned the top seed in the upcoming Patriot League Men's Basketball Tournament by posting a 13-1 mark in the regular season, and were awarded for their accomplishments when the 2008-09 All-League teams and major awards were announced on Monday's Tournament media teleconference. Senior guard Derrick Mercer earned the school's first Patriot League Player of the Year award since 2002, while Head Coach Jeff Jones received Coach of the Year recognition for the first time. The Eagles also led the way with three All-League selections, with Mercer and senior guard Garrison Carr on the First Team and senior forward Brian Gilmore on the Second Team.
The remaining two major awards went to student-athletes from Holy Cross and Army. Freshman guard R.J. Evans received Rookie of the Year honors for the Crusaders, while junior guard Marcus Nelson was named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year from the Black Knights.
Joining Mercer and Carr as a First-Team All-Patriot League selection were Lehigh junior guard Marquis Hall, Holy Cross sophomore forward Andrew Keister and Navy senior guard Kaleo Kina. The Second-Team All-Patriot League consists of Gilmore, Bucknell junior forward Patrick Behan, Lehigh junior forward Zahir Carrington, Navy junior guard Chris Harris and Army junior guard Cleveland Richard.
Five different schools were represented with a freshman on the Patriot League All-Rookie Team. Holy Cross' Evans was joined by Bucknell guard Bryan Cohen, Colgate forward Yaw Gyawu, Army guard Julian Simmons and Lafayette forward Ryan Willen.
Mercer receives the second major Patriot League award in his career after being named Rookie of the Year in 2006. He had an outstanding season as the floor general for the regular-season champion Eagles, and stepped up his play to an even higher level during Patriot League competition. Mercer finished first in three statistical categories during Patriot League play. He led all players with 73 assists (5.21 per game), while committing just 29 turnovers to lead the way with a 2.52 assist/turnover ratio. He also placed first in the Patriot League by hitting 55.2 percent (16-for-29) of his three-point attempts in League action. Mercer helped lead the Eagles to the 13-1 Patriot League mark and 10 consecutive victories entering the League Tournament on Wednesday, as the team finished first in seven statistical categories in League games. Mercer has moved up to third in Patriot League annals with 502 career assists, and is the only player in League history with at least 1,200 points and 500 assists. He is the first student-athlete from American to earn Patriot League Player of the Year honors since Patrick Doctor claimed the award in the Eagles' inaugural League campaign in 2002.
The only head coach in American's Patriot League history, Jones receives his first Coach of the Year honor after helping the Eagles become the first team in League history to finish the regular season in sole possession of first place in consecutive years. He also made the Eagles the first team to earn back-to-back No. 1 seeds in the Patriot League Tournament since Lafayette in 1998-00, and just the seventh squad in League annals to finish with at least a 13-1 record. American's 10-game winning streak is tied for the third-longest active streak in the country, and the Eagles have won 16 of the last 17 games overall. They also finished the season with an 11-6 record on the road, and are currently tied for the national lead in road victories. American was outstanding during League action, leading the way in scoring defense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, field goal percentage defense, three-point field goal percentage, three-pointers made and assist/turnover ratio. The Eagles are 21-7 overall entering the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament on Wednesday at home against Lafayette.
Evans becomes the fifth Holy Cross student-athlete to receive Patriot League Rookie of the Year honors, and first since his teammate, Pat Doherty, claimed the honor in 2005. Evans was strong from start to finish in his freshman campaign, claiming more than half of the League's Rookie of the Week honors with eight. He led all Patriot League freshmen in points (12.7), rebounds (5.1) and steals (1.66) for the season, placing eighth in the League in scoring, 13th in rebounding and fourth in steals. He was a key part of Holy Cross' 11-3 Patriot League record, and led the Crusaders in scoring for the season.
Nelson was a playmaker for an Army team that led the Patriot League in turnover margin and placed second in scoring defense and steals. Despite standing just 5-foot-11, Nelson placed third in the Patriot League and set a single-season Army record with 30 blocked shots. He also notched 27 steals and 69 assists to help the Black Knights to their highest seed in the Patriot League Tournament at No. 4. Nelson averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds for the season. He is the first Army student-athlete to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, and becomes the first Black Knight to capture any individual award since Alex Morris received Rookie of the Year honors in 1993.
Three of the First-Team All-League selections were named to the squad for the second year in a row. Carr receives First-Team status for the second straight season, while Mercer and Hall garnered First-Team honors after taking home Second-Team recognition last season. Both Mercer and Hall were also named Rookie of the Year and to the All-Rookie team in their freshman season, Mercer in 2006 and Hall in 2007. Kina earns his first All-League honor after capturing All-Rookie status in 2006.
Carr and Kina each tied a Patriot League record by winning four Player of the Week awards this season, and finished 1-2 in scoring in both overall and Patriot League competition. Carr led the way with 16.7 points per game in League play to help the Eagles to the 13-1 mark, while placing second to Kina with 17.5 points per game for the year. After setting the single-season League record with 135 treys last year, Carr leads all Patriot League players with 95 threes this season. His 283 career three-pointers rank third in League annals. Kina outpaced Carr with 17.9 points per game in 2008-09, while finishing second with 16.4 in League action. Kina also placed second to Mercer with 67 assists in Patriot League games, and ranked in the top six in the League in scoring, assists, rebounds and steals for the season. Kina became the 18th player in Patriot League history to go over 1,500 career points in Saturday's win over Colgate, and joins Lafayette's Brian Ehlers (1996-00) as the only players in League history with 1,500 points, 400 rebounds, 300 assists and 150 steals in a career.
Hall achieved a spot on the All-League team for the second year in a row after placing fourth in the League with 14.1 points per game and third in both assists (4.04) and steals (1.71) per game for the year. He also placed in the top five in three-pointers made (53) and assist/turnover ratio (1.38) while averaging over five rebounds per contest. Keister receives his first All-League honor after a strong stretch of play in League action. He averaged 12.5 points and 8.8 rebounds in League games, while leading all players by connecting on 67.3 percent (72-of-107) of his shots from the field. Keister was second in rebounding in League play, and third overall with 6.5 per game. Six of Keister's seven double-doubles came against Patriot League competition.
The five players that earned Second-Team All-Patriot League status all placed in the top 10 in the League in scoring. Harris, who is on the Second Team in consecutive seasons, finished just behind Carr and Kina with 15.7 points per game for the year and 15.3 in League action. Carrington led all Patriot League players with nine double-double performances, and nearly averaged that outing in League action with 14.4 points and a Patriot-League best 9.5 rebounds per game. Carrington was fifth in scoring and tops in rebounding in both overall and League games. Behan finished the year on fire with five consecutive 20-point games, and placed fourth in scoring (15.2) and third in rebounding (7.6) in Patriot League games. He was second to Carrington in rebounding for the season. Gilmore was in the top 10 in the Patriot League with 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game for the season, while also placing third in the League by hitting 41.6 percent of his three-point attempts. Richard was a jack-of-all-trades for the Black Knights, ending up in the top 15 in the Patriot League in scoring, assists, field goal percentage and steals.
All of the Patriot League Rookie of the Week honorees were named to the All-Rookie team. Cohen received three weekly honors, while Simmons notched two and Gyawu and Willen each had one to go with Evans' eight. All five players finished in the top 30 in the Patriot League in scoring for the season, with Evans at 12.7 points per game, Cohen with 11.7, Gyawu at 9.8, Willen at 9.5 and Simmons coming in at 7.5.
The postseason begins with the quarterfinal round of the 2009 Patriot League Men's Basketball Tournament on Wednesday. The four games on tap are No. 8 Lafayette at No. 1 American, No. 5 Lehigh at No. 4 Army, No. 7 Bucknell at No. 2 Holy Cross and No. 6 Colgate at No. 3 Navy. The contest at American will tip off at 7:30 p.m., with all other games set for 7 p.m. All Tournament games are played at the site of the higher seed, with the semifinals on Sunday and the League Championship on March 13 at 4:45 p.m. on ESPN2.
Patriot League 2008-09 Men's Basketball Major Award Winners
Player of the Year: Derrick Mercer, American (Sr., G, 5'9, 180, Jersey City, N.J./St. Anthony's)
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Nelson, Army (Jr., G, 5'11, 196, Richmond, Va./Trinity Episcopal)
Rookie of the Year: R.J. Evans, Holy Cross (Fr., G, 6'3, 200, Salem, Conn./Norwich Free Academy)
Coach of the Year: Jeff Jones, American
Patriot League 2008-09 Men's Basketball All-League Teams
Garrison Carr, American, Sr., G
Marquis Hall, Lehigh, Jr., G
Andrew Keister, Holy Cross, So., F
Kaleo Kina, Navy, Sr., G
Derrick Mercer, American, Sr., G
Patrick Behan, Bucknell, Jr., F
Zahir Carrington, Lehigh, Jr., F
Brian Gilmore, American, Sr., F
Chris Harris, Navy, Jr., G
Cleveland Richard, Army, Jr., G
Bryan Cohen, Bucknell, Fr., G
R.J. Evans, Holy Cross, Fr., G
Yaw Gyawu, Colgate, Fr., F
Julian Simmons, Army, Fr., G
Ryan Willen, Lafayette, Fr., F