NEC Player of the Year (Jeremy Chappell) & All-Conferencee

March 3rd, 2009

Somerset, NJ -- Robert Morris senior guard Jeremy Chappell (Cincinnati, OH/Northwest) was unanimously selected as the 2008-09 Northeast Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year in a vote conducted by league head coaches.  Long Island freshman forward Julian Boyd (San Antonio, TX/William H. Taft) was named NEC Rookie of the Year, while Robert Morris senior guard Bateko Francisco (Paris, France/Fort Scott JC) was voted NEC Defensive Player of the Year.  Quinnipiac junior forward James Feldeine (New York, NY/Cardinal Hayes) was the recipient of the inaugural NEC Most Improved Player award.  Jim Phelan Coach of the Year honors went to Robert Morris head coach Mike Rice for the second year in a row.  The honorees were announced on a media teleconference this morning to promote the 2009 NEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, which begins on Thursday with quarterfinal play at four campus sites.

Chappell follows in the footsteps of former teammate Tony Lee to make it back-to-back NEC Player of the Year award winners for the Colonials, who head into the NEC Tournament as the top seed after winning their second straight regular season crown.  After sharing the offensive load with fellow all-stars Lee and A.J. Jackson the last two years, the 6’3” Chappell became the focal point of the Robert Morris attack this season and was more than up to the task.  With the ability to shoot from long range, attack the rim, sweep the boards, distribute the ball to teammates and defend the perimeter, Chappell ranks in the NEC top-15 in nine different categories.  The two-time Choice Hotels NEC Player of the Week leads the conference and ranks 13th nationally with 2.6 steals per game.  Chappell is also third in scoring (16.6 ppg), made three pointers (73, 2.4 per game) and free throw percentage (.854), eighth in rebounding (6.3 rpg) and ninth in three-point percentage (.403).  The former NEC Rookie of the Year and two time all-star will also be remembered as one of the top all-around performers in the history of the league.  With career totals of 1,805 points, 656 boards, 324 assists, 259 steals and 232 three-pointers, Chappell is the only player in NEC history to compile 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 250 steals and 200 three-pointers in his career.  A Cincinnati, OH native, he is the third-leading scorer in school history and tenth on the NEC career chart.  He also ranks seventh all-time in the conference in steals.  In Chappell’s four years in Moon Township, the Colonials have compiled a 79-41 record and he will graduate as the school recordholder for games played (120) and games started (116).  Chappell is the first unanimous NEC Player of the Year selection since FDU’s Chad Timberlake in 2005-06.  Other Robert Morris players to earn NEC Player of the Year include Lee in 2007-08, Chipper Harris in 1983-84, Vaughn Luton in 1988-89 and Myron Walker in 1991-92.

Boyd stepped into the void left by the graduation of Kellen Allen and gave the Blackbirds a legitimate threat on the low block and workhorse on the offensive glass.  On Monday, the 6’7” forward earned his league-leading sixth Choice Hotels NEC Rookie of the Week honor, the most in a season since Saint Francis (PA)’s Darshan Luckey was honored on eight occasions in 2002-03.  Boyd, who hails from San Antonio, TX, enters the postseason ranked first among NEC freshmen in rebounding (6.3 rpg) and second in scoring (10.3 ppg) despite coming off the bench all 29 games and averaging just 22.6 mpg.  Per 40 minutes, Boyd is averaging 18.3 ppg and 11.1 rpg for the Blackbirds, who posted their best conference record (12-6) since 2000-01 and are assured of their first winning season since 1997-98.  Additionally, Boyd ranks second in the league in offensive boards (3.0 rpg) and ninth in field goal percentage (.508).  Boyd is the third Long Island recipient of the NEC Rookie of the Year award, joining James Williams (2004-05) and Richie Parker (1996-97).

A terrific perimeter defender for Robert Morris, Francisco helped anchor one of the NEC’s stingiest defenses in 2008-09.  Teaming with NEC steals leader Jeremy Chappell in a formidable backcourt, the Colonials allowed a conference-low 62.8 ppg in league play, ranked second overall during the regular season in scoring defense at 66.4 ppg and yielded less than 70 points in 12 of their last 13 games against NEC competition.  Individually, the native of Paris, France has compiled 39 steals and is tenth in the league with 1.3 spg.

Feldeine’s steady rise at Quinnipiac culminated with his selection as the inaugural winner of the NEC Most Improved Player award.  A seldom used freshman, Feldeine became a key contributor as a sophomore in 2007-08, then developed into a full-fledged star for the Bobcats this past season when he effortlessly stepped into the role formerly held by all-conference standout DeMario Anderson.  Picture-perfect jump shot aside - the 6’4” forward has hit 46 shots from three-point range - Feldeine can score in a variety of ways from converting in transition to attacking the basket in traffic.  With double-digits in all but one game this season, the New York City native leads the NEC with 16.8 ppg.  He is also a strong rebounder with 6.1 per game (10th in the NEC) and has posted three double-doubles on the year.  The Mid-Majority Baller of the Week on December 22 and two-time Choice Hotels NEC Player of the Week, Feldeine has more than doubled his scoring average from last season when he averaged 8.3 ppg.

In leading Robert Morris to its second consecutive NEC regular season championship, Rice joins Rider’s Kevin Bannon as the only coaches in NEC history to be voted Jim Phelan Coach of the Year in each of their first two years in the conference.  Despite the loss of 2007-08 NEC Player of the Year Tony Lee and three-time NEC all-star A.J. Jackson, Rice kept the Colonials playing at a high level by emphasizing defensive effort on the floor, adding newcomer Rob Robinson to the front line and turning the keys on offense over to Jeremy Chappell, the latest Robert Morris standout to earn NEC Player of the Year plaudits.  The Colonials are an astounding 31-5 in NEC play over the last two years, the second-best two year stretch behind Marist’s 28-4 (.875) run from 1986-88.  Overall, Robert Morris has posted a 47-18 record in his tenure and back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1988-89 (21 wins) and 1989-90 (22 wins).  Other notable achievements in Rice’s short time with the program include an NEC record 15-game road winning streak against conference opposition that was just recently snapped, a school record 26 wins in 2007-08 and a win over ACC opponent Boston College last season.  Robert Morris has also received votes in the Associated Press Top-25 poll in each of the last two years.  Heading into the NEC Tournament as the top seed, the Colonials have clinched a berth in the Postseason NIT for the second straight year.  Last season, the Colonials nearly pulled off the upset in the NIT with an 87-81 setback at Syracuse.  Former Robert Morris coaches Matt Furjanic (1982-83) and Jarrett Durham (1988-89 and 1989-90) have also won this award.

Two of the five players that comprise the all-NEC first team were second team all-stars a year ago, led by Robert Morris senior guard Jeremy Chappell (Cincinnati, OH/Northwest), the league’s Player of the Year.  Long Island junior guard Jaytornah Wisseh (Brooklyn, NY/Banneker Academy) was also a second-team honoree in 2007-08, while Sacred Heart graduate student forward Joey Henley (Kent, WA/Kentride) was voted to the second team in 2004-05.  Mount St. Mary’s junior guard Jeremy Goode (Charlotte, NC/Providence Day) and Quinnipiac sophomore forward Justin Rutty (Newburgh, NY/Newburgh Free Academy) are both first time award recipients.

A fleet-footed 5’9” point guard who has started 90 games since his arrival in Emmitsburg in 2006, Goode immediately transformed Mount St. Mary’s into a title contender and led an improbable Mount run from the #4 seed to the program’s third NEC title last season.  Serving as the indispensable hub of the offense, Goode powers the Mount’s transition game and directs the team’s halfcourt attack with equal aplomb.  Throw in an improved shot from long range - he has boosted his three-point shooting from 29.9 percent as a sophomore to 39.8 percent this season - and you have one of the most dynamic performers in the conference.  A two-time Choice Hotels NEC Player of the Week, Goode is sixth in the NEC in scoring at 15.8 ppg, and also ranks second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.74:1), third in steals (1.9 spg), seventh in assists (4.1 apg) and tenth in three-point percentage (.398).  In three years, the Charlotte, NC native has already moved into 24th place on the NEC career list with 457 assists and is the fourth-leading active scorer on the circuit with 1,249 points.

A grizzled veteran who was a second team all-NEC performer back in 2004-05, Henley has been the face of Sacred Heart basketball for the better part of the decade.  Now a sixth-year graduate student, Henley shook off the second major knee injury of his career to make a triumphant return to the hardwood this season and reclaim his spot as one of the top interior players on the circuit.  One of the great athletes in NEC annals - he has also competed at high levels in both football and track and field at Sacred Heart - the 6’5” Henley’s quickness, leaping ability and tenacity on the block make up the size differences he often faces in the paint.  As he attempts to lead the Pioneers to their first NEC title, the Kent, WA product enters the postseason as the league’s leading field goal shooter with a 62.0 percent conversion rate.  That figure is good for seventh nationally.  The two-time Choice Hotels NEC Player of the Week is also seventh in the conference in scoring (15.8 ppg), sixth in rebounding (6.7 rpg) and fourth in blocks (1.3 bpg).  Henley is now up to 1,368 career points and 631 rebounds, both marks second among active NEC competitors.

Rutty’s emergence as a dominant interior force in his sophomore campaign helped keep Quinnipiac afloat in the NEC playoff race despite a rash of injuries playing havoc with the team’s rotation.  One of the few players in the conference with the ability to change the course of a game through his work on the glass, the burly 6’7, 250 lb. Rutty currently sits first in the league with 9.5 rpg (24th in the nation) and 11 double-doubles as the leader of the NEC’s top rebounding team.  His work on the offensive glass has earned him recognition as he ranks second in the nation with 4.4 offensive rebounds per game, second only to Pittsburgh All-American candidate DeJuan Blair.  Rutty also refined his post game, developing a reliable jump hook that made him nearly impossible to defend in the paint.  To that end, the Newburgh, NY native is tenth in the NEC in scoring at 14.9 ppg and ranks second in the NEC and 14th nationally in field goal percentage (.603).

Wisseh is one the quickest players to emerge from the NEC ranks in recent years and his unique ability to create plays off the dribble sets him apart from most guards in the region.  Virtually unguardable one-on-one or in transition, the 6’1” Wisseh can work his way into the paint at will and gets to the line more than any other player in the league.  His unselfish nature also leads to drive-and-dish opportunities for teammates, who often find themselves unguarded as opposing defenses collapse on the Brooklyn native.  In leading the Blackbirds to a #4 tournament seed, Wisseh emerged as the fourth-leading distributor in the conference with 4.5 apg, and also ranks eighth in scoring (15.3 ppg), sixth in free throw percentage (.813), and eighth in steals (1.5 spg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.46:1).  With 1,168 career points, he enters the postseason as the seventh-highest scorer among active NEC players.  A second team all-NEC honoree a year ago, Wisseh’s 371 career assists ranks fourth among the current crop of NEC competitors and 41st all-time in the league.

The all-NEC second team features five first-time honorees, all of whom will all be back in the fold next season.  Along with Quinnipiac’s James Feldeine (New York, NY/Cardinal Hayes), the NEC’s Most Improved Player award winner, the second team is comprised of Fairleigh Dickinson junior guard Sean Baptiste (North Brunswick, NJ/St. Joseph’s of Metuchen), St. Francis (NY) sophomore guard Ricky Cadell (New York, NY/The Patterson School (NC)), Central Connecticut State sophomore forward Ken Horton (Ossining, NY/Ossining) and Robert Morris junior forward Rob Robinson (Waldorf, MD/Oxon Hill (Globe Institute)).

Baptiste has evolved into a complete offensive package for the Knights.  A prolific scorer with an NEC-best five 30+ point outings on the year, he has the ability to shake defenders in the halfcourt, create mid-range shot opportunities, shoot with accuracy from three-point territory (48 this season) and is strong enough in the air to finish around the hoop.  He finished his junior season ranked fourth in the NEC with 16.3 ppg, but led the conference in league play with 18.6 ppg.  His nose for the ball and aggressive nature around the hoop led to the 6’3” guard pulling down a team-high 5.9 rpg, the 11th-best mark on the circuit.  Baptiste, a North Brunswick, NJ product, cracked the 1,000-point mark in February and will enter his senior year with 1,034 career points.

Cadell took his game to another level during the second half of the season and helped keep the Terriers in contention for an NEC playoff spot after leading scorer and rebounder Kayode Ayeni went down with a season-ending injury.  A tough player to defend due to his quick first step and ability to slice into the lane and finish, the 6’2” Cadell keeps defenders honest with his long distance shooting skills.  Over the last 11 games, the New York City native has averaged 19.5 ppg, including a career-high 33-point explosion last Thursday against Sacred Heart.  The scoring surge lifted Cadell’s season average to a team-best 15.1 ppg, the ninth-best mark in the NEC.  He ranks second among conference guards and 14th overall in field goal shooting at 47.0 percent.  Cadell is also eighth in the league in three-point accuracy (.406) and ninth in made three-pointers (1.9 per game).

Following a terrific rookie campaign for CCSU in 2007-08, Horton continued to hone his skills and led the NEC in scoring for much of the 2008-09 campaign.  Playing longer than his lanky 6’6” frame would indicate, his versatility hails a new breed of forward who can effectively play a number of positions on the floor.  Horton is an effective post player whose range extends out to three-point territory where he has hit 29 shots this season.  Currently ranked second in the NEC with 16.6 ppg, his 13 games of 20+ points are four more than any other player in the conference.  He is also third in the league with 1.6 blocks per outing and ranks eighth in free throw accuracy (.807), 11th in field goal percentage (.502) and 12th in rebounding (5.9 rpg).

By giving the  Colonials a solid post presence and interior defender, the 6’8”, 215 lb. Robinson helped fill the hole left in the Robert Morris frontcourt after the graduation of A.J. Jackson.  A terrific athlete who can fill the lane on the break and finish above the rim, Robinson excelled in league play where he averaged 12.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg and shot 56.9 percent from the floor.  Overall, he finished the regular season fourth in the league in field goal percentage (.545) - including a 9-9 game against Wagner on January 17th and a 7-7 performance on Saturday against Mount St. Mary’s - and ranked second on the Colonials in scoring (11.9 ppg) and rebounding (5.3 rpg).

A terrific freshman crop is led by Long Island’s Julian Boyd (San Antonio, TX/William H. Taft), the NEC Rookie of the Year.  He is joined by a pair of Monmouth players in Will Campbell (Willingboro, NJ/Paul VI) and Travis Taylor (Union, NJ/Union).  After averaging 4.2 points over his first 20 collegiate games, Campbell  was switched to the off-guard position in late January, a move that resulted four straight 20+ point outings to close the season and 11 consecutive double-digit efforts.  Over those 11 games, he averaged 18.1 ppg to lift his season average to 9.1 ppg and was twice honored as Choice Hotels NEC Rookie of the Week.  A 5’10” sharpshooter from long range, Campbell ranked second on the Hawks with 42 three-pointers.  Taylor, an athletic 6’8” power forward with an already refined post game, was a three-time Choice Hotels NEC Rookie of the Week honoree and closed out his freshman campaign ranked first among league freshmen with 12.4 ppg and 54.2 percent shooting from the floor (fifth overall in the NEC).  He also pulled down a team-high 5.8 rpg.  Renowned for his unlimited shooting range and high arcing three-point shots, St. Francis (NY) forward Stefan Perunicic (Belgrade, Serbia/Dimitrije Tucovic) has set an NEC freshman record with 86 treys this season, including a 7-11 display from downtown in a December win over Robert Morris and a 7-9 effort in a victory over Bryant in February.  Perunicic is second among NEC freshmen with 11.0 ppg and a 38.7 percent success rate from beyond the arc.  He also ranks in the NCAA top-30 in both made three-pointers and three-point percentage.  Immediately assuming the starting role at the point, James Johnson’s (Brooklyn, NY/Bishop Loughlin) game no longer resembles that of a typical freshman after averaging 32.8 minutes per game for playoff bound Quinnipiac during the regular season.  An unselfish player who is contributing 10.0 ppg, Johnson also paces NEC first year competitors with 4.2 apg, 1.6 spg and a 1.54:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

2008-09 NEC Men’s Basketball Award Winners
Player of the Year 
Jeremy Chappell     Robert Morris       G   6-3 210 Sr  Cincinnati, OH/Northwest
Rookie of the Year 
Julian Boyd     Long Island     F   6-6 220 Fr  San Antonio, TX/William H. Taft

Defensive Player of the Year 
Bateko Francisco    Robert Morris       G   6-1 185 Sr  Paris, France/Fort Scott JC
Most Improved Player
James Feldeine      Quinnipiac      F   6-4 190 Jr  New York, NY/Cardinal Hayes

Jim Phelan Coach of the Year 
Mike Rice       Robert Morris 
2008-09 NEC Men’s Basketball First Team All-Conference
Name            School          Pos     Ht  Wt      Yr      Hometown/High School 
Jeremy Chappell     Robert Morris       G   6-3 210 Sr  Cincinnati, OH/Northwest
Jeremy Goode        Mount St. Mary’s    G   5-9 170 Jr  Charlotte, NC/Providence Day
Joey Henley     Sacred Heart        F   6-5 210 Gr  Kent, WA/Kentride
Justin Rutty        Quinnipiac      F   6-7 240 So  Newburgh, NY/Newburgh Free Academy
Jaytornah Wisseh    Long Island     G   6-1 180 Jr  Brooklyn, NY/Banneker Academy
2008-09 NEC Men’s Basketball Second Team All-Conference
Name            School          Pos     Ht  Wt     Yr   Hometown/High School 
Sean Baptiste       Fairleigh Dickinson G   6-3 185 Jr  North Brunswick, NJ/St. Joseph’s of Metuchen
Ricky Cadell        St. Francis (NY)    G   6-2 180 So  New York, NY/The Patterson School (NC)
James Feldeine      Quinnipiac      F   6-4 190 Jr  New York, NY/Cardinal Hayes
Ken Horton      Central Connecticut St. F   6-6 185 So  Ossining, NY/Ossining
Rob Robinson        Robert Morris       F   6-8 215 Jr  Waldorf, MD/Oxon Hill (Globe Institute)
2008-09 NEC Men’s Basketball All-Rookie Team
Name            School          Pos     Ht  Wt     Yr   Hometown/High School 
Julian Boyd     Long Island     F   6-6 220 Fr  San Antonio, TX/William H. Taft
Will Campbell       Monmouth        G   5-10    170 Fr  Willingboro, NJ/Paul VI
James Johnson       Quinnipiac      G   6-0 183 Fr  Brooklyn, NY/Bishop Loughlin
Stefan Perunicic    St. Francis (NY)    F   6-6 195 Fr  Belgrade, Serbia/Dimitrije Tucovic
Travis Taylor       Monmouth        F   6-8 200 Fr  Union, NJ/Union