Horton is joined by a pair of Long Island junior forwards in Julian Boyd (San Antonio, TX/William H. Taft) and Jamal Olasewere (Silver Spring, MD/Springbrook). Quinnipiac senior guard James Johnson (Brooklyn, NY/Bishop Loughlin) and Wagner senior guard Tyler Murray (Toronto, Ontario/Eastern Commerce) round out the squad.
Horton, a 6-6 forward from Ossining, NY, was the heart and soul of the Blue Devils last season, leading CCSU to a 19-12 record and a spot in the NEC semifinals. The fifth Player of the Year in CCSU's 14-year history in the Conference, Horton was undeterred by a hip injury that forced him to miss the 2009-10 campaign, coming back stronger than ever. A five-time Choice Hotels NEC Player of the Week, he seemed to be at or near the top of every statistical category, a true testament to his versatility. As if posting 14 games of 20+ points and leading the league in scoring (19.5 ppg) wasn't enough, he also ranked first in blocked shots (1.6 bpg) and double-doubles (12).
For a player who excels down on the block, Horton also led the Blue Devils with 59 three-pointers. Throw in top-10 NEC finishes in rebounding (8.9, third), free throw percentage (.869, third), steals (1.4, eighth) and field goal percentage (.492, ninth), and it is easy to see why opposition coaches will be happy to see the graduate student finally pack his bags following the 2011-12 campaign. Horton, a two-time All-Conference honoree, is the NEC's leading active scorer with 1,435 points and has a chance to become only the fifth player in league annals to finish with 2,000 career points. Just recently, he was recognized by SI.com as one of the nation's "Most Valuable Players."
There are few better athletes around the nation than Boyd, a 6-7, 240 lb. first team All-NEC forward whose rim-rattling dunks provided highlight reel material all season long for the Blackbirds. The San Antonio native and former NEC Rookie of the Year helped propel the Blackbirds to their first NEC title since 1997, and like CCSU's Horton, he did it after sitting out the 2009-10 season recovering from a heart ailment. Boyd led the team with 13.0 points per game and was workmanlike on the boards, wrapping his sophomore campaign ranked second on the circuit with 9.0 rebounds per outing. His 12 double-doubles matched Horton for most in the Conference, while his 51.8 percent accuracy from the field placed him fifth.
Few can match Boyd's ability to attack the basket and finish above the rim, and his reliable stroke from the outside keeps defenders honest. He shined for LIU down the stretch, especially in the postseason, when he was named to the NEC All-Tournament team and posted a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds against North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Boyd enters his junior season with 746 points and 486 rebounds in just two seasons in Brooklyn.
Olasewere, a 6-7 forward, did his best to become a household name last March, picking the perfect time to play two of the best games of his career. The Silver Spring, MD product was unstoppable in LIU's 85-82 title game victory over Robert Morris, establishing a new career-high with 31 points to go with 11 boards en-route to NEC Tournament MVP honors. Nine days later, he scored 15 points against North Carolina, repeatedly beating the bigger and longer Tarheel defenders off the dribble.
It is that ability to blow by defenders using either hand that makes Olasewere such a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches. With an improving mid-range game, Olasewere could see his numbers swell in 2011-12. A year ago he ranked second on the Blackbirds with 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting a healthy 48.2 percent from the floor. Olasewere also went to the line a league-best 209 times. Now a junior, he steps on the floor this season with career totals of 693 points and 434 rebounds.
Johnson is the straw that stirs the drink for Quinnipiac - a fierce competitor who leaves it all on the floor for the Bobcats. While the Brooklyn native has piled up individual accolades throughout the course of his career in Hamden, it is his desire to win the coveted NEC title that keeps driving him to new heights. Johnson ranked in the NEC top-15 in seven categories a year ago, including a league-high 84 makes from beyond the arc. He can certainly heat up in a hurry, like the night last January when he exploded for a career-high 38 points and hit 7-13 from three-point territory in a win over Robert Morris.
Johnson ended his junior year as the NEC's fifth-leading scorer (16.1 ppg), and was third in steals (1.6 spg) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.33), seventh in free throw percentage (.814) and tenth in three-point proficiency (.385). Not surprisingly, he was tabbed to the All-NEC first team. Johnson enters his senior campaign with 1,218 career points and 149 makes from long distance.
Murray's year-to-year improvement did not go unnoticed around the NEC last season and was one of the key factors in Wagner's resurgence. The 6-5 senior combo guard lifted all facets of his game, and one would be hard-pressed to find a chink in his armor. A silky smooth performer, he nearly doubled his scoring average to 16.9 points per game to rank third in the league. Murray was deadly from beyond the arc, hitting 59 shots at a 41.5 percent clip on the year, also the third-best mark on the loop.
He shot 82.8 percent from the charity stripe (sixth in NEC) and pulled down 4.6 rebounds per game. Murray came up big in Wagner's narrow NEC quarterfinal setback to second-seeded Robert Morris, leading a late Seahawk charge by scoring 17 of his 19 points in the second half. Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, Murray has amassed 844 career points.
2011-12 Northeast Conference Preseason All-Conference Team
Name School Pos. Ht. Wt. Cl. Hometown/High School
Julian Boyd Long Island F 6-7 240 Jr San Antonio, TX/William H. Taft
Ken Horton CCSU F 6-6 198 Sr Ossining, NY/Ossining
James Johnson Quinnipiac G 6-0 195 Sr Brooklyn, NY/Bishop Loughlin
Tyler Murray Wagner G 6-5 200 Sr Toronto, Ontario/Eastern Commerce
Jamal Olasewere Long Island F 6-7 215 Jr Silver Spring, MD/Springbrook