Benjamin Simon & William Derry
MVP: Josh Hart (G/Villanova)
Rookie of the Year: A.J. Brodeur (F/Penn)
Most Improved: Rodney Williams (F/Drexel)
Defensive Player of the Year: Mikal Bridges (F/Villanova)
Coach of the Year: Steve Donahue (Penn)
Jalen Brunson, G, Villanova
Statistics: 14.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, .541 FG%, .378 3P%, .876 FT%
Though Villanova lost standout guard Ryan Arcidiacono due to graduation, sophomore guard Jalen Brunson stepped up this season as the Wildcats’ primary ball handler and one of the team’s leaders. The Illinois native entered this season after winning a national championship in his first year but that did not hinder his growth. Throughout this season’s campaign, Brunson helped the Wildcats sweep their non-conference regular season schedule and win the Big East tournament championship by playing his best in the most critical moments. For instance, Brunson scored a career-high 27 points on the road against conference-rival Creighton on New Year’s eve. Despite Nova’s 2nd round NCAA Tournament loss, Brunson took a huge leap this season as a leader and will only get better next season.
Josh Hart, G, Villanova
Statistics: 18.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, .510 FG%, .404 3P%, .747 FT%
Josh Hart’s decision to return to Villanova for his senior year not only paid dividends for the Wildcats, as they compiled 30-plus wins and won the Big East tournament championship, but it also helped the 6-foot-5 guard’s draft stock. Hart proved night in and night out that he was one of the best players in college basketball this season by scoring in double-figures in every contest (13 games with 20 or more points), leading Nova in rebounds (6.4 RPG), and putting the Wildcats on his back against the country’s ranked teams. In a come-from-behind win versus Notre Dame in early December, Hart recorded a career-high 37 points (10-14 FGM-A, 14-14 FTM-A) on national television and put the college basketball world on notice. The 2017 Big East tournament MVP and First Team All-American did not end his last year at Nova lifting the national championship trophy for a second time but Josh Hart did help Villanova have another historic season and improve his chances of getting drafted in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft.
B.J. Johnson, F, La Salle
Statistics: 17.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1 APG, 1.1 SPG, .449 FG%, .362 3P%, .838 FT%
B.J. Johnson became the Explorers’ go-to player after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. The Lower Merion alumnus showed no resemblance of the unused substitute he was at Syracuse, as he led La Salle in points (17.6) and rebounds (6.3) per game. Johnson was a part of a trio of transfers, which included Demetrius Henry (South Carolina) and Pookie Powell (Memphis), that was supposed to revamp the Explorers’ program, though that did not fully come true. That being said, Johnson’s production combined with that of senior guard Jordan Price (15.3 PPG) and Powell (13.7 PPG) did help La Salle win 6 more games this year. Johnson will be one of the best players in the City 6 after returning deciding to return for his senior season.
Rodney Williams, F, Drexel
Statistics: 15.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, .526 FG%
Coming into his senior season, Rodney Williams was tasked with learning a new coaching philosophy, taking on more of a leadership role, and becoming Drexel’s main offensive/defensive threat. Williams accomplished all of this and more, as he led Drexel in points (15.6) and rebounds (6.8) per game during his lone season under head coach Zach Spiker. Williams displayed his knowledge of coach Spiker’s system on a nightly basis by advising his younger teammates and his commitment to Drexel basketball by never putting his head down throughout the 9-win season. Williams made serious improvements from the year before, even adding a 3-point threat for the first time in his career and was one of the few bright spots in Drexel’s first year under Spiker. While Drexel didn’t win too many games, Williams was the team’s anchor on offense and defense. His versatility was consistently relied upon. He often had to cover the team’s best wings and big men, while also attack the basket and hit the open jump shot. Rodney Williams was surely one of the most valuable forwards in the City 6.
A.J. Brodeur, F, Penn
Statistics: 13.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 2.4 BPG, 1 SPG, .526 FG%
Penn head coach Steve Donahue has known about A.J. Brodeur since he was a freshman in high school and fans of Quaker basketball now know why. The Second team All-Ivy league selection did not shy away from the limelight in his first collegiate season as he averaged a team-high 13.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game. The offensive skillset that Brodeur showed off this year is impressive alone but his ability on the defensive end and his willingness to defend is what makes his so special as an all-around talent. This is just the start of a remarkable Penn basketball career.
Kurk Lee, G, Drexel
Statistics: 14.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 5 APG, 1.6 SPG, .415 FG%, .400 3P%
From day one, Kurk Lee proved himself to be one of the best guards in the CAA. With elite quickness and a mature mid-range game, Lee’s play more resembled a senior playmaker. The freshman point guard only had four games with single digit points and only one game without an assist. Lee capped off the year with multiple big time performances, including a 25-point, 8-assist, 0-turnover game against William and Mary and a 25-point, 5-assist game 4 days later against Towson. Kurk Lee is a superstar in the making for coach Spiker.
Shizz Alston, G, Temple
Statistics: 13.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, .408 FG%, .345 3P%, .868 FT%
Like so many standout Temple guards before him, including Khalif Wyatt, Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey, Shizz Alston took off after his first year with the Owls. Last season, Alston only tallied two outings where he played for more than 10 minutes, but with DeCosey graduating and senior Josh Brown sidelined for most of the year with an injury, the All-Big 5 first-team selection became one of coach Dunphy’s core players. Alston improved statistically in every category as he averaged 13.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists 1.7 steals, 41 FG%, 35 3P% and 87 FTM%. Since Brown did not play for the majority of the campaign, Alston also had to take over ball handling duties, which gave him more of an opportunity to contribute for Temple. Alston’s production should improve over his final two seasons on North Broad.
Jordan Price, G, La Salle
Statistics: 15.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.6 APG,.433 FG%, .354 3P%, .762 FT%
After being La Salle’s main scoring threat last season, Jordan Price was joined by transfers B.J. Johnson and Pookie Powell this season, who took some of the pressure off of him. This allowed the Second Team All-Big 5 selection to take higher percentage shots from the field, which in turn led to a higher shooting percentage. Furthermore, this gave head coach John Giannini the option of resting Price periodically throughout the game, so that he would be fresh for crunch time at the end of the contest. Price’s ability to create his own shot made him a reliable asset for the Explorers and caused opposing teams to scramble to figure out a way to force him to give up the basketball.
James Demery, F, Saint Joseph’s
Statistics: 14.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, .423 FG%
James Demery was poised to begin the 2016-17 season as Saint Joseph’s starting small forward and help the Hawks return to the NCAA tournament, but that was halted when he fractured the fourth metatarsal in his left foot against Toledo on opening night. Demery would miss the next 10 games due to the injury, but would return against George Washington and went on to average 14.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 43 FG% in a season where the Hawks would lose the backcourt duo of junior Shavar Newkirk and sophomore Lamarr Kimble to season-ending injuries thereafter. Despite all of that, the Second Team All-Big 5 selection found a way to help lead this year’s youthful Hawk team by playing tough defense, attacking the basket, and mentoring his fellow teammates.
Kris Jenkins, F, Villanova
Statistics: 13.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2 APG, 1.1 SPG, .384 FG%, .360% 3P%, .862 FT%
To top what Kris “Big Smoove” Jenkins did at last year’s National Championship would have been almost impossible. He scored one of the most historic shots in NCAA tournament history and won Villanova a National Championship. After deciding to return for his senior season, the expectations for Jenkins were high but he did not let them faze him, as he provided Nova with timely performances during the regular season. Jenkins primarily played forward for the Wildcats, which complemented coach Wright’s small lineup as the Big East honorable mention selection stretched the floor with his sweet-stroke. Though Nova exited the NCAA tournament in the 2nd round this season, Kris Jenkins will always be remembered for his buzzer-beater against North Carolina and he played a major role in the team’s success this year.
G- Pookie Powell
Statistics: 13.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, .434 FG%, .363% 3P%, .843 FT%
After transferring to La Salle for his final three years of eligibility, Pookie Powell was one of the City 6’s most explosive scorers this season. The transfer from Memphis had a season-high 27 points in 31 minutes against #1 ranked Villanova and 24 days later, he had 23 points and 7 rebounds against the A-10’s regular season winner, Dayton. But Powell only played in only 24 of the team’s 30 games, starting a mere 18, after struggling with injuries and the dog house with coach John Giannini. Powell’s well rounded skillset proved to be a problem for opposing defenses and despite the disappointing year for La Salle, Powell was a bright spot.
G- Lamarr Kimble
Statistics: 15.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 4.5 APG, .362 FG%, .320% 3P%
In his second season at Saint Joseph’s, Lamarr Kimble walked into a much bigger role with the losses of DeAndre Bembry, Isaiah Miles, Aaron Brown, and Papa Ndao. He averaged nearly 10 more shots per game than he did the year before, while averaging nearly 20 more minutes per game as well. Kimble showed flashes of serious ability to score and lead. Named a captain as a sophomore, Kimble had five 20-point games and ten games with 5 or more assists. Kimble averaged 18.6 points and 5 assists in his final seven games before being injured. The Neumann Goretti grad was easily one of the City 6’s most productive players this season.
G- Matt Howard
Statistics: 12.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, .494 FG%, .373 3P%, .862 FT%
In his senior season, Matt Howard stepped up big time, acting as a leader on and off the court. On a young team with three freshmen in the starting lineup, Howard was a stabilizing force. Due to a lack of size, Howard was often asked to play the ‘4’ despite being listed at 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds. On a night to night basis, Howard was overmatched, but his toughness helped him to prevail. The Columbia, South Carolina native averaged a career-high in multiple categories, including points (12.5), rebounds (6.8), assists (1.5), and steals (1.2). However, more importantly, he shot the ball extremely efficient, nailing 49.4% of his attempts from the field and 37.3% from 3, which were also both career highs.
F- Mikal Bridges
Statistics: 9.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2 APG, 1.7 SPG, .549 FG%, .393% 3P%, .911 FT%
While Mikal Bridges’ stat line may not be the most impressive, his play on the court speaks volumes. The sophomore was Villanova’s lockdown and most versatile defender. On a smaller team, Bridges was often asked to cover the opposing team’s ‘4’s’ and even ‘5’s’. Bridges was named the Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year, along with respectable averages of 9.8 points per game while shooting 55% from the field. He was a key piece for Villanova that was often overlooked because of their star studded backcourt.
F- Obi Enechionyia
Statistics: 13.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1 APG, 1.5 BLK, .406 FG%, .385% 3P%
Obi Enechionyia began the season as one of the nation’s hottest players. He scored 16 points on the 25th ranked Florida State Seminoles and another 22 on Bob Huggins’ 19th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. In his first 10 games, Enechionyia scored double digits in each, including five games with 20 or more points. But Enechionyia struggled as the season progressed. He averaged a mere 10.5 points per game in conference play, while shooting 37% from the field and 33% from 3. Despite his struggles later on, Enechionyia was easily one of the team's most impactful players throughout the year.
Statistics: 13.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 2.4 BPG, 1 SPG, .526 FG%
Statistics: 12.8 PPG, 5 RPG, 1.1 APG, .375 FG%, .384 3P%, .819 FT%
After Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr Kimble went down, Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli turned to Charlie Brown as one of the team’s primary scorers. Brown responded well, putting up double digit points in every game after failing to score against Fordham on January 7th. The freshman lived up to his name, hitting 38.4% of his three point attempts. Brown was easily one of the most consistent players on the Hawks this year and looks to be a major cornerstone for the program.
Statistics: 14.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 5 APG, 1.6 SPG, .415 FG%, .400 3P%
Statistics: 9.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, .433 FG%, .300% 3P%
Many didn’t know what to expect from Rose coming into the season. The rising freshman was listed at 6-foot-8 and 185 pounds and suggested to have unlimited potential, but still extremely raw. He was ultimately not expected to earn tons of minutes. But Rose instantly proved his worth in a 26-point outing against Florida State. He didn’t look back and became one of Temple’s most consistent scorers on a daily basis.
Statistics: 11.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, .475 FG%, .402% 3P%, .906 FT%
The talk coming into the season was all about Jackson Donahue. How would he progress as the team’s go-to off guard? Would he become that knockdown shooter? While Donahue had his moments, it was Betley who emerged as the team’s best scoring guard. Despite sitting out the first 10 games, most of them due to a hand injury, Betley made a statement from the get-go. He started in his first game back and finished the year with 15 starts. Betley was a big catalyst for a team that began Ivy League play by losing their first 6 games. It’s no surprise that when Betley started to get comfortable, Penn began winning. In the final 8 games, Betley did not score below 10 points and as a result, the team went 5-3. Additionally, throughout the team’s five-game win streak in February that ultimately got the team back on track, Betley averaged 17.2 points per game, including three 20-points outings. Betley was a pleasant surprise and easily one of Penn’s best players when in uniform.
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images