COMMENTARY: Don

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Unfortunately for Tony Gaffney, he can’t swat away the biggest brick put up in the Atlantic 10 this season.

I’m referring to the air-ball that the league’s coaches threw up Monday when their selections for the league’s awards were announced. Heck, the 14 coaches couldn’t even honor themselves correctly.

The senior UMass forward didn’t go home empty handed ‘- winning the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, as well as earning a spot on the All-Conference Second Team. But as I’ll get to later, Gaffney was slighted in more ways than one in the voting.

However, the coaches didn’t get everything wrong. They got the most important award right on the money’hellip;

Player of the Year

Coaches pick: Ahmad Nivins (St. Joe’s)

My pick: Nivins

Even before the season started, everyone knew this would come down to Nivins and Temple‘s Dionte Christmas. Neither disappointed, both tied for the conference-lead in scoring at 19.2 points per game.

But this is Nivins’ award. He led the league in rebounding (11.7 per game), field goal percentage (.625) and finished fourth in blocked shots (55). Christmas had a terrific year, but Nivins is a force in the low-post and is a player that impacts the game in more ways than Christmas.‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

Most Improved Player

Coaches pick: Aaron Jackson (Duquesne)

My pick: Gaffney

This one bewilders me. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jackson‘s game. He’s my favorite player in the conference, but this simply doesn’t make sense.

I won’t deny that Jackson has made a big leap this season. But Gaffney went from nobody knowing who the heck he was last year, to John Calipari calling him the best player on the floor when UMass played Memphis this season (You may have heard of the Tigers, they are 28-3 and ranked No. 3 in the country).

Jackson was pretty good last season: averaging nine points, four rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He also shot 54.9 percent. Now he’s a league star (18.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.8 apg) and actually had a better case than Christmas for player of the year.

But this is the most-improved award. Take a look at Gaffney over the last two years ‘hellip;

This season: 11.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.7 ast, 2.0 stl, 3.9 blk, 54.4 percent

Last season: 3.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.6 ast, 1.1 stl, 1.7 blk, 46.2 percent

And it’s not like he didn’t play last year. He averaged 20 minutes per game. Nobody saw Gaffney as a double-double guy every game and the future A-10 Defensive Player of the Year. Players rarely ever just ‘find it’ after three years of not being all that good. Gaffney did.

Freshman of the Year‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

Coaches pick: Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure)

My pick: Nicholson

The Bonnies went 8-22 last season and the few good players they had graduated ‘- so they were picked to finish dead last. They did better than that (15-14, 6-10 A-10), and the main reason was Nicholson.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 12.5 points, six rebounds, 2.7 blocks and shot 60.7 percent from the field. He was their best player and had the best season of any freshman in the conference.

Honorable mention to Saint Louis’ Kwamain Mitchell (10.9 points, 3.7 assists) and Fordham’s Jio Fontan (15.3 points, 4.7 assis
ts). Fontan was terrible from the field and on the worst team the A-10 has seen in a long time, so Nicholson beats him.

Defensive Player of the Year‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

Coaches pick: Gaffney

My pick: Gaffney

Gaffney was first in blocks, second in steals and second in rebounding. Enough said.

Coach of the Year‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

Coaches pick: Jim Baron (URI)

My pick: Ron Everhart (Duquesne)

Rhode Island has been pretty good for some time now under Baron. This year, they are a bit better and he deserves some credit for that. They won a 3-team tiebreak for the No. 2 seed in the A-10 Tournament.

But he won the award because the coaches were dumb enough to pick them ninth before the season started. Meanwhile, Duquesne hadn’t done much in Everhart’s first two years there (13-19 in the conference) and somehow got much better despite losing its five leading scorers from last season. Props to you, Ron.

A-10 First Team

Coaches pick: Nivins, Christmas, Jackson, B.J. Raymond (Xavier) and Jimmy Baron (URI)

My pick: Nivins, Christmas, Jackson, Gaffney and Rodney Green (La Salle)

One thing that bothers me is that these teams are never really teams. One big man? Come on. Gaffney HAS to be on the first team. That should be a no-brainer.

We don’t need all these guards so I’m kicking off Raymond, who is a very good player, but is not one of the five best in the conference. He’s there only because Xavier is the best team in the league. That’s not what this is about.

Baron shot so well from long-range, but I view Green as a much better all-around player. He averaged more points, rebounds, assists, steals and even shot better overall. That makes it obvious to me here.

A-10 Second Team

Coaches pick: Gaffney, Green, Kevin Anderson (Richmond), Derrick Brown (Xavier) and Chris Wright (Dayton)

My pick: Wright, Baron, Anderson, Brown and Raymond

Eli Rosenswaike is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]