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Somerset, NJ --
With the start of the 2012-13 men’s basketball season just around the corner, Northeast Conference (NEC) head coaches have tabbed the “the best of the best” in the conference, selecting five players to the Preseason All-NEC team. Each of the five honorees are returning All-NEC performers, including LIU Brooklyn senior forward Julian Boyd (San Antonio, TX/William H. Taft)
, the reigning NEC Player of the Year.
The announcement of the team, along with the Preseason Coaches Poll, was made on Tuesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the site of NEC Media Day.
Boyd is joined by teammate Jamal Olasewere (Silver Spring, MD/Springbrook)
, also a senior forward for the two-time defending champion Blackbirds. Quinnipiac junior forward Ike Azotam (Boston, MA/O’Bryant (Marianapolis Prep))
, Sacred Heart senior guard Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT/Killingly)
and Robert Morris senior guard Velton Jones (Philadelphia, PA/Northeast Catholic)
round out the squad.
Boyd has gathered nearly conceivable accolade in his three years at LIU Brooklyn. The San Antonio, TX native was the NEC Rookie of the Year in 2008-09, has twice been tabbed to the All-NEC first team, and earned both NEC Player of the Year and NEC Tournament MVP honors in 2011-12. Setting his sights on an LIU “three-peat,” Boyd will attempt to expand his game even further. A year ago, he incorporated a reliable three-point shot (21 3PFG, 42.0 3PFG%) into his arsenal, while continuing his domination in the paint. Boyd paced the NEC with 14 double-doubles, and ranked fourth in scoring (17.4 ppg), third in rebounding (9.3 rpg) and sixth in field goal percentage (.557). An above-the-rim finisher in transition, the 6’7” forward helped the up-tempo LIU attack average 81.4 ppg, the second-highest mark in the nation. Boyd enters his final year as the NEC’s leading active rebounder (794) and second-leading scorer (1,319). If he were to match his 2011-12 total, the 2012 AP Honorable Mention All-American would surpass Justin Rutty (1,032) as the NEC’s all-time leading rebounder.
Olasewere’s speed, agility, ability to beat defenders off the dribble and unorthodox style has made him a matchup nightmare since arriving in Brooklyn back in 2009. The southpaw from Silver Spring, MD claimed first team All-NEC honors last season after he posted top-ten marks in the conference in scoring (fourth, 16.9), rebounding (fifth, 7.5) and field goal percentage (fourth, .571). Olasewere’s ability to draw contact is second to none, and his 225 attempts from the line were the second most in the league. He carried the Blackbirds on his back en-route to the 2011 NEC crown, earning the NEC Tournament MVP award in the process, then collected All-Tourney plaudits in last year’s title defense. A 6’7” small forward, Olasewere has racked up 1,266 points and 689 rebounds over the course of his career.
Following a promising freshman campaign, Azotam came into his own last season and established himself as one of the league’s premier power forwards for the Bobcats. A high octane talent whose combination of quickness and strength has fast-tracked his development into a dominant post presence, Azotam led the NEC with 9.5 rebounds per game and 14 double-doubles as a sophomore. He also ranked tenth in scoring with 15.8 ppg and seventh in field goal accuracy, sinking 55.6 percent of his attempts. Due in part to Azotam’s tenacious work on the boards, the Bobcats finished second nationally in rebound margin at +10.2 per game. A Boston native, he earned second team All-NEC honors a year ago and enters his junior season with career totals of 664 points and 470 rebounds.
There have been few guards in the history of the NEC that can match Gibson’s pure scoring ability. As if possessing a deadly accurate shot and unlimited range wasn’t enough, his ability to create space and elevate makes him nearly impossible to guard one-on-one. A penchant for delivering the dagger in clutch spots only adds to Gibson’s aura as he enters his senior year. In 2011-12, Gibson was the nation’s fourth leading scorer and his 22.0 ppg was the highest registered by an NEC player in seven years. Incredibly efficient, the Killingly, CT native made 51.0 percent of his shots from the floor, a remarkable figure when considering over 200 of his shots came from three-point range. Gibson’s 87 trifectas led the conference and his 43.3 percent success rate from long distance was the second-best mark on the circuit. Not to be outdone, he also ranked third in the NEC in free throw percentage (.862) and fourth in steals (1.5). A two-time All-NEC honoree, Gibson leads all returnees with 1,453 career points and could become the fifth player in league annals to reach the 2,000-point mark. His 199 three-pointers is also tops among returning NEC players.
Jones is the heart and soul of a Robert Morris program that has won 67 games and reached the NEC title game in each of his three years in Moon Township. The All-NEC first teamer and two-time NEC All-Tournament selection has spent his entire RMU tenure delivering in the clutch, and with a veteran team surrounding him, Jones will look to bookend his career with a second NEC championship. A rugged, Philadelphia bred point guard with an incredible will to win, Jones led the Colonials and ranked ninth in the NEC with 16.0 ppg last season. At an even six-feet tall, he went to the line a league-best 270 times - the sixth-highest single-season total in league history - while at the same time hitting 60 shots from three-point range. Jones also finished fourth in the NEC in assists (4.5) and third in steals (1.8). His 393 career assists is second among active NEC players, while his 1,259 points ranks him fourth.
2012-13 Northeast Conference Preseason All-Conference Team
Name Tm. Pos. Ht. Wt. Cl. Hometown/High School
Ike Azotam QU F 6-7 231 Jr Boston, MA/O’Bryant (Marianapolis Prep)
Julian Boyd LIU F 6-7 230 Sr San Antonio, TX/William H. Taft
Shane Gibson SHU G 6-2 180 Sr Killingly, CT/Killingly
Velton Jones RMU G 6-0 170 Sr Philadelphia, PA/Northeast Catholic
Jamal Olasewere LIU F 6-7 215 Sr Silver Spring, MD/Springbrook
About The Northeast Conference
Now in its 32nd year, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 12 institutions of higher learning located throughout six states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to four of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Pittsburgh (#23), Baltimore (#27), and Hartford/New Haven (#30). Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 23 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic or play-in access to 14 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Bryant, Central Connecticut State, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU Brooklyn, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis (NY), Saint Francis (PA) and Wagner. For more information on the NEC, visit the league’s official website (www.northeastconference.org) and digital network (www.necfrontrow.com), or follow the league on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube @NECsports.