March 9, 2009
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Saint Joseph's senior forward Ahmad Nivins has been named the 2008-09 Atlantic 10 men's basketball Player of the Year in voting conducted among the Conference's 14 head coaches.
The A-10 coaches also selected Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure as the Rookie of the Year, Duquesne's Aaron Jackson as the Chris Daniels Award recipient as the league's most improved player, Delroy James of Rhode Island as Sixth Man of the Year, Massachusetts' Tony Gaffney as Defensive Player of the Year and Rhode Island's Jim Baron as Coach of the Year. In addition, Kevin Lisch of Saint Louis was tabbed Student-Athlete of the Year in voting among the league's sports information directors.
Nivins enters this week's Atlantic 10 Championship (Mar. 11-14) in Atlantic City tied with Temple's Dionte Christmas for the scoring lead with an average of 19.2 ppg. A third-team selection a year ago, the 6-9 forward from Jersey City, N.J., leads the Conference in rebounding (11.7 rpg.), minutes (39.43 mpg.) and double-doubles (20), while his league-best .625 shooting percentage (193-of-309) puts him on pace to join former George Washington standout Alexander Koul (1995-97) as the only players in A-10 history to lead the league in field goal percentage three consecutive years. A member of the All-Defensive Team, Nivins is the fourth player in SJU annals to earn the league's Player of the Year honor and first since sharpshooter Pat Carroll in 2004-05.
A five-time Player of the Week selection this season, Nivins is joined on the All-
Conference first-team by Christmas, Jimmy Baron of Rhode Island, Aaron Jackson of Duquesne and Xavier's B.J. Raymond. Christmas is vying to become the league's first-ever three-time scoring champion, while James is the first Duquesne player to garner first-team distinction since Mike James in 1997-98.
The All-Conference second-team consists of Gaffney, Richmond's Kevin Anderson, Derrick Brown of Xavier, Rodney Green of La Salle and Dayton's Chris Wright. The third-team includes Lisch, Lavoy Allen of Temple, Massachusetts' Ricky Harris, Lamont Mack of Charlotte and Rhode Island's Kahiem Seawright.
Xavier's C.J. Anderson, David Gonzalvez of Richmond, Dayton's Marcus Johnson, Chris Lowe of UMass, and Damian Saunders of Duquesne earned honorable mention acclaim.
A program-record six-time A-10 Rookie of the Week selection, Nicholson enters this week's A-10 Championship as the top freshman nationally in both blocked shots (79) and field goal percentage (.607 - 150-of-246). The Mississauga, Ontario, native is tied for second on the team in scoring (12.8 ppg.) and third in rebounding (6.0 rpg.) and scored in double figures in 20 of the Bonnies' 29 contests. The 6-9 forward is the first SBU freshman to garner Rookie of the Year honors since Alvin Lott in 1983-84.
Nicholson is joined on the All-Rookie team by Melquan Bolding of Duquesne, Fordham's Jio Fontan, Dayton's Chris Johnson and Kwamain Mitchell of Saint Louis.
With 113 blocks and 59 steals entering Massachusetts' opening round contest versus Duquesne on Mar. 11, Gaffney is the first player nationally since Shelden Williams (Duke, 2005-06) to register 100 blocks and 50 steals in a season. The senior forward leads the A-10 in blocks (3.90 bpg.), ranks second in rebounding (10.2 rpg.) and steals (2.03 spg.) and pulled down at least 10 rebounds in 18 of the Minutemen's 29 games.
The All-Defensive team is comprised of Gaffney, Allen, Nivins, Dayton's London Warren and Garrett Williamson of Saint Joseph's.
Jackson was tabbed the Atlantic 10's Chris Daniels Award, presented to the Conference's most improved player. A year ago, the Hartford, Conn., resident averaged nine points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. This season, the senior guard has blossomed into one of the most complete players in the Conference, ranking in the top five of the league in scoring (third - 18.3 ppg.), assists (third - 5.79 apg.), field goal percentage (fourth - .543) and steals (fifth - 1.72 spg.).
The versatile James has provided a spark off the bench for the Rams as a junior, averaging 10.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in just 24.2 minutes per game. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native ranks third on the team in assists (65) and has a pair of 20-point performances to his credit.
A two-time Academic All-Conference selection, Lisch is averaging a team-leading 14.2 points and also leads the Billikens in three-pointers (69) and steals (37) en route to earning All-Conference honors for the second consecutive year. In the classroom, the Belleville, Ill., resident boasts a 3.48 grade point average while majoring in Business Administration. He was named to the 2008-09 CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine All-America third-team.
Joining Lisch on the Atlantic 10 Academic All-Conference Team is Baron, Massachusetts' Luke Bonner, Jason Duty of Duquesne and La Salle's Yves Mekongo Mbala.
Selected by the league's head coaches and media to finish ninth in the A-10 preseason poll, Baron led Rhode Island to an 11-5 league mark and 22-9 overall record. URI enters the Championship as the second seed and boasts the league's highest scoring offense, averaging 80.1 ppg. The only coach in league history to earn A-10 Coach of the Year honors at two different schools, Baron was tabbed as the Conference's Coach of the Year in 1995 while at St. Bonaventure and at Rhode Island in both 2003 and 2007. In eight seasons at URI, Baron is 130-116 (.528) and 336-318 overall (.514).