Who’s Climbing that AE PoY Ladder?
Stonks, stonks, stonks. First off, hand up I got caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle and missed putting out a week two stock report for America East Player of the Year. That won’t happen again. Probably.
In week three we had eight America East teams take to the court, with UMBC and Stony Brook sitting out of the weekend action (SBU is actually on pause right now due to Covid-19). As such, don’t expect to see any Retrievers or Seawolves on this list even though Brandon Horvath has been an absolute unit for UMBC. Maybe next week Brandon.
For now let’s examine who might be climbing the AE PoY ladder, along with those who unfortunately had a less than stellar week three of action. Again, as a reminder only those who are considered a team’s more prominent player can be considered for the stock down portion. No disrespect to someone like Sam Shafer who’s averaging a whooping 1.6 points a game, but his current impact on Albany is miniscule at best and should not be classified as having a “bad” week.
America East Player of the Year | Stock Up
Ryan Davis | Vermont Catamounts
Obviously we have to start with our very own Ryan Davis to kick things off. Had an AE PoY stock report gone out last week Ryan Davis would’ve been front and center on that list as well. Since missing the first two games of the year, Davis has been on an absolute tear for the Catamounts and has cemented himself as the centerpiece in their offense.
Through four games, Davis is averaging career-bests across the board. 22.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists a game a big-time numbers for the junior forward. In game one against Albany last weekend Davis recorded his first double-double of the year with 21 points and 11 boards. He followed that up with a 19 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists outing in game two, showing off his improved passing and playmaking ability.
Those 19 points were the first time Davis has been held under 20 points all season. Granted he’s only played in four games, but the Vermont big man has been an absolute force for the Catamounts and is expected to return to that 20+ point margin sooner than later. Again, it’s still early, but Davis and UMBC’s Brandon Horvath have to be considered among the frontrunners currently for America East Player of the Year.
Austin Williams | Hartford Hawks
You could easily make the case for a number of Hartford guys to make the cut here, as they are a very balanced team who currently have four players averaging over 10 points a game. However, Austin Williams gets the nod here, as the senior guard had a big weekend including hitting the game-winning three against Binghamton to keep the Hawks in the top half of the America East standings.
The senior guard has essentially been a role player off the bench for the Hawks in years past, but Williams has really come into his own as of late. He’s reached the double-figure scoring mark in four straight games and put up 16 and 12 in the Hawks wins over Binghamton last weekend.
We’ll see if Williams can keep up his hot shooting, though it’s likely he’s reached his peak. There’s nothing wrong with that and if he can continue to average 10.4 points a game for the Hawks for the rest of the season I don’t think anyone in Hartford would have any issues with that. Williams knows his role and he’s playing it to perfection right now. He might not find himself on this list too often, but for now his stock is trending up.
Brenton Mills | Binghamton Bearcats
When Sam Sessom announced his decision to transfer from Binghamton it was only a matter of time before we knew who the next leader of the Bearcats would be. The two most talked about names were Brenton Mills and George Tinsley. No disrespect to Tinsley, but it’s been Mills who has clearly taken over the reins from Sessoms and is the focal point of Binghamton’s offense now.
Through nine games Mills is averaging a career-high in nearly every category across the board including a +6 jump in points from last year (9.7 to 15.8) despite the fact that he’s only playing about two minutes more a game (31.4 to 33.1). Likewise, Mills has reached the double-figure scoring mark in eight of the Bearcats nine games thus far. Although the Bearcats fell in both games to the Hawks this past week, Mills still averaged 15.5 points in those games.
Mills unfortunately is facing a similar dilemma to Sessoms in that he can put up solid numbers, but at the end of the day if the team isn’t winning those stats mean nothing. Sitting at 1-8 Binghamton has looked frisky at times, but if the Bearcats don’t start winning more games Mills performances won’t matter in the long-run. For now we’ll give the young guard credit, though if Binghamton keeps losing don’t expect to see his name as a true AE PoY contender.
Dylan O’Hearn | NJIT Highlanders
Going into the season there were major questions about who was going to step up for the Highlanders and be their consistent number two option behind star Zach Cooks. Well, I think NJIT has found their answer in JUCO transfer Dylan O’Hearn. The junior guard/wing has been lighting it up as of late and has reached the double-figure scoring mark in every game this season, including a career high 26 point outing against Vermont two weeks ago.
O’Hearn has been a pleasant surprise for the Highlanders, as his 47.8% 3PT shooting has been a huge component of NJIT’s success thus far. His 10 and 15 point outings this past week against UMass-Lowell might not seem too impressive, but he did outscore his star counterpart Zach Cooks in those affairs, proving that he can carry the team for stretches at a time.
Typically transfer players are held at a disadvantage for the America East Player of the Year (see Malik Ellison), but if O’Hearn continues to shoot the ball with this type range he’ll be on the shortlist for an all-conference selection.
Honorable Mention – Ben Shungu (Vermont), Stephane Ingo (Maine), Salif Boudie (UMass-Lowell), Jayden Martinez (New Hampshire), Tyler Bertram (Binghamton)
America East Player of the Year | Stock Down
Zach Cooks | NJIT Highlanders
It’s hard to say that a guy who is averaging 16.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a game has been underwhelming, but by Zach Cooks standards those numbers are down from what we’ve typically expected from the senior guard. Cooks has reached the double-figure mark in every game this season, but only once has he hit the 20+ point margin – a 24 point outing in a blowout loss to Vermont.
Cooks isn’t having a bad year by any means and part of his initial struggles could be adjusting to the style of play in the America East. However, against Umass-Lowell last weekend, Cooks had a rather unremarkable performance with just 10 and 12 points in those contests. For a team built like NJIT where Cooks needs the ball in his hands those numbers aren’t going to win them many games.
Cooks and NJIT host Maine this weekend so there’s a good chance the senior guard can get back on track, or at the very least serve as a decoy to help NJIT beat the Black Bears. Cooks will likely find himself on the other side of this list soon enough, but for now his stock is trending in the wrong direction.
Stef Smith | Vermont Catamounts
Stef Smith unfortunately landed on the wrong side of the AE PoY stock report in week one, but had a list gone out for week two there would’ve been a good chance he would’ve seen his stock go up or at the very least earn an honorable mention. Smith has struggled to consistently find his shot or get into any sort of rhythm offensively for the Cats. Outside of his 27 point outing against NJIT in week two he’s looked rather pedestrian and definitely not a full-fledge number one option.
Against Albany last weekend Smith only produced 5 and 4 points in each contest, marking the first time all season he’s been held under 10 points. He shot a combined 2-15 in those games, including 1-7 from deep which has typically been Smith’s bread-and-butter. The senior guard is also committing a career high in fouls (2.7) and turnovers a game (2.5).
There’s still plenty of time for Smith to break out of this early season slump and regain his all-conference form. The continued emergence of Ryan Davis should also help provide Smith with more open looks as defenses will key in more and Davis. Some Catamount fans have already poured in their egregious hot-takes on Smith, but the reality of it is that Smith is an incredible player and despite the outside noise you best believe that the Vermont guard will be cooking again real soon.
Ron Mitchell | UMass-Lowell River Hawks
I’m not entirely comfortable putting Ron Mitchell here as he’s a borderline second or third option for an underwhelming River Hawks team, but his performance of late has been awful. Mitchell actually was on the other side of this list earlier with his huge week one performance against Vermont (24 and 15 points). However, since then Mitchell has done nothing to prove that he’s capable of carrying the River Hawks when opposing teams key in on Obadiah Noel.
Since the Vermont series, Mitchell’s scoring performances have taken a huge dip, as he has gone for 0, 5 and 1 in his last three. Mitchell missed game two against NJIT this past weekend so there is a chance that he’s dealing with an injury which has affected his play as of late.
If Mitchell is hurt or even continues to unimpress on a weekly basis don’t expect to see his name here as his relevance won’t even matter. Sorry, not sorry. Hopefully for Mitchell and UMass-Lowell’s sake he can regain his form soon. The River Hawks desperately need a reliable number two option and if it’s not Mitchell they better find one fast.
Cam Healy | Albany Great Danes
Putting Cam Healy on the stock down side also doesn’t feel completely fair. Granted, he hasn’t looked like the player we thought he’d be this year, but the Aussie guard has also been dealing with injuries and wasn’t even able to compete against Vermont last weekend.
If Healy isn’t playing then he really shouldn’t be considered as having a bad week. But, there weren’t a whole lot of ugly performances from top players across the league this past week and if I have to play devil’s advocate then Healy unfortunately draws the short end of the straw this week.
Here’s a lame cliche – the best ability is availability and right now Healy can’t provide that for the Danes. Albany did manage to steal a victory against Vermont on Saturday, but the team is still in the bottom third of the America East Standings and if the Danes are going to have any shot of returning the America East contender status they’ll need Healy back and playing at a high level. So, not a huge stock down, but just a tick. Hopefully Healy can return soon and we’ll stay dope flow of his back in action.
Dishonorable Mention – Nick Guadarrama (New Hampshire), Allin Blunt (UMass-Lowell)