It’s not bragging to say our diocesan basketball scene is among one of the best in the country.
From our Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) program up through the CHSAA ranks and on to our three local Catholic colleges, basketball is engrained in our student-athletes.
Though this particular college hoops season was like no other, a number of local players rose to the occasion and were awarded with conference honors.
The St. John’s University, Jamaica, men’s basketball team earned a number of Big East regular season honors. Red Storm guard/forward and Bishop Loughlin H.S., Fort Greene, graduate Julian Champagnie earned All-Big East First Team honors to go along with a co-share of Most Improved Player.
The sophomore led the Big East in scoring this season at 19.9 points per game. In doing so, he became just the fourth player in program history to lead the league in scoring during conference play, joining the great Chris Mullin (1983-1984), Walter Berry (1985-1986) and Marcus Hatten (2001-2002).
In addition to Champagnie’s honors, St. John’s head coach Mike Anderson was named Coach of the Year, and freshman guard Posh Alexander notched both Freshman of the Year and a co-share of Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to being named to the All-Big East Freshman Team.
Alexander, who led the Big East in steals at 2.6 per game, became the first freshman in more than two decades to take home Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors. He is the fourth freshman in league history to win the conference’s top defensive accolade — joining Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers Allen Iverson (1995), Alonzo Mourning (1989) and Patrick Ewing (1982). Now that is some impressive company!
On the Johnnies’ women’s team, sophomore guard Leilana Correa earned a spot on the All-Big East First Team. She led the Red Storm in scoring at 18.0 points per game and set a new career-high mark with a 35-point game.
Correa cracked the 30-point plateau five times this season, which was the top mark in the Big East. She is the only player in program history to record 30 or more points a combined eight times over her young career.
In the Northeast Conference (NEC), St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, graduate guard/forward Travis Atson and senior guard Chauncey Hawkins earned All-NEC honors.
Atson, who played at Christ the King H.S., Middle Village, was named to the All-NEC Third Team after averaging 14.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Hawkins was selected to the All-NEC Second Team after scoring 16.0 points and dishing out 4.4 assists per game.
The Terriers’ women’s team received the following honors: Freshman forward Fruzsina Horvath was named NEC Rookie of the Year and was selected to the All-Rookie Team; senior forward Ally Lassen was chosen for the All-NEC Second Team; and sophomore guard Nevena Dimitrijevic was selected to the All-NEC Third Team.
Around the country, a few more local players received special awards. Jose Alvarado, a Brooklyn native who played CYO at St. Ann’s, Flushing, was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a member of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. The former Christ the King Royal averaged 2.1 steals per game this season to go along with 13.5 points.
In the Colonial Athletic Association, Northeastern University, Boston, guard Tyson Walker earned Defensive Player of the Year honors. Another former Royal, Walker — a Westbury, L.I., native — recorded 2.4 steals per game, which was the 13th highest mark in the entire NCAA.
Accolades continued to pile up for Christ the King as Moussa Cissé, the freshman center for the University of Memphis, Tennessee, took home American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, in addition to being named to the conference’s All-Freshman team.
The 18-year-old native of Guinea averaged 7.0 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this season. His 1.9 blocks per game was tops in the conference.
A handful of these players are set to play in the NCAA Tournament, the “Big Dance” of college basketball. That just goes to show how our competitive stage here in New York City prepares student-athletes to succeed at the next level.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.