IHO 2015-16 Ivy Awards

IHO’s writers voted on the best this Ivy season had to offer, voted on and tabulated prior to the announcement of Ivy League’s official awards Wednesday:

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Justin Sears, Yale (Sr., F – Plainfield, N.J.)

For the second straight season, Sears wins IHO’s Player of the Year honors, a game theory-free decision. It’s no coincidence that Yale’s conference-winning wheelhouse – defense and rebounding – is centered on Sears’ own strengths. The POY was a much better ball distributor this season, scoring with slightly more consistency as well as he reached the 20-point plateau seven times and recorded five double-doubles. This is a clear case of the best getting better.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Evan Boudreaux, Dartmouth (Fr., F – Lake Forest, Il.)

First of all this Ivy Rookie of the Year race has been insane from the start. Evan Boudreaux, Matt Morgan, Devin Cannady, Obi Okolie, Jackson Donahue, Tommy McCarthy and Corey Johnson have all been excitingly impactful freshmen, suggesting the league is in good hands in the future. But those first two put up stats all season that were eye-popping, arguably first-team All-Ivy caliber material:

The Ivy’s version of later-career Karl Malone (and I write that as a longtime Jazz fan), Boudreaux burst onto the Big Green scene as a double-double machine right away, scoring 25 points in his first collegiate game at Seton Hall and recording a double-double in his next game at Marist. Boudreaux failed to score in double figures only thrice all season and not at all during Ivy play, getting to the 20-point mark eight times with his work in the paint and a soft-touch jumper. Boudreaux also attempted at least 10 free throws in six games, getting to the foul line early and often with his lane-lumbering style. Dartmouth was Boudreaux’s team from the beginning.

Honorable Mention: Matt Morgan, Cornell (Fr., G – Concord, N.C.)

While Boudreaux was highly touted coming out of high school with a mother who is still the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in Dartmouth history, sparsely recruited Matt Morgan came out of nowhere to become the all-time freshman scoring leader in Ivy history.  Morgan also led the conference in scoring this season with the ability to stretch the court with NBA-range threes and draw fouls with his quickness. Just 24 hours after Morgan notched 17 points in the final 10 minutes to steal a win for the Big Red at Harvard in January, Morgan helped erase a 58-46 deficit for Cornell in the final 10:14 by scoring 21 points in that span – going 16-for-19 from the foul line during that stretch. In fact, Morgan went 17-for-23 from the free-throw line on the night, meaning he attempted one more foul shot than Dartmouth’s entire team, also making the same number of shots from the charity stripe as the Big Green by himself.

In the first four conference games of his career, Morgan averaged 30 points per game, and like Boudreaux, he failed to score in double figures just thrice all season, and not once in Ivy play. Morgan shot under 40 percent from the floor just four times in conference action, proving himself not a chucker but a crafty marksman who could handle the high usage and overcome the fact that defenses did not fear Cornell’s offensive frontcourt attack. There’s plenty more where this came from. It makes little sense that Morgan isn’t Rookie of the Year or first-team here, but that’s how individually competitive this league is right now.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown (Sr., F – Worcester, Ma.)

Lots of great candidates for this entry too: Cedric Kuakumensah, Maodo Lo, Nick Victor, eventual Ivy League pick Agunwa Okolie. But our writers broke for two-time Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Kuakumensah, who led the league in blocks with a whopping 30 more than second-place Sears. What makes Kuakumensah’s performance even more impressive than years past is his lack of defensive help in a woefully undersized frontcourt and a backcourt in front of him that struggled with spacing, making Kuakumensah work even harder to alter shots. Coach Mike Martin likely shudders at the thought of a defense sans Kuakumensah, who has been in Providence as long as Martin has. Brown’s defense was the worst in the conference all season long and might have given up north of 80 points a game if not for Kuakumensah, who also finished third in the league in defensive rebounding.

Honorable Mention: Maodo Lo, Columbia (Sr., G – Berlin)

Lo’s on-ball defense is an intense sight to behold, and he easily led the league in steals, registering a staggering seven at Yale and four in a crucial low-scoring triumph at Harvard. Columbia struggled with interior defense heavily in nonconference play and intermittently in league play, but Lo excelled in the backcourt nevertheless, fouling out just once all season (against Howard) despite a very aggressive defensive mindset.

Honorable Mention: Nick Victor, Yale (Sr., G – Dallas)
Yale finished in the top 20 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, and Victor is one of the chief reasons why. Victor was third in blocks and second in defensive rebounding in conference play, providing superior help defense and court awareness at both ends of the floor for the Elis. Yale’s comfortable sweeps of Columbia and Harvard were fueled in part by Victor’s stellar rebounding in those games.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Brandon Sherrod, Yale (Sr., F – Bridgeport, Ct.)

Before priming his pipes with the Whiffenpoofs, Sherrod scored 6.8 points per game in 2013-14 on 42.8 percent shooting in 21 minutes per game. In just 6.6 more minutes per contest this season, Sherrod has nearly doubled his scoring output and is shooting more than 13 percent better from the floor, which shouldn’t be surprising for anybody who remembers his setting the NCAA record for consecutive made field goals (30). He scored in double figures 19 times in 2015-16 after doing so just eight times in 2013-14.

Honorable Mention: Henry Caruso, Princeton (Jr., F – San Mateo, Ca.)

Caruso showed what he could do last season with a 23-point scoring outburst against Penn and a 25-point effort against Yale. But this season saw his scoring output rise 9.2 points per game and found him become Princeton’s most prolific scorer in a team full of offensive weapons.

COACH OF THE YEAR

James Jones, Yale

The Dean of Ivy coaches finally got over the hump after sharing two previous Ivy titles, winning this season’s crown outright en route to Yale’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 54 years. Jones’ team rarely played down to its level of competition, staying focused, taking advantage of its roster strengths (defense and rebounding) and going 13-1 in Ivy play in a year in which no team was expected to win more than 11 games. Since losing Jack Montague, Yale is 7-1 despite a thin backcourt, with Jones confidently demonstrating exactly how much he can get out of a shorter rotation (a lot). It’s been a long wait, but James Jones is going dancing.

Honorable Mention: Mitch Henderson, Princeton

Henderson firmly established himself as the best in-game coach in the Ivy League this season, opting to go with smaller lineups that changed several crucial games in the Tigers’ favor and stockpiling a roster full of shooters who are well-coached in the art of drawing fouls on offense without committing them on defense. In any other year, Princeton would have won the Ivy League with a 12-2 record, but Henderson is a coaching force to be reckoned with.

FIRST TEAM ALL-IVY

Justin Sears, Yale (Sr., F – Plainfield, N.J.)

All right, more about Sears. Sears was KenPom’s Game MVP in 12 of Yale’s 28 games this season, including crucial home wins over Princeton, Columbia and Dartmouth. He’s helped win games for Yale as a ball distributor, such as when he registered six assists in a win over the Tigers, as a foul shooter, when he went 11-for-14 in free throws in a win over  the Lions, and as a dynamic defender, when he posted five blocks and two steals in Yale’s pivotal overtime victory against the Big Green or had three blocks and steals against Princeton. He’s had a substantially positive impact on games in which he’s scored fewer than 20 percent of Yale’s points and has exploded offensively in wins over Penn, Hartford and Sacred Heart. There’s really very little that Sears can’t do, and as the leader of the best team in the conference, he was an easy choice for Player of the Year.

Maodo Lo, Columbia (Sr., G – Berlin)

Lo quietly dominated conference play, attacking more and more as the season went on, as he notched at least eight field goals in seven of his final nine regular season games. Lo led the league in steals and three-point field goals made, and finished second in minutes, fourth in scoring and 10th in assists. Lo could be counted on to erupt offensively at any time. Throw in said on-ball defense and you’ve got one of the greatest players ever to suit up for the Lions and one of the most dynamic guards the league has seen in quite some time. If you have further questions or would like to learn more, hit up @pfandrews.

Henry Caruso, Princeton (Jr., F – San Mateo, Ca.)

With a couple of notable exceptions (at Columbia, against Cornell, twice against Penn), Caruso has been the constant on an offense full of point distribution change, ranking fifth in the league in field goal percentage, seventh in scoring and third in three-point field goal percentage. But Caruso’s been more than just scoring. He’s been steals (fourth in the conference), rebounds and NOT turnovers, committing fewer than three in all but one Ivy game and five contests all season.

Evan Boudreaux, Dartmouth (Fr., F – Lake Forest, Il.)

Like his fellow freshman phenom Matt Morgan, Boudreaux was more than just a scorer. He finished third in the league in rebounding, ranking first in defensive rebounding percentage in league play according to KenPom, and picked up a steal in eight of 13 Ivy games. We’re going to be seeing Boudreaux man the paint at both ends of the floor for a long time.

Brandon Sherrod, Yale (Sr., F – Bridgeport, Ct.)

Sherrod’s impressive defensive acumen helped Yale wear inferior teams down all season, and at the other end of the floor, Sherrod kept possession after possession alive with his offensive rebounding, bested in the conference only by teammate Justin Sears. Sherrod failed to score in double figures only once in league play (a comfortable win at Harvard). Sherrod is clearly the key to any NCAA Tournament win, shooting just 11-for-32 combined in losses at SMU, then-No. 6 Duke, Illinois and USC. But few players in college basketball have as much momentum as Brandon Sherrod right now.

SECOND TEAM ALL-IVY

Makai Mason, Yale (So., G – Greenfield, Ma.)

Mason came up big in every big game the best team in the Ivy League had this season, averaging 19.8 points per contest in games against Princeton and Columbia, putting up 24 points on 7-for-14 shooting at SMU and shaking off a bum ankle to hit an elbow jumper to force overtime and save Yale’s Ivy title campaign against Dartmouth. Mason ranked in the conference’s top six in scoring, assists and free throw percentage. He also ranked third in minutes, leading a not-so-deep backcourt as one of the most gritty players in the league. A scoring threat from anywhere on the court with superior floor vision, Mason took at least 13 shots in eight of Yale’s 14 Ivy games, establishing himself as the team’s primary offensive weapon attacking most frequently and successfully in wins over Princeton, Dartmouth and Columbia. Mason finished just behind teammate Brandon Sherrod in IHO’s tabulation process for first-team honors, and he’s got two more years left and at least one NCAA Tournament game ahead of him, having already proven himself one of the league’s most exciting playmakers.

Matt Morgan, Cornell (Fr., G – Concord, N.C.)

Morgan wasn’t just a great scorer. He finished third in the conference in steals, notched at least three assists in seven Ivy games and at least three rebounds in eight. He committed two or fewer turnovers in eight conference matchups, including just seven in four games against Yale and Harvard, the two best defenses in the league, an incredible achievement for a player with his sky-high usage. This phenom is as well-rounded as they come.

Zena Edosomwan, Harvard (Jr., C – Los Angeles)

Edosomwan was a consensus first-team All-Ivy pick before league play started, dominating in the paint in losses to UMass, Northeastern and then-No. 3 Oklahoma, notching 25 points and 16 rebounds against the latter and posting 23 points and 17 rebounds in a win over BYU, the most impressive nonconference win by any Ivy this season. After missing Harvard’s first go-round against Princeton and Penn in early February with an ankle injury, struggled with foul trouble and an apparent lack of trust in him from coach Tommy Amaker down the stretch, as he sat for long periods of time in second halves for both reasons. Edosomwan eclipsed 30 minutes after returning from injury just twice – for impressive double-doubles in equally impressive team wins over Princeton and Penn. Edosomwan led the Ivy League in rebounding and ranked seventh in field goal percentage and blocks, figuring to be a centerpiece for what is likely to be a return to Ivy title contention for the Crimson next season.

By the way, Edosomwan’s #HarvardBlackIs project is more important than anything else in this article.

Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown (Sr., F – Worcester, Ma.)

Kuakumensah has always been an underrated scorer, but it was harder for the big man to fly under the radar in that regard this season. He finished eighth in the league in scoring and was a versatile presence at that end of the floor, also ranking seventh in three-point field goal percentage and fourth in offensive rebounds. The same night he was recognized for setting the all-time league record for blocked shots, Kuakumensah showed what else he can do in a win over Penn, rattling off a game-high 26 points and eight rebounds, including a career-high 5-for-6 clip from beyond the arc. One of the greatest leaders in school history, Kuakumensah will be missed league-wide.

Alex Rosenberg, Columbia (Sr., F – Short Hills, N.J.)

Rosenberg is no doubt one of the league’s toughest players. The Millburn alum fought back from a Jones fracture that forced him to take a voluntary leave from school last season to preserve eligibility for his senior campaign, and another foot injury cost him five more games this season leading up to the start of Ivy play. Even though Rosenberg’s scoring was slightly down from 2013-14, he basically picked up where he left off, providing crucial offensive efficiency while posting double figures in wins over Cornell, Harvard, Dartmouth and Penn. Peak Rosie came at the Palestra, with Rosenberg rattling off 26 points on 10-for-14 shooting in a 93-65 win over Penn, but his lasting image as a Lion may be his one-legged fadeaway to bury the Crimson at Lavietes Pavilion at the buzzer on Jan. 30. Despite suspect defense, Rosenberg has easily been one of the most entertaining Ivy players during his career, and the Lions will look very different next season without Rosenberg slashing through the lane.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Devin Cannady, Princeton (Fr., G – Mishawaka, In.)

Ask Columbia fans why he’s here. They’ll tell you. Cannady ranked second on the 12 Ivy win-Tigers in scoring in just 21.7 minutes per game, leading the conference in free throw percentage and three-point percentage in addition to ranking seventh in field goal percentage. But it’s not just the numbers that matter for Cannady – it’s when he posted them. Cannady established himself as perhaps the Ivy’s most clutch player of the 2015-16 season in his freshman campaign. He registered three steals in overtime at Penn to preserve a Tiger victory and turned in his two highest scoring outputs in back-to-back top-tier wins at Columbia and hosting Yale. At Columbia, Cannady notched eight points in  the final 25 seconds of regulation to improbably force overtime and all but eliminate the Lions’ realistic prospect of an Ivy title. Cannady posted an offensive rating above 100 in all but five games this season, getting in off the bench and doing his thing offensively with great efficiency. In any other year, Cannady would be a sure bet for Rookie of the Year.

Grant Mullins, Columbia (Sr., G – Burlington, On.)

After missing the final games of his sophomore season and all of his junior season due to concussion and neck injuries, Mullins returned to form in 2015-16, ranking second in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and free throw percentage, sixth in minutes, seventh in assists and ninth in three-pointers made. Mullins came up especially big with a season-high 25 points in a close 77-73 win at Brown and was Columbia’s best player in heartbreaking losses at Northwestern and against Longwood and Princeton. Remarkably consistent, Mullins finished in double figures in 15 of 17 games before Columbia’s final weekend of play and proved continuously that he was capable of making a difference in any area of the stat sheet.

Darien Nelson-Henry, Penn (Sr., C – Kirkland, Wa.)

In his final campaign at Penn, Nelson-Henry fit like a glove into new coach Steve Donahue’s motion offense, embracing a more versatile role that found him notching as many assists as the previous two seasons. Nelson-Henry finished second in the conference in field goal percentage and fourth in rebounding, posting double-doubles in four of his first seven games after bouncing back from a sprained ankle early in league play. His league-best beard and quiet humility will be missed.

Spencer Weisz, Princeton (Jr., F – Florham Park, N.J.)

Although his scoring production started off comparatively low in nonconference play, Weisz has been the foundation for Princeton’s offense all season, ranking first in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio, second in assists and garnering the KenPom Game MVP award for Princeton’s season highlight win over Yale following his 15-point, seven-rebound, three-assist, three-steal performance. Just remember, Princeton’s impressively wide point distribution runs through Weisz first and foremost.

Steven Cook, Princeton (Jr., F – Winnetka, Il.)

One of the league’s most potent shooters, Cook carried the Tigers to victory with his three-ball many times in Ivy play, canning at least four treys in four league contests, all Princeton wins. Cook ranked in the Tigers’ top three in minutes and scoring, stepping up in the offensive rotation for the rest of the season following Princeton’s loss at Yale in January.

Matt Howard, Penn (Jr., G – Columbia, S.C.)

One of the most athletic players in the Ivy League, Howard emerged as a primary option in nonconference play for one of the youngest teams in Division I, finishing second in scoring and rebounding for the Quakers behind Darien Nelson-Henry. A move from the four spot to the three freed Howard up to attack more as a threat from anywhere as one of very few high-usage players on the team who doesn’t easily fit into a neat post-up or spot-up role.

1 thought on “IHO 2015-16 Ivy Awards

  1. Congratulations on your excellent picks! I am glad you put Alex Rosenberg on an all Ivy team as he was the the heart and soul of the Lions.An exchange made while Rosenberg was singlehandedly destroying Penn at the Palestra indicates what he brought to games. In that game one Penn announcer asked the other who he thought on Penn would be the best matchup for guarding Rosenberg. The other announcer though for a moment and then said “Uh, nobody,”

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