OK league coaches, listen up.
Here's who you should consider voting for on your ballots to select post-season all-stars and individual award winners.
I see every team place twice annually, some even more than that. I watch at least a dozen more games via the magic of the internet. Still, every coach is going to have a personal opinion. In all actuality, these choices are merely one person's.
Hopefully a well-informed, well-intentioned individual. Still ... one person, one opinion. Let the dissenting begin.
Actually, this year's choices are relatively easy. I can't remember a time when the selections were so relatively cut and dried, at least in most instances.
There is still a weekend full of games remaining on the regular-season schedule, but coaches traditionally submit ballots before those final games.
With that in mind, the following is meant to offer a little free advice to league coaches/voters when they eventually get to filling out those ballots.. And, we're only picking a first-team of stars and the top individual award winners.
We'll start with the ladies first, as it should be.
- Damika Martinez, Iona's 5-6 junior guard: She was the first player in MAAC history to lead the league in scoring as a freshman, added a second scoring title last year and will add a third this season, currently averaging 24.9 points per contest, sixth-best nationally. And, she's not just an conscienceless shooter. She makes 46.1 percent of her shots attempted, 43.9 percent on three-pointers (14th-best nationally) and 88.2 percent from the foul line (15th nationally).
- Joy Adams, Iona's 5-11 sophomore forward: In most other years, her 17.0-point, 14.0-rebound averages would have her in the mix for Player of the Year honors. Probably not this year, though, although her rebounding average is third-best nationally.
- MyNeshia McKenzia, Rider's 6-foot senior forward: She averages 19.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game and is still in contention to be the first women's player in conference history to average 20 points (11 total points short right now) and 10 rebounds per game over a full season.
- Gillian Abshire, Quinnipiac's 5-10 junior guard: Nothing flashy about her game, and she isn't a big scorer. But, she is the prototypical run-the-team, make-great-passes point guard and the best in the league at doing it. Her 6.9 assists-per-game average is fifth-best nationally and her 3.84 assist-to-turnover ratio is tied for the best in the country.
- Katie Cizynski, Fairfield's 6-2 senior forward: She has improved every season, the mark of hard off-season work. After averaging 11.9 points a year ago, she has pushed her scoring average to 16.4 this season while averaging 8.3 rebounds per contest. She often draws double-team attention, which opens up perimeter opportunities for standout sniper teammates.
TOUGHEST OMISSION: A one-time only caveat for Marist's Emma O'Connor, the undersized 6-0 post player who averages 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds, makes 55.8 percent of her shots and has contributed 37 three-pointers while playing rugged inside defense. If I could include a sixth player on the first team, it would be her ... and, maybe the coaches' poll will reflect that. It wouldn't be the first time more than five players made the league's first team.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Martinez, Iona: She'll be the first female player to lead the MAAC in scoring in her first three seasons, but her accomplishments will even more historical. She is on pace to shatter the league's all-time career scoring mark of 2,447, currently held by former Loyola standout Patty Stoffey. Martinez should eclipse that by more than 200 points. She already has matched the all-time MAAC single-game mark of 46, scored recently in a game against Rider.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Victoria Rampado, Niagara's 6-2 freshman forward: She has literally provided a big presence for the Purple Eagles, who struggled with inside play early in the season. Her 9.1-point, 5.5-rebound per game averages are best among all freshman players, as is her 25 blocks. Plus she has come on strong of late, averaging 16.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in her team's last five games. It's a difficult choice over Siena's 6-2 center Meghan Donahue (8.6, 5.2, 12 blocks), but Rampado's team is 7-11 in league play while Siena's is 2-16.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Leanne Ockenden, Marist's 5-10 senior guard: A repeat winner here. Not flashy, and she won't get an overabundance of steals (although her 1.8 average in swipes is third-best in the league), but universally acknowledged as the league's best on-ball defender, and she gets the assignment of every opponent's top perimeter player. She has taken on more of a scoring role this season, but at no noticeable loss of her defensive lock-down ability.
SIXTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Aaliyah Robinson, Iona's 5-6 junior guard: She averages 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and has made 41.1 percent of her three-point shots while starting just two games all season. She came up huge in her team's mid-season upset victory over Marist, making four consecutive three pointers at one point in the second half. She has led the Gaels in scoring in three games, despite the presence of the league's leading scorer on the court.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Billi Godsey, Iona: Easy to say that she had an entire starting five returning from a 20-victory team a year ago, but it's one she never saw before until she was hired by the school this past spring. There are always significant adjustments to be made in a coaching transition, and Godsey has ensured that went smoothly. At one point her team had an 18-game winning streak, the fourth-longest nationally at the time. That ended in a classic overtime loss to Rider and, since then, Iona has five more in a row to be 17-1 overall. Unless the Gaels lose their final two games, they'll be the top seed for the upcoming league's post-season tournament, the first team other than Marist to accomplish that in a decade.