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It's the first day of a brand new decade, so what better time to ponder the best of the 10 years we just saw in the CAA?
These are the observations of just one man who saw a lot of basketball in the 2010s and not to be taken as gospel — but you should take my observations as gospel anyway.
Agree or disagree? Shout at me on Twitter (@jerrybeach73), which was barely a thing on Jan. 1, 2010. Ahh, simpler times.
Players Of The Decade
1.) Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra: This is a near dead-heat with Jerrelle Benimon. But scoring 2,283 points in his final three seasons, winning two Player of the Year awards and getting drafted by the Utah Jazz puts Wright-Foreman over the top.
2.) Jerrelle Benimon, Towson: If only ever power-6 transfer worked out as well as Benimon, who won back-to-back Player of the Year awards in his two seasons with Towson and single-handedly changed the culture for a program that’d won five games in the two seasons before he suited up.
3.) Nathan Knight, William & Mary: An absolute freak, the 6-foot-10 Knight runs the floor like a point guard, hoists 3-pointers and, oh yeah, is probably going to end his career as the Tribe’s all-time leading scorer while finishing int he top three in rebounds. Will cement himself as an all-time legend if he can carry the depleted Tribe to the program’s first NCAA Tournament this season.
4.) Devontae Cacok, UNC Wilmington: Made two NCAA Tournaments while finishing as the program’s fourth-leading all-time scorer (1,593 points) and leading rebounder (1,263).
5.) Jarrell Brantley, College of Charleston: Finished among the Cougars’ all-time top five in scoring (1,914) and rebounding (967) while leading Charleston to the 2018 NCAA Tournament and saving his best performances for the highest-level opponents.
6.) Charles Jenkins, Hofstra: Only played two seasons this decade, but won back-to-back Player of the Year awards while closing out a career in which he scored a school-record 2,513 points
7.) Marcus Thornton, William & Mary: The Tribe’s all-time scoring leader led the program to back-to-back title game appearances in 2014-15, a sentence that would have been unimaginable earlier in the century.
8.) Grant Riller, College of Charleston: The do-everything guard is one of the CAA’s great finishers this decade as well as the third player in school history to surpass 2,000 points. Has an outside chance to become the program’s all-time leading scorer.
9.) Juan’ya Green, Hofstra: Also only played two seasons this decade, but that was enough time to win a Player of the Year Award, sore 1,186 points, collect 463 assists — sixth-most in program history — and register Hofstra’s first and thus far only triple-double.
10.) Frantz Massenat, Drexel: Massenat made an all-CAA team three times in four years and led Drexel to a program-record 29 wins and a trip to the NIT quarterfinals in 2012.
Coach Of The Decade
Bill Coen, Northeastern. Cases could easily be made for Charleston’s Earl Grant (who took over a program in shambles following the summer firing of Doug Wojcik), UNC Wilmington’s Kevin Keatts (who took over a last-place program and won two tournament titles and a share of a regular season crown in three seasons at the helm) or Towson’s Pat Skerry (the Tigers were 1-31 the year before he got there).
But Coen, in his 14th season at Northeastern, has done the hardest thing in college hoops — build a consistent winner at a mid-major— by unearthing overlooked talent around the country. Under Coen, the Huskies have made two NCAA Tournaments and won at least 18 games seven times while seamlessly adjusting to the CAA’s new up-tempo style.
Best Game Of The Decade
William & Mary 92, Hofstra 91 (2 OT) in the CAA semifinals on March 8, 2015
If you were there, you’ll never forget it. Two heavyweights trading haymakers for 50 minutes.
William & Mary came back from a nine-point deficit in the final six minutes of regulation and earned the win when a triple-teamed Marcus Thornton dished to wide-open freshman Daniel Dixon, who drained a corner 3-pointer with under a second left. Also unofficially cemented the CAA’s new offensive-minded era.
Most Pivotal Game Of The Decade
VCU 62, Drexel 60 in the CAA quarterfinals on March 5, 2011
How does CAA history unfold if Drexel wins this game? VCU finished in fourth place in the regular season and was barely on the NIT bubble when the tournament started. But the run to the Final Four began at the Richmond Coliseum, down the street from VCU’s campus, where the Rams benefited from an, ahem, interestingly officiated game and had 22 more free throws in the second half before center Jamie Skeen muscled his way past Yannick Farmbor, who was saddled with four fouls, for the game-winning layup as time expired.
The next day, VCU boat-raced George Mason, whose point guard, Andre Cornelius, trash talked the Rams on Twitter (ahh, the innocuous days of Twitter). VCU fell to Old Dominion in the title game but the butterfly had flapped its wings.
Weirdest Game Of The Decade
George Mason 84, Towson 58 on Jan. 27, 2011
The result wasn’t the weird part — George Mason was on its way to an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and Towson was in the midst of a winless CAA season. But the game was postponed from a night earlier when Towson’s bus got stuck in a massive snowstorm during the 70-mile trek from Towson to Fairfax.
At one point, Towson head coach Pat Kennedy placed his trench coat underneath the bus’ tires in hopes of establishing some traction. The coat perished a noble but gruesome death, the bus remained stuck and PK’s trench coat is still a running joke in CAA circles. Oh and commissioner Tom Yeager scolded Towson for its poor planning. Like we said, weirdest game of the decade.
There’s two. What if Old Dominion and Georgia State don’t decide to center their athletic programs around football? There were few more established mid-majors than Old Dominion under Blaine Taylor, and all Ron Hunter does is win.
Then there are the 2010 and 2011 off-seasons. What if Tom Pecora and Jim Larranaga — you won’t often see those names in the same sentence, unless it’s a sentence about coaches who loathed each other — don’t leave Hofstra and George Mason for Fordham and Miami? A trio of all-rookie team members (Hofstra’s Halil Kanacevic and Chaz Williams, following their freshman year, and Mason’s Luke Hancock following his sophomore year) followed their former head coaches out the door.
The CAA could have been positioned as a four-bid league in 2011 if Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins was surrounded by a full cast of characters. And what happens if Larranaga stays in Fairfax and George Mason maintains its status as a CAA power — and Old Dominion and Georgia State resist the allure of Division I-A football? Does the CAA then poach the Atlantic 10, instead of vice versa?
The Decade's CAA Standings (Conference Play-Only)
James Madison 78-101
George Mason 51-20
Old Dominion 44-27
Georgia State 32-40
The Decade's Leading Scorer
Hofstra: Justin Wright-Foreman, 2,327
Delaware: Devon Saddler, 2,222
William & Mary: Marcus Thornton 2,178
College of Charleston: Grant Riller 2,092
Elon: Tyler Seibring 1,794
Drexel: Frantz Massenat 1,646
Northeastern: David Walker 1,631
UNC Wilmington: Devontae Cacok 1,593
James Madison: Ron Curry 1,550
Towson: Mike Morsell 1,523