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Who Should Win Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year?

As the season comes to a close the writers at A10 Talk wanted to provide a piece around the A10 Rookie of the Year award. Five writers have come together to make a case for why some of the top A10 freshman should win ROY. The following players under consideration are as follows: Tyler Kolek, Mustapha Amzil, Ace Baldwin, Jordan Hall, Jhamir Brickus, and Chad Baker.

Tyler Kolek, George Mason – Written by Daniel Frank

From day one of this season, Tyler Kolek cemented his status as one of the top sharp shooters in the Atlantic 10. In his very first game in a Patriot uniform, Tyler canned a pair of treys, totaling 6 points. But he was just getting started. On December 26, Kolek hit a career-high five threes in Mason’s game against Norfolk State (a game that, aside from Tyler’s shooting, I think we all would like to forget). 

Over the course of this season, he has become one of Mason’s premier weapons, quickly working his way into the starting lineup. Tyler has made at least one three in every game this season, except one: ironically, Mason’s OT win at VCU. Overall, Kolek averages 11.1 points per game, alone with 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. 

In total, he shoots at a 40% clip from the field, and 36% from three. In fact, Tyler is 6th in the A-10, and 1st among freshmen, in threes per game at 2.5. There’s no question that Tyler Kolek has become a household name in Fairfax this season. And if Patriots’ fans are lucky, he’s only going to keep getting better.

Mustapha Amzil, Dayton – Written by Chris Pyle

Who doesn’t love Moose? There isn’t much to hate about this kid, and it’s easy to see why. He has had probably the hardest start to a season among all players in the A10. First, he’s a freshman who committed to Dayton a few months before coming to the states from Finland to play a prep year in Pennsylvania. However, after Chase Johnson’s departure, and RJ Blakney’s injury, the program was left with an open hole in the rotation.

In came Amzil, right before the conference season was to start against La Salle. Not only that, but he was forced into the starting lineup! He answers the bell by putting up a 22 point performance, even though it was in a loss to the Explorers. That led Moose to win the A10 Rookie of the Week award for that performance. He would eventually win that same award 2 more times, more than every other rookie in the conference.

Amzil has scored in double figures 11 times, one of those being a double-double at Duquesne. Amzil is also shooting 39% from the three point line on the year, which is second best on Dayton behind Ibi Watson but also top 10 in the A10. He also sits in the top 25 of two point shooting percentage at 55.4%. In the more advanced analytical department, Moose has a 108.1 offensive rating on KenPom. He also is counted on for 56% of his team’s minutes during games, which is third most on the team behind Crutcher and Wason. He is also in the top 10 of efficient field goal percentage in the conference.

The fact that Amzil came in right away from Finland, and was forced to make a significant contribution right at the start, makes his freshman year that much more impressive. Not only did he do that, but he remained consistent and continued to put up double figure scoring in 11 of the 15 games this season. He also shows true composure with his mentality and emotions during the game, which is impressive to see in a young player. Moose might not score 22 points every game, but he puts up a significant contribution when his team needs him. Give the Moose his due; he’s earned it.

Adrain “Ace” Baldwin, VCU – Written by Jason Boleman

On a team with little experience and low expectations entering the season, VCU freshman point guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin thrived in his role as the team’s floor general. Baldwin is the only player to have started all 23 games for the Rams and has proven to be an elite-level passer. The Baltimore native ended the season averaging 4.4 assists per game, good for eighth in the Atlantic 10. His 102 total assists are the third most by a freshman in VCU history. While not the shooter that his backcourt mate, Bones Hyland, is, Baldwin still averaged a crucial six points per game.

Baldwin’s best games came in Hyland’s absence. In the final three regular season games, Baldwin played 41, 40 and 39 minutes. His 15-point night against Saint Louis, a season-high, helped lead VCU to a crucial victory to shore up its at-large chances. No guard in the conference took on as much of a workload as Baldwin did this season. Baldwin has more than exceeded expectations. His passing acumen already ranks among the top of the conference, a skill that will only continue to get better with time.

Jordan Hall, Saint Joseph’s – Written by Anthony Morelli

Many consider the ROY award to be a three horse race between Kolek, Baldwin, and Amzil. However, none of those players are as good as Jordan Hall. The only reason that Jordan Hall is not widely considered a favorite is because of his team’s record. Yet, his team’s horrible record should be a testament to his skills and abilities. 

Having a successful rookie campaign on a bad team only reinforces the fact that it takes a special player to excel in such a harsh environment. So far this season Jordan Hall has averaged 9.7 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.5 total rebounds. However, his conference totals tell a more important story. Especially since we are talking about the Atlantic 10 ROY award. In conference play Hall has averaged 10.5 points, 6.7 assists, and 6.3 rebounds.  

Another crazy stat is that Hall has passed for 100 assists in only 17 games. It took Ace Baldwin 23 games to get past 102. If Hall had played as many games as Baldwin did Hall would have accumulated well over 140 assists. This is where we get to the real issue. Hall should not be disqualified because his team is bad. In fact, the only issue to Hall’s resume is that it lacks games played thanks to Covid. However, even with this in consideration, anyone who has watched SJU play this year knows that Hall is the most gifted in both skill and athleticism. A freshman’s team record should not dictate if they receive ROY of the year. The Rookie of the year award should always be judged on play, and play alone. 

Jhamir Brickus, La Salle – Written by Anthony Morelli

Jhamir Birucks, like Jordan Hall, is another player who is being disregarded because of his team’s record. When in fact, Jhamir Brickus has been one of the most consistent freshmen in the Atlantic 10. First, he has played the most games out all the A10 ROY candidates listed in this piece. Brickus competed in all of La Salle’s 24 games this season.

In addition to his reliability, Brickus has also the most efficient scorer in the A10. Brickus has scored a total of 215 points this season, which is second in A10 freshman. His per game averages are as follows: 9 points, 3.5 assist, and 1.9 rebounds. Brickus also shot 50% from the field this year. This is impressive when you consider that Brickus has the third most amount of field goal attempts for all A10 freshmen. He is only behind Hall and Kolek in attempts. Not to mention that Hall only shot 37% from the field, while Kolek shot 40%. At 50% shooting, and third in attempts, Brickus has been, by far, the most efficient and effective scorer this year! 

It is unfortunate that some will not consider Brickus because of his team’s record. While I made the argument that Hall had to carry a weak SJU team, Brickus has had to carry an even weaker La Salle team. At least Hall had some decent scoring options around him, even if some of them missed time due to injury. La Salle doesn’t have any players who can score like Taylor Funk or Ryan Daly. Jhamir Brickus carried more weight for La Salle than any other freshman did for their program. Because of this, Brickus’s efforts should be rewarded with a Rookie of the Year trophy.

Chad Baker, Duquesne – Written by David Borne

When several of Duquesne’s starters announced they were stepping away from the program in January, Chad Baker stepped up in a huge way. Baker emerged as a true outside scoring threat, allowing Duquesne to open up its offense in ways that the team was unable to do at the beginning of the season.

The freshman averaged 9.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Baker knocked down 24 threes in his first collegiate season, and posted a team-leading 42.9 three-point percentage. He buried a season-high 23 points in a win at Fordham on Jan. 27. In Duquesne’s regular season finale against Rhode Island, Baker shot 5-7 from the floor and finished with 22 points. He also made his presence known on the defensive end, as he racked up three blocks and three steals in the win.

Baker has quickly become known throughout the Atlantic 10 for his high-energy attitude and style of play. His combination of size and shooting ability should make him one of the conference’s more dangerous scorers in years to come.