Senior guard Sheldon Jones of the Stevens men's basketball team was named the Empire 8 Player of the Year Thursday as the conference office released its end-of-the-year honors.
In addition to Jones, Head Men's Basketball Coach Bobby Hurley earned Coach of the Year honors with senior guard Russ Thompson being selected to the first team along with Jones, and sophomore forward Patrick Sabatino nabbing second-team accolades.
Jones is second in the conference in scoring and leads the Ducks, averaging 16.9 points per game. The veteran has led Stevens in points the last two seasons and is currently third all-time in scoring. Jones has needed just 317 shots to score 423 points, converting at a 46.4 percent clip from the floor, 35.2 percent from long range and 87.6 percent at the free-throw line. He averages 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists while frequently guarding one of the top offensive threats for the opponent. Jones is second in the conference to Thompson in free-throw shooting while checking in at No. 13 nationally in that stat.
In his career to date, the Queens, N.Y. native has shot 83.2 percent at the line and 48.8 percent from the field, averaging 14.1 points per game. He has 1,524 tallies, 375 rebounds and 165 assists and is now a three-time all-conference honoree.
“With the amount of work Sheldon has put in over the course of his career – both on the court and in the weight room – there could not be a more deserving person of this type of honor,” Hurley said. “He has been a leader for the program and is a major reason we have been in the postseason throughout his entire career.”
Thompson is second on the Ducks in scoring, pouring in 14.5 points per game. He averages a shade under three assists and three rebounds per outing and is one of the deadliest shooters in the nation, converting 43.2 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and averaging 2.8 triples per game. He is second in the conference in three-point field-goal percentage and 20th in the nation, while checking in at No. 31 in three-point field-goals made per game. For his career, Thompson has shot 42.3 percent from three, dished out 347 assists and scored 1,142 points. He is currently second all-time in made three-pointers with 237 and his assist total is fifth in program history. He has at least one triple in all but one game this year and scored in double figures 21 times. This is the first All-Empire 8 honor for Thompson in his career.
The two senior first-teamers have been a part of 81 wins in their careers – the most for any class in the history of Stevens basketball. They have combined for an overall winning percentage .743 and have scored 2,766 points.
Sabatino – a sophomore forward – has been a welcome addition to the Stevens frontcourt this year. He is third in the league in blocked shots with 45 and second on the team, while scoring 13.6 points and pulling down 6.0 rebounds per game. He has scored in double-digits 19 times this year and is shooting 58.6 percent from the field which is good for third in the league. Sabatino is converting 82.7 percent of his attempts at the line, 41.2 percent of his three-pointers (7-for-17) and has racked up 23 steals. Like Thompson, this is the first all-conference honor for the Stevens forward.
Hurley is in his fifth season at the helm of the Stevens program and guided the Ducks to an overall record of 21-4 and 11-3 in the conference. The Ducks are ranked third in the East Region and are the top seed and host of the Empire 8 Championship in Hoboken this weekend. Stevens, picked third in the Empire 8 Preseason Poll, is No. 9 nationally in blocked shots, 18th in won-lost percentage, 19th in field-goal percentage defense, 30th in three-point field goal percentage defense, 45th in free-throw percentage and 49th in scoring defense. Hurley has guided the Ducks to the last four conference tournaments and three-straight Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Metro Championship tournaments, leading his team to the title in 2011. Hurley has a career-record of 94-41 and has led his team to 20-win campaigns the last three years.
“The individual honors are great but they all speak to the work we have put in as a team going back to our first practice in the middle of October,” Hurley added. “We are happy with our season so far but absolutely realize there is work to be done if we want to be playing into March.”
Hurley earned Empire 8 Coach of the Year honors in 2010-11 as well, helping the Ducks to a 22-7 mark. Jones receiving the Player of the Year honor from the conference is the first for Stevens since joining the Empire 8 in 2007-08.
The Ducks will battle Utica College in the tournament semifinals Friday at 6 p.m. in the Canavan Arena and all the action will be webcast live at www.Empire8.TV. Prior to the game, Stevens will be giving out beanies and free food and there will be a face painting station for all Stevens fans. During halftime there will be multiple contests and trivia as well.
The second semifinal game will tip-off at 8 p.m. and features second-seeded Ithaca College and third-seeded St. John Fisher College. That game will also be webcast live at www.Empire8.TV.
Admission is free for all Stevens students, faculty and staff with ID. General admission is $5 with non-Stevens students and seniors being $3. Children under 12 are free.