The America East conference made an extremely questionable decision on Thursday, as they named Vermont guard Trae Bell-Haynes as the America East player of the year. Bell-Haynes is definitely an outstanding player, but this is the second consecutive year that the conference has made a questionable decision on the award on Bell-Haynes’ behalf. The senior-guard is the eighth player in conference history to win back-to-back player of the year honors. Although this is the UMBC student newspaper, and being in favor of UMBC graduate-guard Jairus Lyles is natural when speaking of awards in the conference, but in this case the numbers do not lie.
Jairus Lyles averaged 20.3 points per game in the 2017-18 regular season, which put him as the #2 leading scorer in the conference. Bell-Haynes on the other hand, only scored 14.9 points per game, which ranked him at #8 on the list. Lyles averaged 5.7 rebounds per game, as opposed to Bell-Haynes 4.2, which put the UMBC guard at #9 and the Vermont guard at #21. Lyles led the conference in steals, finishing the season at 58 steals, while Bell-Haynes ranked #10 with only 34. Bell-Haynes only lead Lyles in one of the five major statistical categories, which was assists. Bell-Haynes ranked #4 in assists with 116, while Lyles ranked #6 with 100. Neither of the two players ranked in the top 40 in blocks.
Not only was Bell-Haynes not the best player in the conference, he wasn’t even the second best, or the third best. Albany guard Joe Cremo had a better season than Bell-Haynes did as well. Cremo was #4 in scoring with 17.6 points per game, tied Bell-Haynes for #21 in rebounds, and had 4 more assists than Bell-Haynes for #3 in the conference. The only major category Cremo trailed the Vermont guard in was steals, where he averaged 0.8 steals per game as opposed to Bell-Haynes 1.1 assists per game.
Maine guard Jahad Thomas had more points per game with 21.2 (#1), more rebounds per game with 8.1 (#4), more assists per game with 4.0 (#3), more steals per game with 1.8 (#2), and more blocks per game with 0.3.
Either of the other three players could have won the player of the year award, but it seems as if the conference is favoring Bell-Haynes for being on the team with the best record in the conference. It seems like they did so last year as well, where Bell-Haynes was not in the top five in any of the major statistical categories. In fact, Bell-Haynes ranked #6 in assists and #8 in steals, without cracking the top 10 in any of the other categories.
This appears to be a questionable development by the America East Conference. The player of the year award is meant for the best player in the conference, regardless of the teams record. To award Bell-Haynes this title, with the lack of statistical information to back it up is fishy to say the least. There is no good argument for making Bell-Haynes the player of the year, and the America East has seemingly disgraced the prestige that goes along with the honor of the award with this poor decision.