There are three legitimate contenders for CAA Freshman of the Year: Grant Riller of College of Charleston, Ryan Daly of Delaware and Kurk Lee of Drexel. While Daly has gotten headlines as the leading scorer down at Delaware, and Riller “The Thriller” has the purest shot of the group, here at Always a Dragon we see a clear favorite for the award, Kurk Lee.
Making the argument for any player on a last place team is an uphill fight, but this one lays out simply. While he is an outstanding shot, Riller gets a number of those shots due to the attention that defenses need to roll to teammates Joe Chealey and Jarrell Brantley. The biggest knife through the Riller argument though is that he is not in the top 10 in the CAA in any non-shooting statistic. He’s a quality player who hasn’t yet shown the ability to create for his teammates. He is also last amongst his fellow Cougar starters in rebounding. He’s a pure shooter, and fun to watch, but he can’t influence the game in multiple ways like his two opponents can.
Finding a slice between Daly and Lee is much harder to do. Daly has put up outstanding numbers using skill at times and at other times by simply outworking his opponent. The NBA range dagger he hit against Drexel to close their contest at the Bob will be shown at Delaware games for years if they ever get a jumbotron. While Lee has some weapons around him, Daly has… nothing. He is the centerpiece of an awful Delaware offense that was bailed out with hustle and defensive tenacity on their way to the 9 seed. Unlike Riller, Daly has influenced games in every phase for Delaware. He’s been a fine defender, is 5th in the league in scoring and 5th again in rebounding. Daly is also 2nd in the conference in minutes. That cuts the other way as Daly may be 5th in the conference in scoring, but his shooting numbers haven’t been anything special. He didn’t crack the top 25 in the CAA in shooting percentage, and that has to negate those outstanding scoring numbers.
Much like Daly, Kurk Lee has been an engine for his Dragon teammates throughout the year. And while all of these freshman have shown the inconsistency expected from inexperience, Lee’s end of season numbers edge out his opponents. His effective field goal percentage noses out Daly, helped by Lee’s 7th place finish in three point percentage. But Lee isn’t asked to be a shooter, he’s asked to create for his teammates at the point guard position and he has. Kurk is 4th in the league in assists and 8th in assist to turnover percentage. Assists don’t come easy on a bad team, yet he has piled them up. On top of that, while he lacks size and can be inconsistent defensively, he finished 2nd in the conference in steals.
When making a final comparison between the three and looking at how complete a player each one is, how much they have contributed to their teams, and projecting the future, it’s clear that the choice is Kurk Lee. While Riller is a great shooter, he will need to make a jump to be the complete player Charleston will need him to be in the future. And if Martin Inglesby can surround Daly with some offensive talent, then he won’t be able to rely on the quantity of shots that made him the freshman scoring champ this year. Lee is stirring the drink at Drexel, and additional talent around him will only enhance his contributions. He’s the most complete player with the best numbers, and as such Kurk Lee should be named the CAA Freshman of the Year.