Warriors honored with program-best four players; Preston is top rookie
Two freshmen players from young women's team are named All-Rookie
Clockwise from far left: Garrow, Robitaille, Preston, Salzillo
NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. -- The Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team set program bests when four players - two of them first-teamers - were named to the 2012/13 All-Little East Conference team, as voted upon by the eight conference head coaches.
Senior forward Chris Robitaille (Canton) and junior forward Mike Garrow (Terrvyville) were both selected to the six-player first team, while junior guard Brian Salzillo (North Haven) and freshman guard Trachone Preston (Enfield) were among five second-team picks.
In addition, Preston became the program's fourth Rookie-of-the-Year in seven years, following Edwin Ortiz (2006/07), Courtney Simmons (2007/08) and program scoring leader Nick Nedwick (2008/09).
Eastern's four overall men's selections and two first-teamers led all conference schools in the balloting. It marked the first time in 26 years of conference play that as many as four Eastern players were recognized with the honor. Eastern had two first-team picks last year for the first time in Nedwick and Hamilton Levy.
Picked to finish third in the conference this year after losing four starters from the 2011/12 LEC regular-season and playoff championship squad, Eastern rode to a second-place finish with a program-high 12 LEC regular-season triumphs against two losses. After losing two starters late in the season to injury, the second-seeded Warriors were eliminated in the LEC semifinals, but third-seeded Eastern rebounded to capture three straight games and hoist its first ECAC New England Division III championship trophy nine days later to post their fourth straight 20-win season (22-8).
A rebuilding Eastern women's team - whose starting lineup usually featured three sophomores and a freshmen - place two freshmen on the five-person All-Rookie Team in guard Brianna Leonard (Amherst, MA) and forward Jill Ritrosky (Pittsfield, MA), give the Warriors seven such selections in seven years.
The 6-foot-5 inch Robitaille led the conference in field goal percentage (.570) for the second straight year and was first in minutes (33.0), third in rebounding (8.4), fourth in scoring (14.6) and tied for ninth in assists (2.3). He had 12 double-doubles (27th nationally), with five of them coming in the final seven games, and reached the 1,000-point mark in the final game of his career in the ECAC title game. Robitaille was the only Eastern player to receive LEC Player-of-the-Week honors this year, when he shared the honor in the second report of the season on Nov. 26.
Below: Leonard (left) and Ritrosky
The MVP of the ECAC tournament after averaging 19.0 points and 7.3 assists with a .676 field goal percentage, Garrow was fifth in the LEC in scoring (14.6) and field goal percentage (.505) and 12th in rebounding (5.5). In the ECAC title game, he had 25 points and a career-high 14 rebounds and was 10-for-15 from the floor, including 4-for-5 from three-point range. After appearing in only the first five games of last year and earning a medical redshirt, Garrow was the only Eastern player this year to start all 30 games and was second only to Robitaille by averaging 32.7 minutes per game.
Salzillo led a balanced Eastern attack with a 15.0 scoring average - second in the conference -- with 67.3 percent of his points coming from three-point range. He led the conference with an Eastern season-record of 94 three-pointers - 35 more than his nearest LEC competitor - and is rated sixth nationally with 3.36 makes per game. He canned at least one three-pointer in all 28 games in which he appeared, extending his streak to 35 over a two-year span. Salzillo was second on the team in free throw percentage (.849) but did not have enough attempts to qualify in the LEC.
No rookie was recognized more often than Preston, who was named the conference's outstanding rookie three times over the course of the season. Preston, who started the final 24 games of the season, ranked second in the conference among freshmen with a 10.8 scoring average, was second overall in three-point field goal percentage (.459), tied for seventh in assists (2.5) and seventh in free throw percentage (.787). He led all LEC rookies in each of the latter three categories.
Leonard and Ritrosky ranked 2-4 on the team in minutes played, combining for 44 starts. Leonard was third on the team in scoring (9.7) and third in rebounds and Ritrosky was first in free throw percentage (.742), second in rebounding (7.9) and fourth in scoring (9.5). The pair helped the Warriors to a share of third place in the conference, with their 8-6 LEC mark bettering the 4-10 showing of the previous year. Eastern finished 10-16, winning seven of 11 at one point after a 2-9 start.
Leonard was named both LEC Player and Rookie-of-the-Week Feb. 11 and was also the top rookie on Feb. 4. She scored a season-high 28 points Feb. 5 in a 70-55 conference home win over Western Connecticut Feb. 5 and recorded both of her season's double-doubles against the Colonials.
Ritrosky collected double figures in points in ten of the team's final 11 games, scoring nine in the other game in that stretch. In the season-ending 66-54 LEC tournament home loss to Rhode Island College, she had 16 points and 13 rebounds.