Moon Township, Pa. - The Robert Morris University men's basketball team garnered a pair of postseason honors from the Northeast Conference Wednesday, as senior guard Tony Lee (Boston, Mass. / Charlestown) was named the 2008 NEC Player of the Year in a vote conducted by league head coaches, while first-year head coach Mike Rice was selected as the 2008 NEC Jim Phelan Coach of the Year.
Lee, who also earned a spot on the 2008 All-NEC First Team, was joined by two teammates in earning postseason accolades from the league, as senior forward A.J. Jackson (Monessen, Pa. / Monessen) and junior guard Jeremy Chappell (Cincinnati, Ohio / Northwest) each were named to the All-NEC Second Team.
A 6'0", 205-pound guard, Lee is the fourth Colonial overall to be named NEC Player of the Year, joining Myron Walker (1991-1992), Vaughn Luton (1988-1989) and Chipper Harris (1983-1984). Harris was tabbed the Tri-Player of the Year for the 1983-1984 campaign. Entering the 2008 NEC Tournament, Lee leads the Colonials in rebounding (6.8 per game), assists (199) and steals (88) while ranking third on the club in scoring (13.8 ppg). He ranks fifth in the country in steals (2.8 per game) and 10th in assists (6.4 per game).
Lee became just the sixth player in NCAA Division I history to record a triple-double in back-to-back games in February when he finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in an 88-72 win over Long Island (2/9/08), followed by 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in an 80-74 victory at Central Connecticut State (2/14/08).
Lee is also just six assists shy of establishing a new Robert Morris single-season record in the category, while he needs 11 rebounds to set a new career record. Former Colonial Anthony Dickens (1985-90) owns the career mark for rebounds with 751. Also in the Colonial career record book Lee ranks sixth in scoring (1,454 points) and third in steals (268).
Rice, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., has engineered Robert Morris to an overall record of 25-6 in his first year at the helm, including a 16-2 mark in the NEC. He guided the Colonials to their fifth NEC regular-season championship and their first since 1992 this season, with the 25 victories establishing a new conference record for wins by a first-year head coach. He is the third Robert Morris coach to earn NEC Coach of the Year honors, joining Matt Furjanic (1982-1983) and Jarrett Durham, who was bestowed the honor for both the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons.
A three-time All-NEC selection, the 6'6", 240-pound Jackson has averaged 14.2 points and 5.7 rebounds this season to rank second on the club. He was an All-NEC First Team honoree in 2006 and earned All-NEC Second Team accolades in each of the last two years. Jackson has posted four double-doubles this season, pushing his career total to 25, the most in school history.
Jackson became the first Colonial in school history to record his 1,000th career point and his 500th career rebound in the same game earlier this season when he finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds in a 93-77 win at Navy (11/14/07). He enters the 2008 NEC Tournament ranked seventh all-time at Robert Morris in scoring (1,414 points) and third in rebounding (669).
Named the 2006 NEC Rookie of the Year, the 6'3", 200-pound Chappell leads the Colonials in scoring (15.0 ppg) this season while ranking second in steals (75) and third in rebounding (4.9 rpg) and assists (68). He joined the RMU 1,000-point club this year by finishing with 23 points in an 88-76 victory over Lafayette (12/30/07) and is 51 rebounds and 32 assists shy of joining Lee as a member of the 1,000-point, 500-rebound and 250-assist club in NEC history.
Robert Morris, the No. 1 seed in the 2008 NEC Tournament, will host No. 8 Monmouth as part of quarterfinal action Thursday, March 6, 2008, for a 7:00 p.m. contest at the Charles L. Sewall Center. Winners of a school record 13 straight games, the Colonials own the third longest winning streak in the nation behind Davidson (19) and Cornell (14).