Eastern Nazarene men’s basketball head coach Jim Aller and freshman Jaylen Owens (Johns Creek, Ga.) were named the Commonwealth Coast Conference Coach of the Year and Rookie of the Year, respectively, as announced by the league office.
Senior Chima Ezeigbo (Roanoke, Va.) also captured All-Commonwealth Coast Conference first-team accolades while Owens also earned honorable mention.
Aller guided the Lions to their best record since the 1996-97 season and returned Eastern Nazarene to the Commonwealth Coast Conference Tournament for the first time since the 2003-04 campaign. Under Aller’s tutelage, the Lions sport an 18-8 record this season and posted an 11-7 mark in conference play.
Eastern Nazarene finished the regular-season tied for third in the league standings and claimed the #4 seed in the Commonwealth Coast Conference Tournament. By virtue of the #4 seed in the playoffs, the Lions hosted the program’s first home postseason contest in 12 years. Eastern Nazarene topped fifth-seeded Salve Regina 78-64 in the CCC quarterfinals February 19.
Owens led the conference with 4.4 assists per game in the regular season and ranked 67th nationally. He also ranked second in the league with 44 steals on the year and was 27th in the country in steals per game with 2.48 swipes.
The rookie guard averaged 10.7 points per game in the regular season, good for second on the Lions. He has shot 44.4% from the field and 69.4% from the charity stripe.
Owens was named the Commonwealth Coast Conference Rookie of the Week for the final week of the regular season after averaging 13 points, seven assists, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game in a 2-1 week for the Lions. He nearly recorded a triple-double in the season finale at Endicott, finishing with 14 points, 10 assists and eight boards.
Ezeigbo picked up his third career All-CCC nod after earning a spot on the second team as a freshman and junior. The senior paced Eastern Nazarene and ranked eighth in the league with 14.3 points per game and fourth in the conference with 7.7 rebounds per contest. He registered the second-most blocks in the league on the season with 37 rejections.
On January 29, Ezeigbo netted his 1,000th career point to become the 29th player in program history to reach the millennium mark. He was selected as the Commonwealth Coast Conference Player of the Week and earned a spot on the D3Hoops.com National Team of the Week for the week ending January 12.
The Lions return to action February 21 as they travel to square off against top-seeded Curry in the Commonwealth Coast Conference Tournament semifinals. Eastern Nazarene defeated the Colonels twice this season.
Rookie of the Year – Jaylen Owens