WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — For the last two years, the University of Maine men arrived in town a day early because they had to play an America East basketball tournament preliminary game.
The Black Bears did so again this year, even though they aren’t scheduled to play until tonight. This time around, they came early because they had awards to pick up.
Sophomore guard Gerald McLemore leads Maine’s award-winning contingent as the first Maine men’s player to be selected for the America East All-Conference first team since Rickey White of Topsham in the 2002-03 season.
McLemore, who leads Maine with 14.9 points per game and 100 3-pointers on 40.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc, was one of four Bears to accept awards Friday afternoon as the America East tournament continues at the University of Hartford.
“I was very excited to get this award,” said the San Diego native, a member of the league’s all-rookie team last year. “It was a big surprise for me because I didn’t even know if I would ever start as a freshman. I just try to keep working my hardest because that’s what got me this far.”
Also getting individual league honors were senior guard Junior Bernal, who was named to the all-defensive team; freshman forward Murphy Burnatowski, who is on the all-rookie team; junior forward Sean McNally of Gardiner, who was named to the all-conference third team; and sophomore guard Andrew Rogers was one of five to be picked for the All-Academic team.
Bernal, a quiet leader for Maine, became the first player in program history to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists in a career.
“It means a great deal to me because it’s great other coaches have noticed how hard I work on the court,” Bernal said. “Defense is my main focus and it’s an honor.”
Burnatowski’s main goal was to carve out some playing time for himself.
“I just came in here hoping to play and wasn’t concerned about any personal awards, but it’s nice to be recognized for your hard work,” Burnatowski said.
Rogers is carrying a 3.74 GPA as a kinesiology/pedagogy major. He’s averaging 2.2 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists over 12.0 minutes per game.
McNally is averaging 10.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 blocks per game.
For the third straight year, Vermont’s Marqus Blakely was named the league’s defensive player of the year, but the senior forward didn’t make it a clean sweep as Stony Brook University guard Muhammad El-Amin was named AE Player of the Year and presented the Kevin Roberson Award, ending Blakely’s two-year run as the award winner.
Binghamton University guard Dylan Talley was named AE Rookie of the Year and Stony Brook’s Steve Pikiell was tabbed coach of the year.
The other first team all-conference members are Blakely, El-Amin, Boston University’s John Holland, and Greer Wright of Binghamton.