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Jean-Baptiste, player of the year

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Richard Jean-Baptiste, who led the Brooklyn College Basketball Team to a turn around season, was chosen as all-Metropolitan College Player of the Year among Division III colleges in the tri-state area by the Met Basketball Writers’ Association.

In his first complete season at Brooklyn College, Baptiste was honored at the MBWA/National Invitation Tournament dinner at the Giants Stadium Club.

In addition, the forward earned a spot on the all-Met first team.

Awards came piling up for the 6’4” Jean-Baptiste, who ranked first in the City University of New York Athletic Conference scoring statistics with a league best 22.8 point per game average, which ranked him 14th in the nation in Division III.

He also placed among the top 10 in rebounding, grabbing an average of 7.2 caroms per game, field goal percentage (53.7), free throw percentage (75) and steals (2.8 per outing). In two games this year he scored 32 points and then a career-high 37 points against the College of Staten Island and Newark Rutgers, respectively.

Jean-Baptiste thus earned CUNYAC’s Player of the Year honor as well, and was a second team member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches Association for Division III colleges and was cited by D3 Hoops Atlantic Region Player of the Year honors.

Jean-Baptiste became the first player in the history of Brooklyn College basketball to have ever received the Division III Outstanding Player award.

“I was happy more so for my teammates and coach,” said Jean-Baptiste. “Anything I do reflects upon the program.”

“We were very excited that he received it,” said Athletic Director Bruce Filosa. “Richard is a great and wonderful kid, for a student, person and citizen. It couldn’t have happened to a better person. We’re really happy.”

And, he’s only a sophomore.

“It holds well for the future,” Filosa said. “If we build our team around him, we’ll be okay. It couldn’t have happened to a better person. We’re really happy.”

Coach Steve Podias expected Baptiste to receive this award after the tremendous year that he had.

“I think that he’s the best player in the region,” Podias added. “Most nights Richard probably puts us on his back.”

Last season, the Bridges posted a 10-14 record. This year, they turned it around to 21-7.

“Having Richard for the full season had a lot to do with it,” Podias went on. “We had better players this year than last and were more experienced.”

Podias, who has been coaching BC since 1994, recruited him out of St. John’s Prep in Queens. The coach was very impressed with his play in the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association Class ‘A’ championship game.

“I saw that he was a winner and a championship type of player,” Podias said. “When he went to a couple of other colleges and it didn’t work out for him, I still was hoping that he would join our family atmosphere.”

Richard is following in the footsteps of his brother, Jeff Jean-Baptiste, who just completed his second year as assistant coach at Brooklyn College. Richard didn’t start his hoop career at Brooklyn College but rather played the first semester at Blinn, a junior college in Texas. He transferred to Brooklyn in the middle of his freshman year.

At first Richard thought that playing at Blinn would help him to go to a Division One college, but it didn’t work out.

“Since my brother coaches at Brooklyn, he asked me to go there,” the honoree said. “And I knew Podias for a long time. He went to my high school games.”

Back home, Baptiste played four games toward the end of his first year and then blossomed this year. All during the season, whether it was blocking shots or scoring from the inside or outside or whether it was simply taking charge even though he had four personal fouls in a game, Jean-Baptiste did what was important.

Besides Jean-Baptiste, Damien Santana, a junior at Farmingdale State, and Jamaal Hall, a junior scorer at New York City Tech who scored on average 21 points a game, were named on the all-met Division III first team. Jaytornah Wisseh, a sophomore at Long Island University, earned a spot on the all-met Division I second team, and Omari Knox, a junior from Bloomfield, landed a spot on the Division IIII first team; all live in this borough of Brooklyn.

Also from Brooklyn, Rutgers sophomore guard Epiphany Prince was named woman’s Player of the Year by the Met Basketball Writers’ Association. She led Rutgers with 13.8 points and 2.45 steals per game.

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