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Season Recap: Saint Peter’s defies expectations in the MAAC

Shaheen Holloway led Saint Peter’s to one of the most memorable seasons in school history.

As COVID-19 continues to change life as we know it, the sports world moves into another week of being dormant.

Among the sports that have been affected is college basketball. Among the many cancellations that took place was the MAAC Tournament in Atlantic City. At the time, Saint Peter’s men’s basketball team was gearing up for a semi-final matchup against either Rider or Niagara. The Peacocks, who were picked to finish ninth in the conference, was the number two seed in the MAAC Tournament. Many saw Saint Peter’s as a threat to win it all and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.

While there was no conclusion to the season, the Peacocks’ season was nothing short of unexpected. The team’s 14 wins in MAAC play tied the program’s most wins in history. They closed the season out with eight straight home wins and an 11-3 overall home record. They went 18-12, which included competitive losses to St. John’s and UConn on the road. The season ended with a 56-54 win over the four-time defending MAAC Tournament champion Iona Gaels in Atlantic City.

With six freshmen on the roster, it was expected that Saint Peter’s would struggle during the 2019-2020 season. As the season started, head coach Shaheen Holloway reiterated that he did not have a set starting lineup. With a team that featured so many young players, Holloway would go with the hot hand and see who would rise to the occasion. Midway through the season, those underclassmen stepped up to lead the team to a memorable season.

Aaron Estrada, who was named Fourth-Team All-MAAC and was on the MAAC Rookie Team, claimed the MAAC Rookie of the Year award. Estrada, who is from Woodbury, NJ, averaged eight points per game and scored in double-digits 11 times during the season. He was also named MAAC Rookie of the Week three times during the season. He scored a career-high 20 points against Fairfield and shot a blistering 87 percent from the free-throw line in conference play.

Holloway, the former Seton Hall point guard, picked up MAAC Coach of the Year honors. After just ten wins in his first season, Holloway led Saint Peter’s to 14 conference wins. His team led the MAAC in defensive field goal percentage, offensive rebounds, offensive rebounding percentage, rebounding margin, and blocked shots. Holloway became the third Saint Peter’s coach to win the league’s Coach of the Year award and the first since Ted Fiore in 1991.

A player that would become an essential piece of the squad would be KC Ndefo. Despite missing the first two games of the season, the 6-foot-7 forward led Saint Peter’s in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and steals. For his performance, Ndefo picked up the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year awards. His 2.4 blocks per game ranked 23rd in the nation.

Players like Doug Edert, Daryl Banks III, along with Fousseyni and Hassan Drame, became household names in the MAAC conference. Edert (44 percent from three-point land) led the Peacocks in scoring early in the year as Saint Peter’s started to catch fire. Banks hit the game-winning shot on the road against Iona on Jan. 3, a moment that appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter. The Drame Brothers (combined for ten points and nine rebounds) each won MAAC Rookie of the Year awards during the season (Fousseyni three times, Hassan twice).

Even with an unfinished season, Saint Peter’s showed grit and toughness that Shaheen Holloway wanted to instill in his team early. Would they have won the MAAC and advanced to the NCAA Tournament? No one knows, but the Peacocks set a foundation for the future with their 2019-2020 season. Saint Peter’s is now a team to be reckoned with in the MAAC for seasons to come. They also cemented themselves as a New Jersey program to look for going forward.

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Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for DoubleGSports.com as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow DoubleGSports.com writer Jason Cordner.
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