Small College Basketball has officially released its "Top 25 Watch List" for the Bevo Francis Award. Incredibly challenging to construct, the list is comprised of 25 of the finest men's basketball players in the country who compete in affiliations of NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, NAIA Division I, NAIA Division II, USCAA, and NCCAA of the 2016-2017 season.
The Clarence "Bevo" Francis Award is presented annually to the player who has had the finest overall season within Small College Basketball. Considerations are season statistics and individual achievements, awards, personal character and team achievements. This is an incredibly prestigious award, as this award will only be given to one player within Small College Basketball per season.
One of the student-athletes that was selected to the top 25 includes Berkeley College standout and USCAA Division II Men's Basketball Player of the Year Massiah Merritt. Merritt – who just played a pivotal role in helping the Knights slam the door on an unblemished 29-0 campaign and win their third consecutive National crown – has been living a dream at Berkeley College.
"Hard work and dedication are crucial components when it comes to being successful", said the Nia Prep High School product. "I love the game of basketball, and I am grateful for the opportunities it has granted me, and everything it has given me."
Prior to the 2016-2017 season, the Knights had won back-to-back Regional (HVIAC) and National (USCAA) championships. Merritt played a huge role in that success for Berkeley College, but even with all of that winning under his belt, the 6'2 guard strived to continue to lead the men's basketball program to even greater heights.
During the Knights' incredible 29-0 season, Merritt played in 27 contests, averaging a team-high 15 points per game. His 4.3 assists per contest and 2.7 steals per game were also team-bests, and he also had a knack for raising his game when the stakes were highest. He was named to the regional All-Conference team, while also being tabbed as the USCAA's Division II Player of the Year as well as a First Team All-American.
In the Knights' 76-72 victory over Division II foe Mercy College back on November 22, 2016, Merritt connected on nine of his 10 shots from the charity stripe and five of his nine attempts from the floor to score a game-high 20 points. He also added six assists in that game and recorded a pair of steals.
Additionally, in the team's regular season finale, Merritt nailed three shots from beyond-the-arc and seven of his eight attempts from the free throw line to finish with 26 points as Berkeley turned-back Division III opponent Valley Forge University, 64-60. He also contributed five rebounds and five steals in that victory as well.
Back on February 19 in the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title game against the College of New Rochelle, Merritt dropped-in 22 points (including 19 in the second stanza) while also collecting six rebounds, tallying three assists and adding two steals to pace Berkeley to a 98-75 win over the Blue Angels.
Finally – in what was perhaps Massiah's crowning moment as a member of the Knights – the standout drained a game-tying basket with 0.9 seconds remaining in the USCAA Division II National Championship game back on March 4 against Penn State York. That converted hoop helped send the contest to overtime, where the Knights eventually held off the Nittany Lions by a score of 80-76 to put an exclamation point on a National three-peat. For the evening, he scored a team-high 28 points while connecting on four of his eight attempts from downtown. He also collected four rebounds, tallied three steals, and added two assists. He was tabbed as the tournament's Most Valuable Player after the game.
The top-25 list for the Bevo Francis Award will be trimmed down to 13 players on April 1st. Merritt has as good a chance as any men's basketball player on the list to continue to inch closer towards that prestigious award.