Picking the NYC-area’s top players

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A new college basketball season is upon us.

The NYC Metro area has produced plenty of NCAA talent that will be on display in the 2020-21 season, and there will be even more worth watching on the local teams.

With a fresh season kicking off on Wednesday, The Post’s top college hoop experts make their picks for which area stars will shine brightest.

Locals All-Area First Team

Sr. G Jose Alvarado (14.4 PPG, 4.0 APG), Georgia Tech (Brooklyn)

High character, high intensity and all about team, Alvarado has improved each season, and now with more talent and experience around him, hopes to complete a quality career with an NCAA Tournament berth.

So. G James Bouknight (13.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG), UConn (Brooklyn)

The 6-foot-5 guard has NBA potential, and now he’ll get to prove himself in one of the nation’s best conferences. A major leap is expected after a strong finish to his freshman season.

So. C Kofi Cockburn (13.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG) Illinois (Brooklyn)

The bruising former Christ the King star took the Big Ten by storm as Illinois’s leading rebounder and shot-blocker, winning the league’s freshman of the year and was pivotal in the Illini’s best season in six years.

Jr. G Ron Harper Jr. (12.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG), Rutgers (Franklin Lakes, N.J.)

A breakout star for Rutgers last winter, the physical 6-foot-6 wing’s development as a shooter and defender would’ve led to the Scarlet Knights first tournament berth since 1991 if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jr. G Markquis Nowell (17.2 PPG, 4.9 APG), Arkansas-Little Rock (Harlem)

One of the premier little guards in the country, Nowell stands just 5-foot-7, but he plays big. He relentlessly attacks the paint and his 3-point shot, up to 39 percent last year, has become lethal.

Georgia Tech's Jose Alvarado
Georgia Tech’s Jose AlvaradoIcon Sportswire via Getty Images

Second Team

Sr. G Bryce Aiken (16.7 PPG, 1.3 SPG), Seton Hall (Randolph, N.J.)

Jr. G R.J. Cole (21.4 PPG, 6.4 APG), UConn (Union, N.J.)

So. G Scottie Lewis (8.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, Florida (Hazlet, N.J.)

So. G/F Jared Rhoden (9.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG), Seton Hall (Baldwin, L.I.)

Sr. G Keith Williams (12.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, Cincinnati (Brooklyn)

Third Team

So. F Julian Champagnie (9.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG), St. John’s (Brooklyn)

So. F Justin Champagnie (12.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG), Pittsburgh (Brooklyn)

Jr. G/F Alan Griffin (8.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG), Syracuse (Ossining, N.Y.)

Jr. G Marcus Hammond (14.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG), Niagara (Queens)

So. F Isaac Kante (11.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG), Hofstra (Brooklyn)

Zach’s Haggerty Pick: Sr. G Geo Baker, Rutgers

Zach’s All-Met First Team:

Sr. G Zach Cooks, NJIT

So. F Julian Champagnie, St. John’s

Jr. F Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers

Sr. F Sandro Mamukelashvili, Seton Hall

Sr. G Jalen Ray, Hofstra

Howie’s Haggerty Pick: Sr. F Sandro Mamukelashvili, Seton Hall

Howie’s All-Met First Team:

Sr. G Geo Baker, Rutgers

So. F Julian Champagnie, St. John’s

Jr. F Ty Flowers, LIU

Jr. G Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers

Jr. F Isaac Kante, Hofstra

Local Predictions

A Posh start for Alexander

The early returns have been overwhelmingly positive for Posh Alexander, a sign of what’s to come for St. John’s 6-foot freshman point guard. The attacking Brooklyn native is perfect for Mike Anderson’s uptempo style, a pass-first floor general and dogged defender who’ll win Big East Freshman of the Year honors.

The Pride parties for real

Hofstra provided one of the few memorable March moments last year, winning its first CAA crown and securing its first NCAA Tournament berth in 19 years, before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the postseason. Despite the graduation of stars Eli Pemberton and Desure Buie, Hofstra was picked to finish first atop the CAA, a nod to the strong core returning, led by forward Isaac Kante and guards Tareq Coburn and Jalen Ray.

Rick Pitino is here to stay

Iona will start slow, with just four returning players and a two-week COVID-19 pause. By March, though, Pitino will have the Gaels looking formidable, while falling just short to Siena in the MAAC title game. The 68-year-old Hall of Famer will make good on his promise this will be his last job, refusing to even listen to a few high-major suitors.

LIU cuts another net

Last season, the newly branded Sharks — formerly the Blackbirds — failed to live up to their preseason hype, finishing fifth in league play, before bowing out in the Northeast Conference Tournament semifinals. A second season together for NEC Player of the Year candidate/senior forward Ty Flowers (14.3 points, 9.6 rebounds) and junior guard Jermaine Jackson Jr. (11.6 points, 3.1 assists) will allow this group to fulfill its potential. For the second time in four years, coach Derek Kellogg will take the team dancing.

Fordham finally moves on

Without the pandemic, Jeff Neubauer likely wouldn’t be at Fordham anymore. But with the sport in disarray this spring, the 49-year-old was permitted to coach out the final year of his contract, given one more chance to prove he wasn’t the school’s latest bad decision. After going 15-55 in the Atlantic 10 the past three seasons, Neubauer will close out his forgettable six-year run with his fourth straight last-place finish.

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