Zieja is Amherst's all-time leading scorer with 1,670 career points (and counting).
Zieja Named NESCAC Player of the Year; Harper Defensive Player of the Year; Fitzsimons Second-Team All-NESCAC
March 4, 2003
AMHERST, MA - Amherst College senior forward Steve Zieja (Hadley, MA) was named the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men’s Basketball Player of the Year on Tuesday, as selected by the conference’s head coaches. Zieja, a first-team pick for the second straight season after earning second-team honors as a sophomore, heads a list of three Amherst players to earn All-NESCAC honors. Junior guard Adam Harper (Washington, DC) and senior center Pat Fitzsimons (Durham, NC) were named second-team all-conference. Harper was also voted the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Amherst’s three all-conference selections were the most of any school in the NESCAC. Conference champion Williams College placed two players on the first team, juniors Ben Coffin and Mike Crotty, while Tufts University had both a first- and second-team selection, senior Mike McGlynn and sophomore Craig Coupe.
A two-year captain and preseason All-American, Zieja was recently named one of ten national finalists for the Jostens Trophy, awarded annually to the outstanding men’s and women’s basketball players in NCAA Division III. He is the leading scorer in Amherst history with 1,670 points (and counting) and, along with fellow senior tri-captains Fitzsimons and Ryan Faulkner (Lebanon, NH), has helped lead the Jeffs to a school-record 85 wins, back-to-back NESCAC Championships (in 2001 and 2002) and four straight NCAA Tournament berths. He was recently named Verizon Academic All-District for the second straight year, is a finalist for Academic All-America consideration and was a First-Team All-Region, All-ECAC and All-District pick as a junior. Zieja is currently second in the NESCAC in free throw percentage (.819), fourth in scoring (17.6 ppg), eighth in field goal percentage (.515) and 16th in rebounding (6.2 rpg).
Fitzsimons is a repeat second-team selection and leads the Jeffs in rebounding (7.9 rpg), blocked shots (64) and field goal percentage (.714) despite missing nine games with an injured hamstring. He earned both NESCAC and ECAC Player of the Week honors earlier this season, averaging 17.7 points and 13.3 rebounds in a trio of home victories over Clark University, Springfield College and Westfield State. Fitzsimons is Amherst’s all-time leader with 221 career blocked shots, is 13th on the college’s career scoring list with 1,037 points and owns school records for blocks in a game (10 at Lasell on 1/22/02), blocks in a season (76 in 2001-02) and single-season field goal percentage (.664 in 2001-02). He paced the NESCAC and finished second in the nation in field goal percentage as a junior, while leading the conference in blocked shots and finishing third in rebounding.
Harper has had a monstrous junior campaign, especially on the defensive end, where he leads the NESCAC and is fourth in the nation in steals per game (3.73). He’s also 11th in the conference in free throw percentage (.759), 13th in blocks (0.69 bpg) and 20th in scoring (12.4 ppg) and set an Amherst single-game record with 11 steals in a 74-57 win over visiting WPI. Furthermore, with 97 steals on the season, Harper is just six shy of the college’s single-season record, set by Keith Poopor in 1995-96. Harper led the NESCAC in steals (2.5 spg) as a sophomore and was named to the 2001-02 NCAA Tournament All-Sectional Team after pouring in a game-high 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting in Amherst's season-ending "Sweet 16" loss at SUNY-Brockport.
After bowing to visiting Williams 74-70 in the NESCAC Tournament championship game, the Jeffs, now 22-4, secured an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they’ll host a second-round game this Saturday at 7 p.m. against the winner of Thursday’s first-round matchup between Southern Vermont and Lasell College.
2002-03 NESCAC Men’s Basketball All-Conference Team
Ben Coffin (Jr. - forward) Williams
Mike Crotty (Jr. -guard) Williams
Kanem Johnson (Jr. - forward) Wesleyan
Mike McGlynn (Sr. - guard) Tufts
Steve Zieja (Sr. - forward) Amherst
Nate Anderson (Jr. - forward) Middlebury
Craig Coupe (So. - center) Tufts
Pat Fitzsimons (Sr. - center) Amherst
Adam Harper (Jr. - guard) Amherst
C.J. Neely (Sr. - forward) Bates
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Tyler Rhoten (Fr. - forward) Trinity
COACH OF THE YEAR
Dave Paulsen - Williams