George Mason’s Ryan Pearson named CAA player of the year


George Mason senior Ryan Pearson became the first Patriot to be voted conference player of the year since 2001, when George Evans won the award for the third consecutive time. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

George Mason’s Ryan Pearson was voted the Colonial Athletic Association’s player of the year, the first Patriot to win the award in 11 years.

Pearson, a 6-foot-6 senior forward averaging 17.8 points and 8.5 rebounds, received 28 of 48 first-place votes from the league’s coaches, sports information directors and select media members. The runner-up was Drexel sophomore guard Frantz Massenat (14 votes), who leads the first-place Dragons in scoring (13.5) and assists (4.5) and is the CAA’s best three-point shooter (46.6 percent).

The last George Mason player to earn top honors was George Evans, who, in 2001, won his third consecutive CAA award.

Pearson, fifth on George Mason’s career scoring list, has led the Patriots (23-8) in points in 22 games and had a career-high 35 against College of Charleston. He averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds in two meetings with archrival Virginia Commonwealth.

“When you play George Mason, you’re playing Ryan Pearson,” UNC Wilmington Coach Buzz Peterson said last month. “That’s his team.”

Pearson, a Far Rockaway, N.Y., native whose shaggy facial hair inspired a “Fear the Beard” motto on campus this winter, is one of four players in program history with more than 1,500 points, 750 rebounds, 100 assists and 100 steals in a career.

His accomplishments are even more notable when considering the fact that one leg is nearly an inch shorter than the other — the result of injuries suffered when he was hit by a car at age 11. Damage to a growth plate caused his right leg to develop slower than the left. A shoe insert helps provide balance.

Joining Pearson and Massenat on the first team were Old Dominion senior guard Kent Bazemore, Virginia Commonwealth senior guard-forward Bradford Burgess and UNC Wilmington junior forward Keith Rendleman.

Drexel’s James “Bruiser” Flint was named coach of the year for the fourth time in 11 seasons. The Dragons (25-5) set the program record for regular season victories and have won a school-best 17 straight.

Drexel guard Damion Lee (Owings Mills, Md.) was voted the rookie of the year and Bazemore was named the best defender for the second consecutive season.

The CAA tournament will begin Friday at Richmond Coliseum. Drexel, Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason and Old Dominion secured first-round byes, with the third-seeded Patriots awaiting No. 6 Georgia State or No. 11 Hofstra at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

In the other first-round games, No. 5 Delaware will play No. 12 Towson, No. 7 Northeastern will face No. 10 William & Mary and No. 8 James Madison will meet No. 9 UNC Wilmington.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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