Nick McAdam, Sports Editor
First-year player Thomas Morreale won the Eastern College Athletic Conference Rookie of the Month award for January after averaging 15.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
Morreale has averaged 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game on the season, which leads all first-year players in the Empire 8 conference and is the second-most for Utica as a team. In January, he posted his best outing of 31 points against The Sage Colleges while collecting a double-double.
The Whitesboro native has started in 19 games for 605 minutes so far on the season, which according to the player, has become a part of the surprise of playing here and winning the award.
“I just came into this year trying to work hard and do the best that I could to help the team succeed,” Morreale said. “I found out through social media and was very surprised but excited to receive such an award.”
Morreale has totaled 136 rebounds, 17 steals and 18 blocks. Offensively, he averages 77% from the free-throw line and is shooting .436 from the three-point line, going 34 for 78.
Despite this, the award still came as a real surprise to Morreale who didn’t have a lot of expectations for himself going into the season. To go along with winning Rookie of the Month, Morreale has claimed three ECAC Rookie of the Week awards in a span of one month.
“I feel honored to win such a prestigious award because going into this year I had no expectation of winning any of these awards,” Morreale said.
Overall, Morreale is in the top 15 of the Empire 8 in scoring, rebounding and three-point field goals.
All of the accolades, rankings and success wouldn’t be possible without the help of his teammates, according to the six foot five inch forward.
“Without them, I wouldn’t get opportunities to do what I have done, and they are the ones who make it happen,” Morreale said.
Undoubtedly, Morreale’s contributions have been a part of the root of the team’s success in the season. At the moment, Utica holds a record of 17-6 while going 8-4 in conference play. The team holds a 9-2 record at home and a 7-2 away record, combining for a win percentage around 70%.
The Pioneers hold third place in the Empire 8, trailing St. John Fisher and Nazareth College.
Regardless, Utica claimed their spot to postseason play in a Senior Day win over Alfred University about two weeks ago. The team has dropped its past two games, but have gone 12-5 with Morreale in the starting lineup.
Goals for Morreale going forward are to keep working both on and off the court and secure an Empire 8 Championship in the near future. Utica will get a shot at the end of February with the potential opponent of St. John Fisher looking more realistic by the day.
After school, Morreale would like to involve basketball in his life if the opportunity ever came up. The player would like to pursue a career in math education after school and at the moment, is pursuing a degree in mathematics at the College.
Utica travels to the state capitol this weekend to play The Sage Colleges, the team that Morreale put up his career-best numbers in his young college career.