NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Senior Juvaris Hayes and fourth-year head coach Joe Gallo received major awards from the Northeast Conference (NEC) on Tuesday as Hayes was named NEC Defensive Player of the Year and Gallo was named Jim Phelan Coach of the Year after leading the program to the 2020 NEC Regular Season Championship. Hayes was also named to the NEC’s all-conference first team.
Hayes’ defensive numbers made national headlines throughout the year as he led the country in steals and set a new NCAA record for career thefts, ending the regular season with 457 career steals. He led the entire NCAA in both steal percentage (6.5) and total thefts (121); his 121 steals in 2019-20 are the third most in NEC single-season history. He also led the NCAA and the NEC in steals per game (4.9) and posted nine separate games this season with at least five steals.
Gallo led the Warriors to a 20-win season for a third straight year, a 14-4 NEC record and a NEC Regular Season Championship – the first in school history. Making their Division I debut, Gallo led the Warriors to a record-setting campaign that included setting a new wins record by a first-year reclassifying institution to Division I. Under Gallo’s tutelage, the Warriors became the first program ever to win an outright conference regular season title in its first Division I campaign, and has surpassed the 80-win plateau over his first four years on Merrimack’s sidelines. Gallo was the unanimous selection for NEC Coach of the Year.
Merrimack’s point guard also earned a spot on the all-league first team following his superb all-around debut season in the NEC. Hayes ended the season as the NEC’s leader in assists per game, dishing out 198 through 31 games for an average of 6.4 per contest. Offensively, he averaged 10.7 points per game, ending the year with double-digit scoring performances in six of his final seven contests. He concluded the regular season as the Warriors’ team leader in assists (6.4), rebounds (4.7) and steals (3.9), serving as the catalyst of the team’s offensive and defensive game plans. In his career, Hayes is the program’s all-time assists and steals leader while ranking in the top-10 in both career points and career rebounds.
Gallo, Hayes and the rest of the Warriors will continue practice this week as they await their postseason fate, which will see Merrimack likely play in one of the various playoff tournaments available to Division I basketball programs later this March.