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Attempting Another Title, Tilton Has Youth, But Experience as Well

September 11, 2010 Columns No Comments

TILTON, N.H. – Our prep school tour began on Saturday with a trip to a school that has done a lot of winning lately. NEPSAC will have a new look this season, but the last three Class B titles were won by the Tilton School, and in 2009 they also took home a national championship. The talent and experience on this roster – the latter of which might sound odd considering they have two post-graduates and a host of underclassmen – suggest that a title in the first season of the new-look NEPSAC may not be out of the question.

The core of the team is unquestionably five players from the BABC team that took home a 16-under national championship in July. That winning experience will surely go a long way with this group.

The two post-graduates will both get time at the point guard spot and some interest at the low Division I level. Tilton has won with a small sparkplug point guard each of the past two seasons, and they will try to do it again this year. If this workout is any indication, Aaron Law (5’11” Sr. PG, Chapel Hill (NC)) appears to be the favorite to start. Well-built with a good upper body, he competed all morning long as he wasn’t afraid to go inside with the trees. He moved well without the ball, which is not something that normally stands out about a point guard, as he often got open and got the ball near the basket for a score. Tony Lester (5’11” Sr. PG, Charlotte (NC)) will also get some minutes there, and he had some good moments on the day guarding Law most of the time. Lester has a mature body and knocked down a couple of three-point shots along the way.

Mike Swanson (6’4″ Jr. SF-PF, Londonderry (NH)) is the other key role player on the roster. He got a couple of stickbacks and was active, and figures to get some minutes along the way.

The best prospect among the core of the team is newcomer Nerlens Noel (6’10” So. C, Everett (MA)). Noel had a terrific spring and summer despite playing a lot of it on one leg, and as he got healthier he got better and more confident. He’s very long and athletic, and now he’s more aggressive at the offensive end. At times on Saturday he dominated the glass and is capable of taking over games with his shot-blocking, but it’s the signs of offensive development that show where he can go. A year ago, he had little post offense to speak of, but he showed a few moves on Saturday that illustrate his development there. It certainly needs to continue, just like he needs to get stronger, but the signs right now are encouraging and he’s one of the top prospects nationally in the class of 2013.

Noel will be joined up front by a couple of holdovers. Georges Niang (6’6″ Jr. PF, Methuen (MA)) has improved nicely since last year, and as a result the offers are coming in from colleges as he now has about a half dozen from Division I schools. The word “efficient” is often used by coaches to describe him, and it certainly fits as he almost always knows what to do with the ball. His body is getting better and he continues to show a real nose for the ball with a lot of boards at both ends, and he’s running the floor better as well. He went out of character a couple of times by not getting the ball to a guard in transition, but those were aberrations as he usually gets rid of it to a guard right away.

Goodluck Okonoboh (6’8″ So. PF, Boston (MA)) is the other holdover up front. The fundamentals are there for him to be a strong post scorer, as although he traveled a couple of times on post moves on Saturday the mobility he has inside is excellent. His body isn’t there yet and there are times he looks like he could stand to get tougher. It’s clear he’s been trying to expand his shooting range, as he faced the basket often on Saturday and had mixed results with the face-up jumpers he took.

Dominique Bull (6’3″ Jr. SG, Worcester (MA)) joins the team this year, but he’s not new to several teammates from his days with BABC. Bull has a man’s body and made a good improvement in the spring and summer, especially in transition. He showed more of that on Saturday, and continues to work to improve his jump shot as that has long been a weak spot. Saturday wasn’t much different in that regard as his jumper wasn’t going until late in the day. Right now, his college interest is a mixed bag at the Division I level, with a little from high-majors and a lot from mid-majors.

The other newcomer is Wayne Selden (6’3″ Fr. PG-SG, Roxbury (MA)). Another well-built guard, his upper body is ahead of his lower body, which could use more development. Selden has undeniable talent and athleticism and mainly has to play with a competitive motor when he’s out there as it makes a big difference in his performance. He showed some of the talent on Saturday as he knocked down a couple of mid-range pull-up jumpers and overpowered another defender to finish on another play. Though he has some tools to play both guard spots, he’ll need to improve his ball handling if he is to play the point guard spot down the road.

If the BABC players all keep growing and the Rams get the play at the point guard spot they have had the past two years, a fourth straight NEPSAC title, this time in the new Class AA, is not out of the question with this team. Although there is not a “big three” like there was two years ago, last season the Rams didn’t need it to win, and this team is perhaps a little deeper.

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