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Reilly Likes His Team at Worcester

September 12, 2010 Columns No Comments

WORCESTER, Mass. – The 2010-11 season will be one of change for Worcester Academy. After competing in Class A of NEPSAC for a while, the Hilltoppers will be part of Class AA, which is basically the old Class B with some changes. But it also looks like it will be a season with some very good talent, and head coach Ed Reilly likes the group he has. While he’s always liked the teams he has put together, you get the sense in talking to him that he feels a little better about this group than some others he’s had recently.

The Hilltoppers aren’t loaded with size, but they’re not lacking it, either, and it starts with the tallest player in senior big man Pat Ackerman (6’11” Sr. C, Rutland (MA)). The recent Penn State commit has been getting better of late, and some of it showed on Sunday as he rebounded and knocked down a few jump shots. His body is maturing, and more importantly, he seems to be growing up from an intangibles standpoint as he was rallying the team like a vocal leader. That’s a marked change for a young man who at times in his career has looked easily rattled, and a sign that he’s becoming mentally tougher.

The best talents on the team come on the wing, led by Tavon Allen (6’7″ Sr. SF, New Haven (CT)) and Jerel Scott (6’5″ Sr. SF, Albany (NY)). The two had a little back-and-forth going on Sunday as they often guarded each other, clearly testing the other the entire time. Allen looks like he can pick up where he left off during a solid spring and summer, as the long wing didn’t start out well but took over the second game of the day and was the best player on the floor from that point on. He showed his good touch from long range, while also scoring on the move, notably with shots like a high floater in the lane and another time where he spun around and put up a righty floater on the baseline to finish a break.

For his part, Scott is simply a junkyard dog that competes while on the floor. A plus athlete, his slight frame may fool you as he battles for rebounds and loose balls, playing stronger than he looks. He doesn’t get much lift on his jump shot, but it must be respected and he got a few jump shots to go. The highlight of the day for him was when he hit a tough off-balance jump shot from mid-range after spinning off his man.

Another wing who will get good minutes is Jordan Wejnert (6’6″ Sr. SF-PF, Lavallette (NJ)). Though not as athletic, he’s similar to Scott in that he’s very active and around the ball often. On Sunday, he was constantly in the play and a factor in transition, where he showed his unselfishness and good feel for the game. He’ll need to get stronger, but adding a decent touch shooting the ball to his intangibles means someone at the low Division I level will likely be happy to land him.

Joining Ackerman up front will be a couple of local players in Jose Cruz-Solla (6’7″ Sr. PF, Shrewsbury (MA)) and David Mack (6’6″ Sr. PF, Holden (MA)). Cruz-Solla is an undersized post player with a live, mature body, and he plays well within the team concept. He has some post moves and a little hop when going up, is a plus athlete and his ball skills aren’t bad. Mack is a thick post player who can simply be a bull inside, as he was at times too strong for anyone who guarded him and used it to get some stickbacks. The lefty isn’t the most mobile post player, but he’s not lacking in that area.

The backcourt will feature a pair of underclassmen at the point in Olivier Paul Betu (6’1″ Jr. PG, Montreal (Que.)) and Asur Madison (5’11” Fr. PG, Los Angeles (CA)). Betu is still a baby physically, athletic and active, and on one play he stripped Allen on the baseline to prevent a likely basket. He also had a nice runner in the lane and knocked down a shot from deep along the way. Madison is the point guard of the future. Baby-faced and clearly with a ways to go body-wise, he was not afraid to go inside on Sunday. He lacks strength right now and came up shot on some jumpers, but also knocked a couple down. Reilly is high on him and raved about him before the workout began, so he’ll be worth watching as he develops.

Canaan Severin (6’3″ Jr. SG-SF, Marlborough (MA)) won’t work out with the team during football season but will give them minutes during the basketball season. He is getting recruited at a higher level on the gridiron as a wide receiver and safety. Local boys Josh Peter (5’10” Sr. PG, Worcester (MA)) and Thomas Rivard (6’6″ So. SF, Worcester (MA)) will also see some minutes.

Reilly has a team he likes and some good personnel, especially on the wing. If the point guards give them some production and help make the others better, they should win their fair share of games and at least be a tough out in the NEPSAC Tournament.

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