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Cushing Has a Veteran Presence

September 17, 2010 Columns No Comments

ASHBURNHAM, Mass. – For the past few years, Cushing Academy has seemingly been a perpetually young team. This year’s team isn’t loaded with seniors, but there’s a little more experience among the top players, and in the new-look NEPSAC Class AA they figure to be a very competitive team.

James Kennedy (6’6″ Sr. PF, Dorchester (MA)) is the most experienced player and one who’s shown a good deal of improvement since the end of last season. He spent a lot of time getting into better shape, and it shows as he is much-improved athletically with a hop to his step not previously seen. Skill-wise, he is still a little in between positions, but he’s shown improvement there with some added range on his jumper and he made a few good passes on Thursday. The Boston University commit is on his way to getting better.

Egi Gjikondi (6’9″ Jr. PF, Malden (MA)) is back to join him in the frontcourt after making nice strides during the off-season. Now more of a factor at the defensive end, especially the glass, he spent some time on Thursday doing individual activity before getting into game action and showing off an improved touch shooting the ball from mid-range and finishing assertively. Physically, he’s still not there yet but has developed since arriving on campus a year ago.

Two newcomers will help in the frontcourt. Andrew Chrabascz (6’6″ So. PF, Portsmouth (RI)) is familiar to Kennedy and Gjikondi as he also plays in the BABC program, and he gives the team a fundamentally sound player who plays well within the team concept. Chrabascz spent time on the perimeter on Thursday, having a mixed day shooting the ball. Felix Magnusson (6’7″ Jr. SF-PF, Sweden) is a lanky forward who finished well, including while fouled, and should function well playing off some of the other players.

The perimeter will be led by Jared Johnson (6’1″ Jr. PG, Springfield (MA)), who returns for his second season. He is now in better shape, the result of consistently running with Gjikondi, and he was more aggressive going to the basket. For good measure, he showed more of a touch shooting the ball as well, while not veering much from running the show.

Kyle Callanan (6’3″ Sr. PG, Bennington (VT)) is a lefty shooter who could get some open looks from the attention the others draw, and may get some low Division I looks. The youngest player on the team to watch is Idris Taqqee (6’1″ Fr. PG, Boston (MA)). A baby physically, he’s athletic and knocked down a couple of three-point shots in Thursday’s workout, and also made a nice baseline jumper while getting fouled. Down the road, he could be one of the next stars in this program.

Cushing will add a few players from the football team once the season begins. Right now, they don’t work out with the basketball team due to their commitment on the gridiron.

They won’t be the favorites in Class AA, but Cushing has enough talent and experience now to be dangerous. Add in the fact that several have played together in the off-season, and at the very least this team could be a dark horse.

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