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2013 BABC Holiday Classic – Friday notes

December 28, 2013 Columns No Comments

ROXBURY, Mass. – The first day of games at the 2013 BABC Holiday Classic is in the books. Now an event with three days of games, after starting life as a tournament, the 18th incarnation of it featured three teams from outside of Massachusetts and a homecoming for a coach returning to the high school landscape this year. With four games done, there was some good action to see and some good stories to take note of on the day.

Friday scoreboard

Hyde Park (MA) New Mission School 67, Nashua (NH) Bishop Guertin 48
Cambridge (MA) Rindge & Latin School 78, Springfield (MA) Central HS 46
Windsor (CT) School 65, East Boston (MA) High 64
Warwick (RI) Bishop Hendricken 58, Dorchester (MA) High 51

Murray keys New Mission’s fast-paced victory

Asante Sandiford (6’4″ Sr. SF) led all scorers with 23 points in New Mission’s win over Bishop Guertin to open the day. The Franklin Pierce-bound wing could easily have had over 30 considering he didn’t finish several good chances near the basket. But classmate Shaquan Murray (6’1″ Sr. SG) is emerging more and more among the senior class, and Friday was just the latest instance of it.

New Mission coach Cory McCarthy mainly describes Murray as their scorer, the guy they could look to for 20 a game if need be. He certainly can do that, and he showed it at times in his 11-point outing on Friday, one where he didn’t need to go for 20. But he was in so many plays at both ends of the court and also handled the ball often, to the point where it’s not hard to see him developing into a combo guard.

Murray is not jet-quick, but he finds gaps and has shown he can pass on the move. His scoring tools are certainly there, as he hit from mid-range and long range, and his ability to drive helps, too. As he handles the ball more, he seems to get a better feel all the time for how to mix initiating the offense, getting others involved and finding his shot.

New Mission was able to speed up Bishop Guertin right from the outset, and it was never really a ballgame. Murray was at the nerve center of it all, and he figures to be a big key to what they do all season long and not just with scoring.


Cambridge is well-balanced with a deep backcourt

Cambridge Rindge & Latin was in control pretty much throughout their blowout of Springfield Central, and their array of guards had a lot to do with it. They got contributions from a lot of players and at several different times, and it wasn’t just top prospect Isaiah McLeod (6’1″ Jr. SG), although he certainly had a good day with 12 points.

Early on, Diandre Shoulder-Williams (Jr. SG) was the star, scoring seven of his 13 points in the first quarter as Cambridge ran out to a 16-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. Later, it was the likes of Demitrius Woodson (Jr. PG-SG) making nice lead passes and finishing the break. Jakigh Dottin (Fr. PG) mixed in solid play, driving and then either finding a teammate or getting fouled, while also getting a stickback.

The perimeter talent isn’t all, however. The best stat line of the day was posted by Fredens Deneus (6’5″ Sr. SF-PF), who had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Deneus has some length, is a plus athlete and was very active, and he’s also coachable. He needs to upgrade the skill package for the wing, but it’s not hard to envision him playing there one day while first being a more athletic option at power forward. For good measure, junior Tevin Charles chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds in a nice effort.

If this game is any indication, Lance Dottin’s team can go far this season. His backcourt will lead the way, but they have plenty of support, and this team has plenty of balance.


This isn’t the Charlestown teams of a decade ago

Jack O’Brien is back in the high school coaching ranks this year, and his return to Boston wasn’t a pleasant one as his team was blown out. While it is just his first year, a quick look shows this team – especially considering its most talented player – isn’t exactly the type of team he’s won big with. That will make this team’s progress a story to keep an eye on.

O’Brien has someone with potential in Chris Baldwin (6’8″ Jr. PF), but also a potential headache. Baldwin has shown flashes over the years, but not consistently, and he seems to love drifting away from the basket despite not really having the skill package for it. On Friday, he played relatively limited minutes, and when he was on the court he was not much of a factor, as he settled for a corner three-pointer that missed one time and then quickly lost the ball trying to make a post move another time. He had eight points, and that seemed like a lot.

Even if you put aside that Baldwin has been something of an under-achiever thus far and seems to have peaked early, this might not be a match made in heaven anyway. O’Brien won mainly with teams full of guards that he could press teams into submission with. The Charlestown teams he won state titles with often went 10-12 deep with fresh bodies, mostly guards, coming in and out of the game to keep pushing the pace. He rarely had a top player even remotely approaching a big man.

This Springfield Central team is not loaded with talent. However, western Massachusetts isn’t very strong save for Putnam, so this team could still make a run in March. It might be just enough to set the stage for the future as O’Brien gets settled as the coach. It’s a lot of work for him, as he teaches in Boston during the day and then drives out to Springfield to coach, but he’s wanted a chance to coach again for a while and has it now.


Younger Mazzulla has plenty of potential

One of the better players to come out of Rhode Island in the past decade is Joe Mazzulla. Now a coach at Fairmont State in West Virginia, he’s settled into life in that state after a solid career playing for Bob Huggins at West Virginia. His younger brother, Justin Mazzulla (6’1″ Fr. SG), is following in Joe’s footsteps at Bishop Hendricken and starting as a freshman, and right now is very much a “potential” player.

The younger Mazzulla has some length, one of the first things you’ll notice about him. Watch him play, and you’ll see he also lacks strength right now, not surprising given his youth. In fact, on one play on Friday you saw both, as he used his length to get a loose ball and then couldn’t finish from a lack of strength. That will be remedied in time, no doubt.

Mazzulla only scored eight points in his team’s comeback win on Friday, but like anything else with him right now that is probably only a tease to what he can be down the road. He also showed nice passing ability, finished while fouled on a late play and also hit a long jumper off the bounce, so he’s not lacking skills right now.

It’s early in his career, but given who his brother is, his body and the skills he has now, Mazzulla is going to be a prospect worth watching. There is a lot of upside, and a lot of reason to think he will grow as a player over the next three-plus years.


Neale adjusting to sudden change of school

In the fall, it looked like Markus Neale (6’1″ Sr. SG) would be back at West Roxbury for one more year as expected. He played with their team in the Beantown Slam fall league, as he had done the prior three seasons. Then an off-court incident involving some kids he knew came about, and because of safety issues, he was out the door and off to Dorchester High School as a safety transfer.

“That had nothing to do with basketball,” said his father, Joseph Neale.

Indeed, if basketball was a reason for him to leave the school, it probably would have happened sooner. He came in as part of a heralded group a few years ago, and he was the only one left by the time last season began. It would have made all the sense in the world for him to join them, but he stayed around because loyalty is one of the young man’s traits.

Neale started the season coming off the bench, but Dorchester coach Johnny Williams moved him into the starting lineup on Friday. The senior responded, as did classmate Dean Lee, who moved to the bench and in some ways might be better since his specialty is shooting. Neale scored 18 points, shooting the ball well from mid-range and long range while also getting a couple of old-fashioned three-point plays. It was perhaps the best game he’s put together in a while.

The skilled guard has had his ups and downs in developing since he began his high school career. He has played some point, but looks more and more at home off the ball given that he seems to be a natural scorer, which he showed on Friday. A strong senior season could help his recruitment, and Friday could prove to be a turning point to that end.


Other notes

  • Tyrique Lee (5’7″ So. PG, New Mission) will never wow you with his offensive skill package, but he’ll be one of those nice high school players as he’s tough and will defend anyone.
  • Cambridge also has a promising freshman in Daniel Rymer (6’7″ Fr. PF), who isn’t quite ready for major minutes but has a good body.
  • Ira Lough (Jr. SF-PF, Warwick (RI) Bishop Hendricken) didn’t have a lot of success inside against a team that doesn’t have much size, but he showed a touch shooting the ball from deep. His body isn’t there yet, and despite his struggles inside he did get a key stickback using his left (off) hand en route to 12 points on the afternoon.
  • Windsor High School lost its big man before the season as his family moved, leaving the team without much size. That means the team has to share the ball offensively and play as a unit defensively, and the former starts with Tyler Rowe (Sr. PG), a small floor leader who can pass on the move well and be a pesky defender. He can also play out of character, and when that happens the offense suffers.
  • Chaunce Dunbar (6’3″ Sr. SG-SF) impressed as much as anyone for Windsor, scoring 14 points including a couple of three-pointers. He has a decent frame and can score in the flow of the offense. Teammate Tynique Woods-Culver (6’1″ Sr. SG) shot the ball well, hitting four three-pointers for 12 points.
  • Raekwon Cole (Jr. SG) had a nice afternoon for East Boston in the losing effort, as he looks like he could be a combo guard down the road and is a plus athlete. He scored a game-high 16 points, scoring in several ways.

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