PUTNAM, Conn. – Before last season, Putnam Science Academy had been building slowly but surely into a solid program, one who would have a team to be reckoned with every year. They had talent, perhaps more than they ever had, so it looked like a good year could be ahead. Most of all, though, by March they had the results.
After a 29-5 season that included an appearance in the National Prep Championship, Putnam Science is firmly on the map. They beat several NEPSAC Class AAA teams along the way and were ranked in the top five in one prep school poll. The off-season built on this, as the school received NEASC accreditation and is now applying to join NEPSAC.
Tom Espinosa, the only head coach and athletic director in the school’s history, is a tireless worker. Not only has he led the charge to get them on the map by building relationships, but he makes his players accountable. That was even on display on the first live day, when he was laying out how his players are to carry themselves on the court. He has very good talent and depth at his disposal this time around, so he is very ready to build on last season’s breakout.
The riches are most notable on the perimeter, where the intangibles look good. Kealen Ives (5’9″ Sr. PG, Providence (RI)) got better as Tuesday night’s workout went on and may be the likely leader at the point. He finished the summer playing well and hopes to carry that into his post-graduate season. Taylor Smith (6’1″ Sr. PG, Vancouver (BC)), who sat out scrimmage action with a minor shoulder issue, is a well-built floor leader who has already impressed the staff as a hard worker. Ertugrul Gazi (5’10” Sr. PG, Istanbul (Turkey)), who has a good frame and relatively mature body, will also be in the mix at that spot.
The player with the most potential this season might be Josh Wallace (6’3″ Sr. PG-SG, Queens (NY)), who has a mature body and showed some toughness during a lot of the night. While he figures to play mostly off the ball, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he occasionally brings the ball up. He doesn’t have the ceiling of others on the team, but he’s most ready to help now.
On the opposite end of the scale is Hamidou Diallo (6’4″ So. SG, Queens (NY)), who has a ways to go to reach his ceiling. A baby physically, he has some length and will drive all day, and as his body matures he’ll only get more effective there.
The wing will also include Aaron Robinson (6’5″ Sr. SG-SF, Silver Spring (MD)) and twin brother Andrew Robinson (6’5″ Sr. SG-SF, Silver Spring (MD)), who have committed to Quinnipiac. Both are good students and have relatively mature bodies, though Andrew looked like the better shooter on this night. Both will be key players for the Mustangs before heading down the road to college.
In the post, the Mustangs have the only holdover from last season in Mamadou Diarra (6’8″ Jr. PF, Queens (NY)). A charismatic young man with a good body, he seemed to play away from the basket quite a bit, and while he has some tools there he looks like he can be more effective inside. He’ll be joined by Vincent Eze (6’8″ Sr. PF, Bethlehem (PA)) and Dondre Rhoden (6’5″ Sr. PF, Ridgefield Park (NJ)). Eze showed a lot of promise, playing stronger than he looks and showing some quick post moves. Rhoden, a good student, is an undersized but well-built left-hander who will help them.
As has been the case over the years, the Mustangs will play an ambitious schedule. Special events on tap include the National Prep Showcase, Best Western Caisson Shootout in Virginia, the National Prep School Invitational, BallasTV Invitational and Brewster Academy Showcase, where they will play the host school and Notre Dame Prep. They will also play several NEPSAC Class AAA schools once again, including South Kent and St. Thomas More both on the road.
The Mustangs have steadily built up to last season’s success. They certainly didn’t do that so they can then fade back, and they have the talent and depth to build on it. There is probably more of both than they had a year ago, and in time we’ll see if they can get the results last season’s team had.