SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Potential. You hear the word a lot, especially when it comes to evaluating talent in any sport. It’s heard even more when it’s talent that’s far from being fully harnessed, and naturally it comes up more with younger players.
In New England prep school basketball, perhaps no school has had that word associated with it more in the last year than Commonwealth Academy. It is the operative word for multiple reasons when talking about this team. Tony Bergeron, a native of Springfield, has a lot of talent in his gym on a daily basis, and it’s young – they have no juniors or seniors in the entire program. So the word “potential” is a big one for this team.
Watch them go through an early workout, and you can see talent, but also that for the most part, they don’t know the game yet. With an overall lack of experience, leadership can easily be a concern as well. That means growing pains will be part of this season.
The most noteworthy name on the roster might be Hasahn French (6’6″ So. PF), who has been on a few radars already. The lefty has a good body and is a plus athlete, and on this team he might be a leader if Wednesday night’s workout is any indication as he was about as vocal as anyone. His primary help in the frontcourt starts with Jordan Hardwick (6’7″ So. PF), who is long and blocked his share of shots on Wednesday night. Deandre Leslie (6’4″ So. SF), who was in a lot of plays, is another sophomore who will be in the mix, though perhaps more on the wing. Two freshmen who will get a chance will be Arashma Parks (6’7″ Fr. PF), who has a good frame and a body that will fill out more, and Julian Mincey (6’9″ Fr. PF-C), who has a wide body and needs to improve his conditioning.
While Chandler Jones (6’5″ So. SF) figures to have a significant role after getting a chance last year, he has plenty of help on the wing. Leslie will be in the mix, as will Kyle Rivera (6’4″ So. SF) and Quan Roberson (6’3″ So. SG-SF), the latter of whom looks like he can play a little bigger than his size. They also have Tim Thomas (6’4″ So. SG-SF), a left-handed shooter, along with Devandre Edmonds (6’3″ Fr. SF), who comes with a good reputation from the junior high ranks.
They won’t be lacking options in the backcourt, especially at the point. Shyhiem Hicks (6’1″ So. PG) and Jordan Vidal (5’11” So. PG) are perhaps the two most notable names as both have developed reputations on the travel circuit. Hicks got in the lane and found teammates a few times on Wednesday, while Vidal has a good body he can use when he gets in the lane. There is also Derrick Ellis (5’10” So. PG), whose body has a ways to go but is speedy with the ball, and Anthony Kelley (5’9″ Fr. PG) showed promise but has a long way to go physically. All of them will have their share of growing pains as they gain experience and start to figure out the game.
Veteran guards who will also be in the mix are Malik Pouncey (6’2″ So. SG) and Kendall Baldwin (6’1″ So. PG-SG), and joining them will be Mike Hardwick (5’10” Fr. PG) and Jordan Mason (6’1″ Fr. PG-SG).
Beyond the freshmen and sophomores, the program has some nice talent in the seventh and eighth grade that will be seen later. When the first group of players, now sophomores, enters their senior season, these players will be in high school with the older group.
As was the case last year, Commonwealth Academy will play in a number of in-season events as part of a challenging slate. At the time of this writing, they are still filling out their schedule. The school has recently received NEASC accreditation and has applied for NEPSAC membership, a matter to be determined soon (as will be the case with Putnam Science Academy as noted on Wednesday).
The program is not lacking talent, and as young as they are, there is plenty of potential. There’s that word again – and it will be mentioned often with this team. While the future looks brighter than this year for the Tornadoes, growth will be important, even if it doesn’t translate into more wins. That will be the case for this season’s potential as much as for that down the road, because this season still matters for this team. Bergeron is surely emphasizing that, as he’s been in the game a long time and knows that there are less pleasant problems to deal with than that of having a lot of talent and potential.