NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The steady rise of the Brooks School in recent years nearly had a big highlight last season. For the fourth year in a row, they finished second in the Independent School League (ISL). They have gone from 17-8 in 2011-12 to 18-6 a year later and 21-6 last year. That got them into the NEPSAC Class B Tournament, where they pulled out two overtime thrillers to reach the championship. There, Cheshire Academy took home a 66-56 win.
Last season’s 21 wins marked a school record. This year’s team has a lot of key pieces among their ten players returning, so there’s every reason to think they can get back there again. The competition will be stiff, as always, but there’s a lot to like about this team even after viewing them a bit short-handed due to a few two-sport athletes who had a game.
From a personnel standpoint, John McVeigh’s team will likely be anchored by two key players. At one time, one seemed likely to be in such a role, the other decidedly unlikely.
The latter would be Charlie Crockett (6’9″ Sr. PF-C, Norwood (MA)), who will anchor the post. He’s developed steadily, and on Wednesday he did what he should do often at these workouts: dominate. He was aggressive and assertive, using his size as he was rarely guarded by anyone within four inches of his height, and in all looks to have continued some of the growth he showed in the spring and summer.
The more likely anchor is floor leader Ikenna Ndugba (6’0″ Jr. PG, Boston (MA)), who returns for his third season at the school. It’s not a surprise that he will be in a key role, as he’s been on the radar since before high school, and already has two years of Nike EYBL experience behind him. A big key will be finding the balance between looking to score more, something that will be a little new to him, and continuing to get teammates involved.
Ndugba will have help on the perimeter, starting with Lavar Harewood (6’2″ Sr. SG, Brooklyn (NY)). A plus athlete with a good frame, he looks to be more of a scorer than a shooter, though he has shot the ball better than he did on Wednesday. Dontae Christian (6’0″ Sr. PG, New York (NY)) and Ethan Gabert-Doyon (6’1″ So. PG-SG, Montreal (Que.)) return, and both will play key roles. Christian has a small body but shot the ball well and has started often in his career. Gabert-Doyon has grown physically in the last year, which has him on a few more colleges’ radars, and hit a couple of shots from deep on Wednesday.
Don’t be surprised if newcomer Isaiah Godwin (5’10” So. PG) makes his way into the rotation. He didn’t work out on Wednesday due to a soccer game, but he’s an unselfish point guard who could give Ndugba some rest to stay fresh for key minutes and keep the team going. Kyle Neyman (So. PG, North Andover (MA)) did not work out on Wednesday as he plays football, but will be in the mix at that spot as well.
The wing will be headlined by a couple of players who didn’t work out on Wednesday in Tamenang Choh (6’4″ So. SG-SF, Lowell (MA)) and Cesar Adim (6’4″ Jr. SF, Boston (MA)). Choh is a defensive back and wide receiver on the football team and nursing a minor groin injury, while Adim scored a goal in the soccer team’s win on the afternoon. Both return from last season’s team. The one wing who did work out on Wednesday was Jalen Martinez (Jr. SG-SF), a thick wing who battled and whose game appears to be rough around the edges. A fullback and linebacker on the gridiron, Martinez plays hard and really tests his teammates in workouts and practice with his effort.
Joining Crockett up front will first be another holdover, Aser Ghebremichael (6’7″ Sr. SF-PF, Somerville (MA)), who has a slight frame and some length. He shoots the ball well enough that a defender has to respect it, as he made some open looks he got on Wednesday. Keigan Kirby (6’6″ Fr. SF), another soccer player, rounds out the unit and should compete for minutes right away.
The big keys appear to be how Ndugba manages games, how Crockett continues to develop and use his size the many times he’ll have an advantage, and how well the others play off them.
As is appropriate for a veteran team like this, Brooks will have some challenging games outside of their ISL and NEPSAC Class B schedule. They open the slate at Northfield Mount Hermon, then later play two games in the St. Andrew’s Holiday Classic. They also play two-time defending Class A champ Phillips Exeter at home, and they have Beaver Country Day School, a primary Class B challenger who they have had some classic battles with of late, on the road.
Last season’s near-championship team was relatively young. That’s not the case now, as this is an experienced team, one that won some key games but also carries the sting of disappointment from losing in the championship. Brooks made the Class B semifinals for the fourth straight year, finally breaking through with a win in that game after three losses. This season, they may have enough to make one more breakthrough.