OAKDALE, Conn. – Step into Jere Quinn’s office at St. Thomas More, and you see the testaments to his many years of coaching. He’s helped make many players better and won a lot of games over the years, largely through a no-nonsense style of coaching. The talent he’s had includes players who didn’t play Division I in college and elite players like Andre Drummond. He’s done it all at a small boys school well away from anything resembling a major city.
The Chancellors always have their fair share of talent, although they are rarely in the discussion for the most talented team in NEPSAC Class AAA. Still, they are always competitive, and there’s no reason to expect this season to be any different, especially as there is good talent for Quinn and his staff to work with.
The most conspicuous Chancellor is recent Connecticut commit Steven Enoch (6’10” Sr. PF-C, Norwalk (CT)). A transfer from his hometown school, he isn’t in the best of shape at the moment as he has been nicked up, but he’s athletic and his body can still mature more. He figures to anchor the interior at both ends of the floor.
He won’t be all they have up front. Ajou Deng (6’9″ Sr. PF, London (England)), who sat out Tuesday’s workout as he has battled tendonitis, returns for his second season at the school. The youngest brother of former Connecticut star Ajou Ajou Deng, he will play a big part in the frontcourt. The only other player resembling a post player is Tsimejei Paraliou (6’9″ Sr. PF, Minsk (Belarus)), a promising stretch-four type whose body has a ways to go but looks adept at finishing with his left (off) hand.
There are plenty of riches on the wing, especially local products, and they start with Ian Gardner (6’5″ Sr. SG-SF, Norwalk (CT)), who is very athletic and active. He was the best player on the floor on Tuesday, shooting well and finishing his drives as he was aggressive the entire time. C.J. Byrd (6’3″ Sr. SG, Greenwich (CT)) is very athletic and was very good at times on Tuesday. E.J. Crawford (6’4″ Jr. SG, Hartford (CT)) has potential, especially if he develops his right hand some, as he can score and is a plus athlete despite appearing to have a bit of bad weight on his body.
Ryan Peterson (6’5″ Sr. SG-SF, Wethersfield (CT)) and Ryan Funk (6’5″ Sr. SG, Clarence (NY)) will probably both get labeled as shooters, but they each have a little more going for them. Peterson has a slight frame but can also finish with contact, while Funk is lanky and more athletic than he might look at first glance. Stephen Millhaven (6’4″ Sr. SG, Port Washington (NY)) had a knee issue during the spring and needs to get in better shape, but the lefty competes and plays with plenty of confidence, which helps him.
Two players who also figure to play a key role were not present on Tuesday, Arkel Ager (6’4″ Jr. SG, Bridgeport (CT)) and Christian Vital (6’1″ Jr. PG-SG, Queens Village (NY)). Both may return soon. Vital transfers in from Vermont Academy.
Two players who are further down the depth chart on the wing both have potential. Fred Slater (6’4″ Sr. SG-SF, Clifton (VA)) is very athletic, but doesn’t know the game and looks like he tends to play too fast. Hashim Abbas (6’4″ So. SG, Nablus (Palestine)) is young but has some potential down the road.
Sterling Taplin (6’1″ Sr. PG, East Amherst (NY)) missed Tuesday’s workout due to illness, but might be the incumbent at the point. The only clear competition is Sean Hoehn (6’2″ Sr. PG, Morristown (NJ)), who isn’t quick or athletic but plays hard and knows the game. Vital could conceivably see time at that position as well, and others can help with ball handling on occasion.
St. Thomas More had a very talented team last season, arguably the most talent they have had in a while. At first glance, this season’s team appears to be a notch below them from that standpoint. There is some upside, however, and Quinn has established a long track record of making players better. This season should be one more testament to his ability to make players better.