SOUTH KENT, Conn. – There’s no magic formula for winning and success in sports, no matter the sport. Kelvin Jefferson isn’t about to claim to have discovered one, but the South Kent head coach seems to be finding the right combinations of late, with last year being the latest example.
South Kent didn’t have as much talent last year as they have in many of Jefferson’s years at the school, but the results are hard to argue with. Last season, the Cardinals were the No. 4 seed in the Class AAA Tournament and lost a tough one to Northfield Mount Hermon in the quarterfinals, then managed to reach the National Prep Championship. Jefferson has won over 100 games in his six years at the school.
This year’s team might be characterized first by its international flavor, then by its size and how many non-seniors they have. This is a team with six players from outside the United States, and they will have a few players for more than just this season, which is where the focus begins.
The best individual talent might be among the class of 2016 representatives in K.J. Santos (6’8″ Jr. SF, Geneva (IL)). The talented wing transfers in from Vermont Academy for a fresh start after an injury-riddled season a year ago. While his jumper was not consistently going on Wednesday, in part from settling for some of them, that’s one of a few offensive tools he has. He was on a lot of radars last year before his inaction took him off many of them.
Santos’ friend Tyler Jackson (7’2″ Sr. C, Naperville (IL)) comes with him this season and figures to be a key presence inside. An excellent student, he sat out Wednesday’s workout battling tendonitis, but is a massive post body. Another option in the middle will be Jovan Grujic (7’1″ Jr. C, Pancevo (Serbia)), who has a good frame and some good fundamentals inside, and he also battled all day Wednesday. When he gets stronger, he should round into form as a nice post player. Aziz Sultan Essa (6’9″ Jr. PF-C, Abu Al Hasany (Kuwait)) is another massive post player who isn’t lacking skills but must get into better shape to be more of a factor.
Two other frontcourt players had their moments on the glass on Wednesday. Chris Wright (6’9″ Sr. PF-C, Westfield (NJ)) was all over the glass early on, though he wasn’t quite as good later. He also made his mark running the floor and with a couple of passes from the post. Martynas Pacevicius (6’9″ Jr. PF, Kaunas (Lithuania)) was very active on the offensive glass, getting some stickbacks along the way.
Among those joining Santos on the wing will be Old Dominion commit Aaron Carver (6’7″ Sr. SF, Elizabeth City (NC)). Possessing a good body, he’s athletic and can be a factor when he gets inside. Ryan Sweeney (6’6″ Sr. SF, Summit (NJ)) returns for a post-graduate season after playing at the school last year, and sat out to rest a right knee that has bothered him.
The best player on the floor on Wednesday was another wing, Travis Atson (6’5″ Jr. SG-SF, Brooklyn (NY)), whose relatively slight frame might fool you. He’s a plus athlete, was active, hit from long range and showed his toughness and non-stop motor. It’s clear he’ll play his way into a key role for this team. Chao (Bobby) Xu (6’4″ Sr. SG, Tai Yuan (China)) showed a touch shooting the ball and a little defense, though he’s not all that athletic.
The point guard spot will first and foremost feature Tremont Waters (5’10” So. PG, New Haven (CT)), who has been on the radar for a considering he is in just his sophomore year. He has above-average quickness and can pass, and has deep range on his jumper. Other candidates for time there all come from outside the U.S. Shunto Murakami (6’0″ Sr. PG-SG, Yamagata (Japan)) could play off the ball, as he has a good frame and isn’t a bad athlete while being able to score. Lazar Pavicevic (6’1″ Sr. PG-SG, Bar (Montenegro)) has a slight frame and had his moments on the day. Sam Lacour (5’11” Sr. PG, New Fairfield (CT)) has a slight frame and his body isn’t there yet.
The schedule will include an early appearance at the National Prep Showcase, as well as several other in-season events to go with the always-tough Class AAA schedule.
The Cardinals might have more talent than they had a year ago; it’s a given they have more size, and they might have more size than any other school in Class AAA. There’s enough talent and size to be very competitive and a big factor in Class AAA, and Jefferson has a lot of options for lineups at his disposal.