EASTHAMPTON, Mass. – Mike Shelton freely admits that this is uncharted territory for his new employer. Having already coached in Division 2 and 3 at the college level, he is now the head coach at the Williston Northampton School, located in western Massachusetts a little ways northwest of Springfield. It’s a school that has been on very few people’s radar in the world of New England prep school basketball, but there is a desire to change that.
Shelton comes with a career in coaching and an administration that wants to grow in athletics. There is the infrastructure for it to happen, which includes a nice facility where the basketball team plays. He’s changing things up right away as this team is made up almost entirely of newcomers. Many of them are from Massachusetts, so he is establishing the areas close to home first.
There is no doubt who the primary floor leader will be. The best player on the floor on Thursday night was Ryan Richmond (6’0″ Sr. PG, Toronto (Ont.)), who drove often and finished with contact, while also shooting well enough to keep defenders honest. Kieran Hamilton (5’10” Sr. PG, Queens Village (NY)) will also get minutes there, but he’s further from his ceiling than Richmond, especially physically. He had his moments on Thursday, showing his speed with the ball a couple of times.
The wing is where a number of options will be found, and from here one can see why they will run a four-out, one-in set quite often. The two main options there are likely to be Jake Ross (6’4″ Jr. SG-SF, Northampton (MA)) and Sam Geshickter (6’5″ Jr. SG-SF, Brookline (MA)). Ross has a good body and looks like a glue guy with the potential to be a little more. Geshickter isn’t a bad athlete, though he won’t blow anyone away there, and he showed off his touch shooting the ball.
Kail Hastings (6’2″ Jr. SG, West Springfield (MA)) had some good moments early on during Thursday night’s workout. He has a good frame he can fill out and can hit from long range, but didn’t always take the best shots. Patrick Gallagher (6’4″ Jr. SG-SF, Croton-on-Hudson (NY)) looks sneaky athletic and has some ball skills, and he used them to make some good plays that weren’t the kind you draw up for a player.
Looking up towards the frontcourt, you see potential all over. It starts with Jake Wisniewski (6’5″ Jr. SF-PF, Quaboag (MA)), who may be closer to his ceiling than others but looks like he’ll be this team’s unquestioned leader. Shelton has named him a captain, and it’s not hard to see why. He is versatile, knows the game well and is a tough competitor. Chris Hudson (6’5″ Jr. SF-PF, Hodgdon (ME)) could start for this team, but he’s currently sitting as he nurses a right elbow sprain. The lefty has some length and his body has a ways to go.
Two more up front are also players with good upside. Kyle Doucette (6’7″ Jr. PF, Lynn (MA)) is very active and can be a big factor on the glass, and he moves well inside to get chances to score when he isn’t getting free on the break. Isaiah Fontaine (6’8″ Jr. PF-C, Chelsea (MA)) is basically all potential right now, as he’s a baby physically and the skill set needs to develop.
One additional change this season is that they will now be in NEPSAC Class A, thanks to a growing boys enrollment. They will compete in the Loomis Chaffee Tournament as their most notable event this season, and Shelton is working to finish up the schedule.
A lot is changing in the program at the school right now. The transition probably won’t be smooth on the bottom line at first, but what happens this season will set up the future. Most of this team will return next year, so this is a building year in more ways than one. The hope is that it translates into more growth down the road.