SUFFIELD, Conn. – The second stop on Sunday was southwest of the first one, as Suffield Academy held an open gym workout later. The school is under some construction, including right by the athletic facility, and the enrollment has grown recently. Alum Jeff Depelteau has built the program up as he enters his sixth season, and has put together a team with a noticeable California and New York influence.
This year, the Tigers will compete in NEPSAC Class A, moving from Class B. The boys enrollment has grown, and the administration figures to keep it there for a while, so there’s no reason to expect them to bounce back and forth between them.
They will go into it without great overall size up front, but in Class A there aren’t many with overwhelming size there. Max Parks (6’9″ Sr. PF-C, Somers (NY)) will anchor the group, and while he has a good body that can get better, he’ll need to finish better than he did on Sunday to help offensively. Christian Wilkins (6’5″ Sr. PF, Springfield (MA)) is being recruited at the highest level for football and not working out with the team right now, but he will help during the season, as will Garrett Stephenson (6’6″ So. PF, Townsend (MA)), who had another commitment on the weekend. Though he’s one of the youngest players on the team, the fundamentally sound Stephenson is an X-factor after he had a good spring and summer.
The Tigers have a couple of options on the wing, starting with Elijah Wilson (6’4″ Jr. SG-SF, New York (NY)). An excellent student, he isn’t the best athlete but hit a few jumpers on Sunday. Sam Averbuck (6’3″ Sr. SG-SF, Santa Rosa (CA)) got better as the workout went along and will be a key figure in what they do. His shooting will get him noticed first, but he’s not a one-trick pony as he also beat defenders up the floor for a transition layup once, finished with his off hand and hit a nice runner right up over a shot-blocker on another play. Jackson Kalmbach (6’2″ Sr. SG, Piedmont (CA)) will also likely play mostly off the ball.
The backcourt has some good talent, likely led by Juwan Anderson (6’0″ Sr. PG-SG, Oakland (CA)), who hit a number of shots from long range. He has a bit of a quick trigger, but he will make his share, and he did a few other things to help on Sunday. His body isn’t there yet and he’s athletic enough to go off the bounce. Ellis Christmas (6’1″ Jr. PG, Tarrytown (NY)) returns and might be the primary point guard since Anderson can play off the ball. The lefty took a shot to the leg on one play but came back after sitting for a bit and was even better. He passed the ball well and hit a couple of jumpers, while also gamely defending.
Elias Smith (5’9″ Fr. PG, South Freeport (ME)), the youngest player on the team, rounds out the roster and should get a chance for minutes as well.
The Tigers have a schedule packed with special events. They take on Lee Academy in the National Prep Showcase early on, then play in the Scholar Roundball Classic, Hoop Dreams Prep Classic, Seacoast Classic, and they play Wilbraham & Monson at the Hoophall Classic in January.
Last season, Suffield Academy lost a tough one to Rivers in the Class B quarterfinals, the first time since Depelteau took over that they didn’t advance to the semifinals. The competition will be better, but not significantly different, in Class A this time around. There is talent on the perimeter and potential up front, and they figure to be prepared with their schedule.