WILBRAHAM, Mass. – The first stop on a busy Sunday was at Wilbraham & Monson Academy, where the sideline will feature a familiar face in a new role. Chris Sparks left the school in the spring, but the school moved quickly to bump Mike Mannix into the head coaching job after he had assisted Sparks. The Titans have been on a good run in recent years, and Mannix will seek to continue that.
Mannix has a team with a lot of perimeter options, including with the lineups he can put on the floor. They figure to complement the frontcourt players well as they continue to emerge.
Those frontcourt players start with Joe Schneider (6’11” Sr. C, Longmeadow (MA)), who will anchor the unit. An excellent student, the lefty has a good body and some post moves, but still has room to grow there as well. His running mate could be the prize of the team, as Wenyen Gabriel (6’8″ Jr. SF-PF, Manchester (NH)) has been on a great run since the spring. While still very much a “potential” player, the long and athletic forward has grown a great deal in recent months and on Sunday used his length often to block shots and rebound.
The wing options include Derek Newton (6’6″ Sr. SF, North Hollywood (CA)), who could allow them to go smaller. He has a good body and is athletic, but the skill set looks like a bit of a mixed bag if Sunday’s workout is any indication. They could also go small with Ben Vezele (6’4″ Sr. SG-SF, Providence (RI)) playing a key role, and Mannix sees a few ways to use him. Vezele’s body can fill out more and he was in his share of plays on Sunday.
Curtis Cobb (6’5″ Sr. SG, Fall River (MA)) has the best reputation of anyone on the perimeter. His body can fill out more and he can certainly score, although he looked a little lackadaisical on Sunday morning. Also helping will be Brenden Vessichio (6’4″ Jr. SG, Berlin (CT)), who has a good frame and hit a few shots from mid-range on the morning, and local boy Matt Naumec (Sr. SG, Wilbraham (MA)), who has committed to Boston College for golf and showed off his conditioning by coming in first in almost every running drill on Sunday morning.
The point guard spot will largely be manned by Earl Stephen (5’7″ Sr. PG, Boston (MA)) and Ryan Murphy (6’2″ So. PG, Fairfield (CT)). Stephen is a small but well-built point guard who was able to drive and dish a few times with success. Murphy is slowed by a bum ankle and worked out on the side on Sunday morning, expecting to be back in regular action soon. The two may play together often since Murphy has good size for the position and thus can guard someone bigger off the ball. Nico Cotto (Sr. PG, Springfield (MA)) will also be in the mix at that spot.
The Titans have some big games on their schedule this year outside of the Class AA games. The ones that first jump out will be a home date with Montverde Academy’s post-graduate team and a trip to Brewster Academy, while they will also take on IMG Academy and Blair Academy at the Basketbull Holiday Hoops Fest.
With Mannix being elevated, there is continuity in the program, especially for the holdovers. He has a low-maintenance group of players with a good deal of potential, and the lineup options certainly help. If Gabriel continues to grow the way he has in recent months, the interior will be in great shape. In all, it adds up to a lot of potential for a good season for the Titans.