CHARLESTOWN, Mass. – Sunday capped off a busy weekend of basketball in Boston with a trip to Bunker Hill Community College to check out some matchups at the Hoop Dreams Mag Prep Classic. The day started with a couple of blowouts, then more competitive games followed up. The last three games were all decided by single digits.
We start by running down the scores (the last game score was not available, with Notre Dame Prep beating Mont Clare Academy), then a few notes from the day’s games.
Lee (ME) Academy 60, Montreal (Que.) Jean-De-Brebeuf 39
Saxtons River (VT) Vermont Academy 79, Winchendon (MA) School 39
Granby (MA) MacDuffie School 73, Suffield (CT) Academy 64
Thompson (CT) Marianapolis Prep 56, Marion (MA) Tabor Academy 48
King starts the day well for Lee
Lee Academy has become known for its international flavor in recent years, as well as its size up front. This year’s team is no different, and while they don’t have overwhelming size up front they have an array of interchangeable forwards who can help the team. Amidst all of that, it was an American player, Walter King (6’0″ Sr. PG-SG, Peekskill (NY)), who stood out as much as anyone for Lee Academy in the day’s opener.
King has a good body that he used well, and he scored in a couple of ways. He hit mid-range shots and a runner, while also cutting to the basket to score in close and getting a steal and layup later. King set the tone early, with help from the likes of Ilija Stojijikovic (6’7″ Sr. PF, Nish (Serbia)) and Rudolfs Stradneiks (6’9″ Sr. PF, Riga (Latvia)) up front.
Lee Academy pulled away in the second half, and a few reserves played well at that point. King played a solid game, and he should be a target for Division II coaches the rest of the way.
Vermont Academy plays a great brand of unselfish basketball
While Vermont Academy probably has the most talent in NEPSAC Class AA, that will be meaningless if intangibles are terrible. New head coach Alex Popp is making sure that won’t be the case by a long shot, and you could see it clearly as they blew out Winchendon on Sunday.
Vermont scored the first 16 points, and it was never a contest from there. They moved the ball well with a number of extra passes, as well as great lead passes for run-outs. The unselfish players weren’t just the guards and wings; the big men made great passes, whether facing or on the interior, and everyone was happy to see the baskets following.
Chief among those big men is Sam Mathias (6’11” So. PF-C, London (England)), who on several occasions made a lead pass while facing the basket. Oftentimes it was a bounce pass, showing the big man’s fundamental soundness. They also got a nice effort off the bench from Jimmer Fritzson (6’1 Sr. PG-SG, Sharon (MA)), who continues to be a nice piece as a potential scholarship player.
Vermont Academy played a pretty complete game, although Winchendon’s best prospect, Baris Ulker (6’7″ Jr. PF, Istanbul (Turkey)) played well and showed good tools to go with a developing body. His play wasn’t nearly enough as they were over-matched, and the way Vermont played a lot of teams would have had a hard time beating them.
Class AA is always fiercely competitive, and this year figures to be no different. If Vermont Academy plays like they did on Sunday consistently, they will be very tough to knock off when March rolls around.
MacDuffie has more than just two big bodies up front
Watch the MacDuffie School play, and your attention will likely turn quickly to their twin towers up front. It’s understandable, as Omari Spellman (6’10” Jr. PF-C, Middletown (NY)) and Jordy Tshimanga (6’10” Jr. PF-C, Granby (MA)) are massive specimens, with Spellman also having a skill set that makes him the interest of many high-major programs. On Sunday, they had help there in the form of Kashaun Hicks (6’7″ Jr. PF, Jersey City (NJ)), who made his share of plays in their win over Suffield Academy.
Hicks has a good frame that can fill out with more good weight. In contrast to the two space-eaters, he’s a plus athlete, which might make you think he can be a wing, but he doesn’t appear to have quite the skill set for that position. He is quick off his feet, and used that to get a few offensive rebounds. In all, he adds up to a more athletic power forward or potentially a 4-3 combo forward down the road.
You can understand why Hicks won’t leap out at you at the start of the game. He is showing himself to be a prospect, and he’ll be worth looking at for the next year at the school as part of their loaded frontcourt.
Lafleur continues a big year at Marianapolis
Andrew Vitale continues to do what he’s done at Marianapolis, getting the most out of his team. This is certainly not the most talented team in NEPSAC, especially in Class AA, but they are competing and winning, including on Sunday against a Tabor Academy team that should be a strong contender in Class A. Leading the way continues to be Adrian LaFleur (6’2″ Sr. SG, Warwick (RI)).
The son of Providence associated coach Andre LaFleur, he’s become quite the shot-maker for this team, and Sunday was no different. He hit several from long range, and the lefty may be turning that into the one thing he does best. To this point, he’s largely been a player who can do a lot of things well but no one thing exceedingly well, and he plays like you expect the son of a coach, not to mention the son of one of the NCAA’s all-time leading assist men.
It wasn’t just shots from long range on Sunday, though, on which he shined. He broke up plays inside defensively, even against big men, made several nice passes, got loose balls, and got a big rebound of a missed free throw that helped seal the game late.
College interest has been a bit tepid thus far. LaFleur isn’t the most athletic player, but his conditioning has improved, aided in part by running cross-country. He’s getting better every time out, and if he keeps this up, the college interest should pick up before long.