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New England Prep Schools 2014-15: looking back and looking ahead

by - Published November 3, 2014 in Recruiting

In the five-plus weeks starting with September 9, I had the chance to visit over 20 prep schools across New England. It started with Putnam Science Academy on the first day that was live for Division I college coaches and ended with Vermont Academy. There was a wide range of talent and depth to be seen in that time, and the open gym workouts varied in terms of how good the action was on each day.

It’s clear that the action on the hardwood will be as competitive as we’ve come to expect this season. Class AAA will be hotly contested, and Class AA is well-known for its relative evenness from top to bottom. There is plenty to watch in all of the enrollment divisions as well. While a few teams repeated as champions last year, that doesn’t seem likely this season at first glance, but nothing is a given in September and October.

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Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

by - Published October 20, 2014 in Recruiting

THOMPSON, Conn. – Let’s put one thing out there right away: Marianapolis Prep appeared to be in a state of flux regarding basketball when this fall rolled around. That’s the big reason this profile has come out well after the visit to the school for an open gym. Marianapolis debated a move out of Class AA of NEPSAC, and as is always the case when a transition is considered, there is much more than just basketball involved. But they will remain a Class AA school and field a competitive team this season.

Andrew Vitale’s teams in recent years have done well to reach the Class AA Tournament several times since NEPSAC realigned, and the school has a history of postseason success. They were the seventh seed last year and fifth seed a couple of years ago. During the last days of the old alignment, they lost in the Class B final two years in a row during Tilton’s great run, and lost to them again in the first year of the new alignment.

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New Vermont Academy coach has put together a contender

by - Published October 17, 2014 in Recruiting

SAXTONS RIVER, Vt. – Alex Popp is in a good place these days, and Vermont Academy is the beneficiary. A basketball guy, he’s moved around a bit, but it’s all because he’s a go-getter, and this is the most recent chance that presented itself. He took the job in June and has been on the go with it ever since.

His first team at the school looks like a pretty good one, the product of jumping right in and getting players that fit the school well. Vermont Academy has been on the rise in recent years, and this year could be the year for a bigger breakthrough if an early look at the personnel is any indication.

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The Master’s School has good students and talent

by - Published October 15, 2014 in Recruiting

WEST SIMSBURY, Conn. – Ralph Auriantal is clear about what his primary mission is: to send his players off to college. Entering his seventh season at the Master’s School, he is more happy about sending all of his graduates to college last year than he is upset about the lack of wins on the hardwood. It’s a mission he reiterates while looking at this year’s team.

Auriantal is a guy with clear basketball chops. The Montreal native played at St. Thomas More for legendary coach Jere Quinn, who is not a bad guy to learn the game from. After that, he played Division I college ball at St. Francis Brooklyn when current head coach Glenn Braica was an assistant at the school. Now he coaches in the most competitive league in the country.

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Rivers will try to build on a breakthrough season

by - Published October 13, 2014 in Recruiting

WESTON, Mass. – Since Andrew Mirken took over at the Rivers School, the basketball program has steadily risen to relevance and then success. First, he accumulated talent, went through some growing pains as much of it was put together when the core was young, then it all paid off last year, one that was expected to be “the year.” They won the very competitive Independent School League with a perfect 15-0 mark, and reached the NEPSAC Class B semifinals. While they would like to have advanced further in the latter, they accomplished the main goal they set out for, which was to win the ISL.

This time around, they could win the ISL again, although they might not be favored since they lost a lot of production and experience. However, they have the best player in the league, and that can sometimes count for a little more. That makes them something of a wild card in their bid to repeat.

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Tabor Academy looks to have more depth this time around

by - Published October 13, 2014 in Recruiting

MARION, Mass. – Before the season begins, when every team is undefeated but also winless, every coach is optimistic about their team. Every coach feels good about who they have, even if they can see a potentially weak area. Chris Millette is one of those coaches, and he’s more than optimistic about his team for good reason.

Millette thinks he has as deep a team as he’s had during his tenure at the school. He’s had talent, and still does this season, but now he has more behind his top players. And as has been the case in recent years, frontcourt players will headline this team.

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Tilton has good size and good pieces to make a run in Class AA

by - Published October 10, 2014 in Recruiting

TILTON, N.H. – A day after getting a look at a young team in NEPSAC Class AA, it was time to check out a more experienced team at Tilton. While the Rams have five juniors, there is good experience among them and no underclassmen on the roster. In other words, this is a team built to win this year.

The personnel will certainly give the Rams a chance to win. There is good size, especially up front, as well as some versatility, and the pieces all look like a good fit for what they want to do as well. If they get what they need from the point guard spot, those pieces could fit very well together.

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Cushing Academy is young once again

by - Published October 10, 2014 in Recruiting

ASHBURNHAM, Mass. – Cushing Academy is a bit different this year, though there is something similar, too. The two-time defending NEPSAC Class AA champs were a veteran group the past couple of years, and the two titles were the outcomes behind a terrific backcourt.

That backcourt is gone, however, with Kaleb Joseph now a freshman at Syracuse and Jalen Adams finishing his high school career at Brewster Academy. In their place is a team whose core features sophomores and thus is much younger. While it is different, it is the kind of team that head coach Barry Connors has had a few times during his tenure at the school, as he has often had a young core of players to try to build around.

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Brimmer and May will try to grow into a playoff team

by - Published October 8, 2014 in Recruiting

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – The lone commuter school in NEPSAC Class AA won’t bowl you over with talent or depth. They simply aren’t built that way, and not just because it’s not a boarding school. It brings plenty of challenges, but in Class AA everyone has a challenge of some sort.

Tom Nelson will field a competitive group this season just like in past years. They are not a veteran group, although a number of the key players are holdovers, so there is a future with this core. There isn’t a clear go-to guy, but there is more overall talent than last season and a clear potential game plan.

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Worcester Academy looks like one of the favorites in NEPSAC Class AA

by - Published October 6, 2014 in Recruiting

WORCESTER, Mass. – Jamie Sullivan has Worcester Academy in a good place these days. The Hilltoppers have long been a steady performer in the world of NEPSAC, and that should remain the case this season just from looking at their personnel as there is talent, depth and some class balance.

This time around, they are more experienced, and Sullivan has another low-maintenance group. There is some length on this squad, as well as a good core group of guards to start with, and there are a number of options in the frontcourt. The team is a bit dinged up right now, but no injuries are serious.

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We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

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