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Led by their perimeter trio, Cushing Academy could repeat in NEPSAC Class AA

by - Published September 27, 2013 in Columns

ASHBURNHAM, Mass. – The defending NEPSAC Class AA champions could very well stand in the winner’s circle again come next March.  Cushing Academy won it all last March on a buzzer-beater, completing a comeback from being down by double digits with a few minutes left.  This time around, if they win it all again, they might not need that kind of drama, although they certainly won’t be prohibitive favorites.

Cushing will probably have the best backcourt in Class AA, and it starts with recent Syracuse commit Kaleb Joseph (6’3″ Sr. PG, Nashua (NH)).  Simply put, the long guard is just what a team like this needs: he’s still hungry, still working and very committed to leading this team.  There’s no entitlement in him; in fact, before the workout, he wasn’t delegating the task of setting up the court to the freshmen, as he was leading the charge himself.  This is a young man who wants another championship and wants to get better, and it was all in evidence as he showed a better jumper and his team kept on winning during game action.

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Notre Dame Prep looks like Hurd’s kind of team

by - Published September 27, 2013 in Columns

FITCHBURG, Mass. – Ryan Hurd feels pretty good about his team right now at Notre Dame Prep, and that’s with his best player and a few late arrivals having worked out exactly zero minutes with their teammates to this point.  Watching eight of their players go through their second workout of the day on Thursday provides some insight as to why, and one can imagine that he’ll feel better once he works with them even more.

Hurd likes having a team loaded with guards so he can more easily push the pace, and that’s what he has.  There’s only one player taller than 6’5″ who took the floor on Thursday, and it’s easy to imagine this team playing faster than every opponent.

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Proctor Academy’s young players need to grow for the future

by - Published September 26, 2013 in Columns

ANDOVER, N.H. – This season isn’t where Proctor Academy will have its big goal as far as its current personnel are concerned.  While there are a number of seniors and post-graduates on the roster, the program is trying to put together a young core that will probably have some noticeable growing pains this season but be expected to contend in another year or two.  More than the wins and losses, the growth of the young talent will be a key story for Gregor Makechnie’s team in 2013-14.  On Wednesday night, they got together for their first open gym of the fall.

The one around whom the future will be primarily built is Julian Roche (6’10” So. PF-C, St. John (New Brunswick)).  The big man possess a good frame and is young all the way around, as he’s 15 years old and his body has some baby fat to get rid of.  While raw on the post offensively, he showed a nice touch shooting the ball well away from the basket, so that will give them some options for what to run on offense while he tries to develop his body and more of a post game.  He didn’t shy away from contact or trying to get rebounds as well.

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For Brimmer and May, this season will be all about growth

by - Published September 25, 2013 in Columns

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – When many think of prep schools, chances are boarding schools come to mind first. While they dominate the landscape, Brimmer and May is the only day school in NEPSAC Class AAA or AA. This year, Tom Nelson’s team has a good deal of youth, but also some talent both on and off the court, as his team is full of good students as is usually the case at the school. The Gators should likewise field a competitive team on the court that will need to grow as the season goes along.

The young talent can be most clearly seen up front, where the Gators have some length. David Watkins (6’6″ So. SF-PF, Dorchester (MA)) might have the highest ceiling of anyone, as he’s long and a plus athlete and more potential than player right now. His body isn’t there, and the skill package needs to come along, but already there are hints, and they were visible on Tuesday. He has a high release on his jumper, which he can make at times, he will play physical inside instead of shying away from contact, and he shows some ball skills now although he needs to keep developing them.

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New Hampton has a nice mix of size, talent and experience

by - Published September 24, 2013 in Columns

NEW HAMPTON, N.H. – Even without a key component of the team on the floor due to injury, the New Hampton School had a good deal of size on display at Monday night’s open gym.  This time around, Pete Hutchins will have a lot of flexibility in the frontcourt to go with a good collection of wings, and in all it’s a team with a lot of potential waiting to be tapped.

The guards who will get them the ball and play off them look like a solid and perhaps underrated bunch as a whole.  Two in the mix at the point are Matt Dean (5’10” Sr. PG, Gilford (NH)) and Danny Levitt (6’1″ Jr. PG, Westmount (Que.)), the latter being another Canadian to come to the school.  Levitt was able to drive past his man and score a couple of times and also hit a mid-range pull-up on one occasion.

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2013 Boston Skills Showcase Recap

by - Published September 22, 2013 in Columns

BOSTON – The 2013 Boston Skills Showcase was held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center on Saturday. College coaches worked with a number of high school players through drills and game action, including situational play. It was a chance for the young men to get better and show how they have done that, and a few certainly did.

Here are notes on a few who stood out on the day.

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After a championship, Phillips Exeter starts over with a young group

by - Published September 18, 2013 in Columns

EXETER, N.H. – Last year was a banner year for a couple of the best academic prep schools in New England.  In the case of Phillips Exeter Academy, the end result was a NEPSAC Class A championship, something one could see as a possibility before the season given the chemistry the team already established to go with its talent.  This season, there won’t be any championship prognostications, as the team is decidedly very young, but there’s no reason to think they won’t be worth watching as there is good talent and coaching.

Jay Tilton doesn’t have an easy job trying to win games at the most demanding prep school in New England and perhaps the country.  Last year’s championship is a bonus; players at this school have academic considerations that come first, second and third, and getting them into top academic colleges is the top priority as far as end results go.  That will continue, and given Tilton’s track record, there’s reason to believe this young group – there are as many freshmen and sophomores (five) as there are seniors – can grow and later develop into part of a winning unit.

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At Brewster Academy, emerging talent may be the story

by - Published September 18, 2013 in Columns

WOLFEBORO, N.H. – We’re used to Brewster Academy having the most talent in NEPSAC, so a trip up to the Lakes Region that ends with that observation isn’t really news.  This time around, the story may be the possible emergence of those with less of a reputation coming in as opposed to how good the team can be just starting with the high-major players they have.

It’s not surprising that three Bobcats are already committed to high-major schools and a fourth to a Mountain West powerhouse.  There may be more by season’s end.  But like their past teams, this team also has players who won’t play at that same level in college, and those players will have a lot to do with whether or not they hang another NEPSAC and/or national championship banner after this season.

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At Marianapolis, the competition begins at home

by - Published September 17, 2013 in Columns

THOMPSON, Conn. – The second stop of Monday was north of the first one, as Marianapolis Prep went later on Monday.  They’re not loaded with talent, but the Golden Knights have enough to be dangerous and collectively had a good workout on the day.  They will also have plenty of competition for minutes at each position, which never hurts.  That may prove to be just the right formula for this season.

The first place where there will be competition will be the point guard spot.  One possibility is Eric Murdock, Jr. (6’0″ Sr. PG, Bridgewater (NJ)), who has name recognition as the son of the former NBA guard.  A plus athlete, his body isn’t there yet although he’s not a baby physically, and he showed some range on his jumper.  He finished with contact and on a couple of occasions rebounded and was a one-man fast break.  The other possibility is Ryan Bernstein (Sr. PG, New York (NY)), who doesn’t pass the “look” test but is tough and can shoot.  He has a very slight frame, but knocked down several three-pointers and on another play drove and spun to get a layup.

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St. Thomas More has talent, shooters and a very intriguing prospect

by - Published September 17, 2013 in Columns

OAKDALE, Conn. – Jere Quinn is known for his ability to coach.  His reputation precedes him, and anyone who has followed his teams at St. Thomas More over the years know one thing is true: give a young man a few months with him, and he comes out a better player.  Looking at the team he has this year, it is similar to many of his recent teams in that there isn’t a big-time player, but there is plenty of talent and there appears to be a good mix of the various talents as well.

If Monday’s open gym is any indication, opposing teams will have to guard the three-point line against the Chancellors this season.  They have a couple of deadly shooters from long range and plenty of others who are capable of hitting from deep.

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