Prep Profile - Cushing Academy
James Cormier’s first year on the Cushing Academy sidelines resulted in a NEPSAC championship. His second year found him back in the Class AA Final Four before a slim loss to St. Andrew’s. This year, he may not have Wabissa Bede or David Duke to lead the way, but he has perhaps more depth than ever before and one of the most talented young teams in New England.
Seniors Kyle Murphy and Daman Tate are in their second year with the Penguins and both come into the year having something to prove after missing last summer with lower body injuries. Murphy appears to be in the best shape of his life and ready for a productive senior season. His intellect remains among his top virtues as he can handle the ball in the open floor and facilitate like a guard while using his size and strong frame to create match-up problems. Tate has even more mismatch potential with phenomenal size in the backcourt along with versatile tools. The key for him is consistency on both ends of the floor. If he finds it, it adds another dimension to Cushing’s attack.
Sean Okpoebo is a true junior, and relatively young one at that, but he’s the most experienced player on the roster, having seen varsity minutes in each of the last two seasons. He’s still just growing into his body, but long and athletic with mid-range touch and slashing skills.
Cushing welcomes three post-graduates to the program this year in Ethan Menzies, Sean Conway, and Andrew Kirkpatrick. In an era in which frontcourt skill is at a premium in the college game, Menzies’ touch and floor spacing potential is bound to attract plenty of interest in the coming months. Conway, who previously starred at Fairfield Warde High School, is a proven shot-maker who has added noticeable muscle mass and appears to be playing at an unprecedented level right now. Kirkpatrick will be another nice piece given his I.Q., competitiveness, and deceptive ability to get out in transition.
There is also a trio of newcomers in the 2020 class in Malchi Ndur, Dan Braster, and Will Campbell. Ndur is another skilled big man who arrived with early high-major attention due to his big frame and ability to shoot the ball with range. Braster played alongside Cole Anthony and Moses Brown last year at Archbishop Molloy in New York and is another marksman from long-range who also has terrific positional size at 6-foot-6, making him a very intriguing long-term prospect. Finally, Will Campbell is a strong-bodied southpaw forward who plays hard and has some inside-out tools.
While Cushing has the requisite amount of experience and depth to compete in Class AA of the NEPSAC, there best long-term prospects are their underclassmen. Bensley Joseph, who transferred in from Arlington High School, is as impactful of a 2021 point guard as there is in New England today. The southpaw is strong, a proven scorer, and has the charisma, confidence, and work-ethic to make up for what he may lack in natural size. Alexis Reyes may not be quite as far along just yet, but his upside is even higher. He has terrific perimeter size at 6-foot-5 and the tools to become a three-range scoring threat.
Defense is always going to be a calling card for Cormier’s teams, that’s been abundantly clear in his first two years. This year’s team also looks like a very good shooting team, which should allow them to play with great spacing on the offensive end.
There most defining characteristic though is there depth. Coaches will often say though, that depth is great in practice, or when you have injuries, but can be a challenge when games come around if everyone is healthy. With 10+ players who are capable of seeing rotation minutes, upper classmen who will want to play, and underclassmen who are budding stars, that could be the challenge for this year’s Cushing team. Conversely, it gives any coach leverage, as there’s always another quality option waiting in the wings for a chance to get on the floor.
They may not have the star power of recent years, but there’s depth, experience, shot-making, and a culture of defense. Ultimately, if they can all buy into to sacrificing a little for the sake of the group, they have a chance to be one of the top contenders in Class AA again this year…and when that happens, the individual players almost always get the recruitment or recognition they deserve.