Prep Profile - Cushing Academy
As much as things change at Cushing Academy, they also seem to stay the same.
The program has had three different head coaches in the last decade while producing star players and competing for championships at every stop along the way.
In the three years since James Cormier has taken over though, there hasn’t been a more consistent AA program. The Penguins won the championship in 2017, advanced to the final four in 2018, and made another run to the finals last year.
This year, they again have very realistic championship aspirations. There are prospects for every level of college basketball on this team and even more of them collectively than any year in recent memory.
Aside from obvious sheer talent, they’ve combined an experienced returning core that will allow them to win now with enough youth to simultaneously lay the foundation for the future.
In short, for as good as this program has been over the years, they might be on the verge of taking things to a new level.
There are seven returning upperclassmen on this year’s team including three seniors. Make no mistake about it though, this is Bensley Joseph’s team. The junior point guard has not only established himself as one of the best players in New England, but also one of the best leaders, and been identified by the USA Basketball Junior National Team in the process. He has length, talent, and the ability to change the game on both ends of the floor but what really differentiates him is his intangibles, work-ethic, and magnetic personality.
If Joseph leads the way in the backcourt, then Malachi Ndur does so in the frontcourt. The highly skilled big man returns for his senior year after committing to Brown this fall. He has soft hands, a pretty shooting stroke out to the arc, and the ability to stretch the floor as a result. Fellow senior Dan Braster is one of the most improved players in New England. He’s highly skilled at 6-foot-7, a major match-up problem because of it, and poised for a big final season. Will Campbell could be another rotation player as a hard-nosed wing who can make open shots.
Alexis Reyes joins Joseph as another potential high-level prospect in the class of 2021. Reyes is a skilled, big wing who has made significant strides in the last year and should be ready to take on more of a signature role this year. Jaden Bobbett is another guy who has vastly improved in the last year while Sean Okpoebo is a versatile piece along the frontline from nearby Leominster.
The returning core will be boosted by a handful of incoming post-graduates. Toby Okani is an ideal fit next to the size and skill of Ndur in the frontcourt as his length, athleticism, slashing ability, and defensive versatility will all be unique additions to the line-up.
Isaiah Gray, who committed to Cornell earlier this fall, is a power guard with a college ready body and efficient two-way game. He’s an equally good fit in the backcourt as he and Joseph are cut from a similar cloth and should form one of the most imposing duos in AA. Clay Bolster and Coby Gold are also very solid additions to the perimeter. Bolster is a well-rounded guard and Gold is an absolutely lethal shot-maker.
Jonathan Guerrier may be the most experienced freshmen in New England after getting his first taste of high school competition as an 8th grader, starring at Lexington Christian last year, and now reclassifying back to 2023. While he’s always been physically ahead, he’s also maturing nicely with his skill set and overall approach. Sophomore guard Andy Rosen is another prospect with a solid future in front of him.
There is a lot to like. Their depth is obvious – there just aren’t many AA programs that have more than ten future college players on their roster – and their experience no less impressive. The individual pieces all fit together nicely too. There’s ample size, playmaking, shooting, and you know they’ll defend. They check all the boxes on paper and if that weren’t enough, their fall open gym was one of the most competitive we saw this year. In there might lie their most significant challenge though, pushing aside individual agendas and collectively buying into what’s best for the team. Whether it shots, starts, or minutes, with this many quality options in the rotation, everyone will have to sacrifice something.
With Vermont Academy, MacDuffie, and Gould all on their way out of Class AA, the balance of power in the league is shifting. Cushing’s spot among the best in the league has been a virtual constant over the last decade plus but they’re poised to keep pushing those boundaries, not just this year but for the foreseeable future.