Prep Profile - Putnam Science Academy
Putnam Science Academy is already a few games into their 2019-20 campaign, but they’ll face their first early tests in the next ten days with Redemption Christian and Spire Institute prior to the National Prep Showcase.
The Mustangs are now two seasons removed from their 2018 National Prep Championship, and returning to that level remains the annual goal of the program under head coach Tom Espinosa and longtime right-hand-man Josh Scraba.
While talent is always a requisite for the level of success that PSA has been able to achieve in recent years, they’ve also earned a reputation for how hard they play and giving every player an equal chance to shine.
In other words, your recruitment or reputation doesn’t matter once you arrive at Putnam in the fall. Your spot in the rotation depends solely on how you perform from that point on, which is why their success stories include guys like Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi as much as they do the likes of Hamidou Diallo and Akok Akok.
This year, It all starts with Hassan Diarra. Now in his third year with the program, the New York native is coming off a breakout junior campaign that made him a consensus top 100 ranked prospect in the country and the recipient of numerous high-major offers. Fresh off his commitment to Texas A&M and head coach Buzz Williams, Diarra can now focus solely on his final season in the prep ranks. A big and physical guard who attacks with reckless abandon and has made giant strides with his skill set, he’ll be both one of the best players in prep school basketball and New England this season.
Worcester native Marty Silvera is also back for another season. The smooth lead guard has logged a ton of meaningful minutes on both the prep and grassroots circuits, and is now in the best shape of his life after losing 28 pounds since this time last season. He’ll be expected to play important rotation minutes in the backcourt. Other returners include highly skilled sophomore guard Darryl Simmons and senior forward Luc Brittian, a powerful and athletic local product.
South Kent transfer Mekhi Gray is probably the next most recognizable face on this year’s PSA roster and he also just might be the most improved player. Gray has added 12 pounds of muscle to his frame in the last year, evolved into a totally different type of athlete, and is playing with newfound confidence as a result. He pledged to NJIT on Monday and should be an immediate impact player for the Highlanders.
Josh Gray is a mountain of a man inside who stands at 6-foot-11 with an incredibly powerful build and several high-major offers because of it. Mathias Van Dem Beemt is a seven-footer with a comparable physical profile while Melvyn Ebonkoli is another French native expected to do big things along the PSA frontline this year. That isn’t the end of the international connection though as Vlad Goldin is a Russian native who put up 17 points and 6 rebounds in his home debut the other night.
Terrell Ard is a physical specimen and high-level athlete from Georgia who will see time at both forward positions while Johnnie Williams and Dmaurian Williams (no relation) will also be capable of playing multiple positions in the middle of the line-up. Johnnie Williams is a Florida native who has long arms and can make shots while D’Maurian Williams is a bigger guard with good athleticism. Julian Dozier provides a hard-nosed and ultra-tough true point guard who can steady the ship.
Two of PSA’s most important newcomers are expected to spend the next two seasons in Putnam. Jaylen Murray is Cardinal Hayes transfer who was known as one of the best guards in New York City and is coming off a breakout EYBL campaign. 6-foot-10 big man Elijah Hutchins-Everett transfers in from Immaculate Conception and has had a big national profile since he was an underclassman because of his size and interior skill-set. Jaden Brewington is an athletic junior from Wayland, Massachusetts who will benefit from the level of daily competition and could end up being a contributor before his career comes to an end.
This is the biggest prep school basketball team in the country this year, and it’s not especially close. With Gray, Hutchins-Everett, Van Deemt, and Goldin they have more big bodies up front than most high-major college programs do these days. The key will be how they utilize that size and get them on the floor together for stretches while not sacrificing too much skill and playmaking. What’s undeniable though is that they’ll have an interior presence around both rims every single night and lots of fouls to use.
The size advantage actually extends beyond just their big men though. Diarra, Ard, Williams, and even Gray have positional size of their own and so Putnam’s trademark 2-3 zone could be especially long and problematic this season while their prowess on the glass should be a major weapon for them as well.
They’ve got size. They’ve got talent. They have depth to overcome injuries or foul trouble. They always play hard. And they’re led by one of the best guards and most competitive players in the entire country.
Simply put, they’ve been among the best teams in the country in each of the last few seasons and that isn’t going to change this year. Whether or not that results in them cutting down nets in March, is something we’ll have to wait the winter to find out.