2019 Prep Profile - Woodstock Academy
A new era has begun at Woodstock Academy as former head coach Tony Bergeron has moved on to UMass along with a handful of other former Centaurs after quickly establishing the program as one of the nation’s best in just two seasons.
Jacque Rivera, who once played for Bergeron at Wings Academy in New York, is now at the helm of the program and looking to build on the success of the last two years after previously building MacDuffie into one of the top programs in Class AA of the NEPSAC.
What remains the same is the sheer amount of talent that exists between both teams as there are once again roughly 30 prospects in the program divided between the Gold team, which Rivera will coach, and the Blue team led Denzel Washington, who has been an assistant with the program for the last two years.
The Gold team is already off to a 3-0 start after wins over Thetford Academy, NY International, and Upper Room Christian.
Ronnie DeGray is the one connection to last year’s team. The Colorado native was a true senior last year who got off to a relatively slow start but then exploded midway through the year to take his recruitment to new levels. This year, the versatile forward will be relied up not just to put up numbers but provide leadership for his new-look team.
With only one returner on the 30-man roster, there are literally 29 newcomers this season. Some familiar faces to New England fans though include the likes of Dyondre Dominguez, Cairo McCrory, Chad Venning, and Lawrence Foreman. Dominguez arrives after two years at New Hampton and is expected to be a key contributor this year with his athleticism, shot-making ability, and high-motor. McCrory is a high-level athlete on the wing who put up huge scoring numbers last year at the Master’s School and made a commitment to UMass before arriving. Venning came to Woodstock with Rivera, after playing for him last year at MacDuffie, and is a wide-bodied big man who has made rapid strides within the last 15 months. Lawrence graduated from Windsor High School last year and has probably been the most pleasant surprise this fall, picking up a handful of D1 offers and making a subsequent commitment to Rider last month.
Detroit native Joseph Moon, an athletic and tough combo-guard, is the third player on the roster who has already committed to a division I school following his pledge to Bryant earlier this fall. Moon is expected to play an important role in the backcourt along with Quinton McElroy, Noel Scott, and Josh Davis. McElroy is a long and smooth lefty who is becoming more of a lead guard after playing alongside five-star point guard Sharife Cooper last year at McEachern High School in Georgia. Scott is a big, power guard from California who has settled in and started to make his presence felt. Davis battled ankle injuries this fall but could provide more ball-handling and shooting.
The team’s strength though will likely be up front where the four local products and DeGray will be joined by a handful of other talented prospects. Jamon Kemp, the son of former NBA star Shawn Kemp, is a predictably high-level athlete with a ton of upside on the wing who went for 21 points earlier this season against NY International Academy. Ben Fort is another athletic wing, who doesn’t have quite the same power or explosiveness but is a well-rounded player. David Jones is a long, mobile, and active big capable of playing multiple positions up front. The biggest question mark on the team may be Montverde Academy transfer Jordan Mitchell, a 6-foot-8 forward who is originally from Ohio and has had a big reputation since he was an underclassman but has been out with injury since his arrival.
Michael Jefferson is a true senior from Texas who could opt to return for his post-graduate year. A skilled and cerebral 6-foot-6 forward, he provides a reliable floor-spacer and decision-maker for the Centaurs. Quran McPherson, a recent transfer from Christ the King in New York, provides an explosive playmaker with an attacking mentality who should be a key part of the backcourt rotation from day one.
Their depth will set them apart, and for a team that appears intent to play with an up-tempo pressing style, that is going to be key. It’s hard to decipher their first five from the second five and that means they’ll be able to come at opponents in waves, continuously throwing fresh bodies out there. Factor in their collective athleticism and they’re built to wear opposing teams down. They scored 116 or more points in each of their last two games and haven’t yet had a team score more than 75 against them, and that’s reflective of the style of play they will look to impose on others.
Now in just their third season of existence, the Woodstock program is essentially starting over. They have a new coach, a new roster, and should not be burdened by external expectations from a 2018-19 campaign that was far ahead of schedule by all accounts.
Instead, this is a group that will look to establish continuity, help over two dozen still unsigned seniors and post-grads get to the next level, and set the foundation for years to come as Rivera builds his own blueprint from a program that should be relevant on the national stage for the foreseeable future.