25 Names to Know in the Class of 2021
Every year, as fall turns to winter, NERR releases our initial freshmen class rankings.
Last year those rankings came with a new twist, as we published 25 names to know but presented them in alphabetical order.
There were several motivating factors behind that decision. First and foremost, the growing culture of entitlement around youth basketball has led to an unprecedented amount of youngsters being celebrated instead of pushed or guided. As a result, too many youngsters with a real opportunity to use basketball as a vehicle to make a better life for themselves are wasting their chance. Rankings certainly isn’t the root of the disease, but it can be a contributing factor, and so it was in everyone’s best interest to not further perpetuate a negative trend.
Second, our rankings are based on projections to play at the next level and those are very hard to determine for freshmen who may only be 14 or 15 years old. With the class of 2020 in particular, it was almost impossible to determine any type of hierarchy at this time last year.
2021 is a little different. We’ll still present the 25 names to know in alphabetical order, but to pretend that Terrence Clarke isn’t at the top of the list would be disingenuous.
He’s being mentioned as a potential top national prospect in the class of 2021 and while that’s almost an unfair burden for anyone his age to try to have to live up to, his obvious talent level warrants such distinction. He may be older than most freshmen, but he’s already versatile and highly impactful with plenty of upside still left to discover. The challenge for any youngster who is as celebrated at this early stage is to develop and maintain the work-ethic, discipline, and humility necessary to maximize those tools.
The biggest caveat of all when doing a list that starts this early is for young players to recognize it is anything but a final destination. Being on this list now will very literally mean nothing next year. In fact, there was a big difference between last year’s 25 names to know and our recently released sophomore class rankings. The bottom line, as always, is perspective. If you’re not on this list, it may just be because we haven’t seen you yet, but go out and use it to motivate you nonetheless. If you are on the list, realize that you still haven’t earned or proven a thing yet, but from this point on people will be watching and so if you’re not developing or doing it the right way, it will be noticed.
With all of that in mind, here’s a look at 25 names to know in New England’s class of 2021:
Dylan Ahearn, St. Andrew’s – The younger brother of Binghamton forward Bobby Ahearn, Dylan stands out with his skill set and understanding of the game at a young age. He may not be getting much burn yet on a talented St. Andrew’s team but his future is bright as he shoots the ball very well and just knows how to play in terms of his passing, spacing, and overall processing of the game.
Ademide Badmus, Lynn English – He’s a big body and strong rebounder who is already putting up double-doubles at the high school level as a freshman. Badmus also has a soft natural touch, not just around the rim but also into the mid-range area, and so there is potential to continue to develop and harness his skill set moving forward while also maintaining his efficiency.
Dasonte Bowen, O’Bryant – Early on he looks bound to be one of the best playmaking guards in the class. He played varsity as an 8th grader last year at O’Bryant and is putting up tremendous numbers so far as a freshman with averages of 22 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals per game through their first 3 contests. He’s creative, shifty, and confident with the ball and able to make plays for himself and others on demand.
Jayden Brown, Coyle & Cassidy – He not only suited up and played varsity for Coyle & Cassidy as an 8th grader but he put up substantial numbers. He’s back this year as a true freshman and only doing more of the same. He also had a solid showing at Elite 75 where he looked like a budding hybrid forward who could fly around the court and both rims alike to make plays on both ends of the floor.
Cole Bryant, St. Luke’s – He’s a very intriguing perimeter prospect because he has good size, length, and a skill set that continues to expand. The second year freshman got valuable experience on last year’s St. Luke’s championship team and is now ready to contribute as a consistent member of the rotation this year while benefitting from the guidance of longtime college coach Tony Newsom.
Matt Constant, St. Andrew’s – You won’t find many youngsters who can match his work-ethic and motor, and so as long as he can sustain it for the right reasons, Constant is a very safe bet on the perimeter in the class of 2021. He’s as fearless as he is hard-working, with a solid skill set and a willingness to attack just about anyone even at the AA level.
Kurtis Henderson, Catholic Memorial – Compact and powerful with a lot of burst to his game, Henderson can create tempo like almost no other guard in the class. He’s strong with the ball, has control of his speeds, has learned what it means to distribute, but can also hit the gas to get into the lane at virtually anytime. He’s also already making an impact for a CM program with a proud tradition.
Tyrone Holloway Jr., Greens Farms Academy – He caught our eye earlier this fall at Elite 75, but didn’t necessarily stand out as one of the best prospects in attendance. We’ve become increasingly intrigued with each passing evaluation so far this winter though as Holloway has good perimeter size, a lot of upside to his frame, and natural playmaking tools to suggest a potentially bright future.
Brett Hutchison, Northfield Mount Hermon – What this guy may lack in size, he more than makes up for with skill and moxy. He’s tight with the ball and makes shots off both the catch and the dribble but what really separates him is his confidence and toughness. He plays with absolutely no fear, goes right at the opposition, and just makes things happen.
Muhamed Kante, Holderness – A drive and kick style point guard who excels at collapsing defenses to create shots for his teammates, Kante is also a plenty capable scorer himself. He can get all the way to the rim when the defense stays at home and also owns an already dependable pull-up game. He’s playing significant minutes from day one for Holderness while learning under former ACC assistant coach Woody Kampmann.
Ben Kaczmarek, St. Sebastian’s – He showed a soft shooting touch at Elite 75 and so between that and his positional size and physical style, we were intrigued. As we continued to watch him throughout the Zero Gravity fall circuit what we saw is that he could make shots in bunches as he got hot on more than one occasion and with the way the game is trending, those are attributes that are increasingly valuable.
Franck Kepang, MacDuffie – The repeat freshman is a man among boys in the class as his combination of size, strength, length, and energy puts him on a different level. MacDuffie is off to a tremendous start in the AA ranks and he’s already playing an important role against big men two and three years older. Kepang has made notable strides in the last 12 months and shows the desire to keep improving.
Jack Lerner, Northfield Mount Hermon – He’s still flying under the radar for most local hoops fans because he hadn’t previously played in the region prior to this season, missed a good portion of the fall with injury, and is understandably buried in a deep NMH rotation for the time being. However, his reputation preceded his arrival as Lerner has size, skill, and basketball acumen to make him an intriguing prospect on the perimeter.
Kekoa McArdle, Northfield Mount Hermon – McArdle is making his second appearance on this list after debuting last year as a true freshman at St. Joseph’s Central. He made the move to NMH this year and so while he isn’t getting the immediate minutes to put up huge numbers, he’s going head-to-head with the likes of Laszewski, Hannah, and Lorca every day. Simply put, he’s one of the best low post players to emerge so far in the class.
Brendan McNamara, Arlington – He’s quickly building quite the early resume for himself beginning by playing up a grade level on the grassroots circuit this spring and summer. This winter, he’s already carved out a significant role on a particularly strong Arlington team and would likely be starting as a freshman at 90% of other MIAA schools given his maturity and skill set.
Aleksandr Oschepko, Springfield Commonwealth – A Russian native in his first year stateside, Oschepko looks like a versatile four in the making and is already playing big minutes. He’s already physically mature with good size at 6-foot-8 but also owns the coordination and mobility to cover the court on both ends. He can shoot the ball with range to the arc and is also very tough with a willingness to battle much older players.
Bennett Pitcher, Deerfield Academy – A two-sport star who doubles on the gridiron, Pritcher brings that football mentality with him to the hardwood as he has the intensity to match his size and strength. He asserts himself around the rim on both ends of the floor, is beginning to stretch his game away from the paint, and is typically able to just bully most of his peers.
Alexis Reyes, Rectory – He was one of the most notable standouts in the class at the Elite 75 given his size and strength on the perimeter as well as the skillset to handle, pass, and even lead the break precisely. He followed that up with an equally impressive outing at the Pangos Camp in New Jersey, again distinguishing himself as a highly talented young prospect with a major upside.
Casey Simmons, Milton Academy – He comes from athletic bloodlines and arrives at the high school level with an early reputation already intact. He’s long, athletic, and agile with a body type that is ideal for the game. He needs to keep working on his skill set and prove his worth between the lines but all the pieces are in place to have a bright future.
Nick Thomas, Fessenden – He’s a big man with a strong body who can overpower the vast majority of his peers. While that isn’t always a recipe for long-term success, what is intriguing about Thomas is that he has the potential to be able to handle and pass the ball at his size as he showed at Elite 75 when he faced-up to make plays off the bounce and even threw accurate lobs off the dribble.
Gio Thompson, Beaver Country Day – Following a star-studded junior boarding school career at Chapel Hill Chauncy Hall, Thompson has joined BCD and become part of the talented young core for Juan Figeuroa’s club. Thompson owns a ton of long-terms tools with an athletic frame, mobility, and good touch. He’s just scratching the surface now but when he puts it altogether he has a chance to have a very bright future.
Connor Tierney, Sacred Heart – A massive big man who stands just under seven-feet, this English native is the latest product in the Sacred Heart pipeline as they look to continue their recent string of dominance in the CIAC. He’s a throwback style center with soft hands, good touch, and footwork inside but will need to show his athleticism and ability to evolve alongside the modern game in the coming years.
Camaron Tongue, Rivers – He was seeking out opportunities to prove himself this fall and he ended up doing that and more, but he’s already risen the bar since the beginning of the high school season showing that he’s not just capable of making an immediate impact in his own age group but also playing up with juniors and seniors during Rivers’ challenging schedule.
Quron Zene, Master’s – He’s a man among boys in his age group as he’s powerful, physical, and very aggressive. Zene was a solid varsity contributor at Master’s last year as an 8th grader and there’s no denying his ability to impact a game is at the highest level right now relative to other 9th graders. The key for him long-term is continuing to diversify his game and develop his skill set as his peers close the gap physically.