Best of 2009
The primary function of the New England Recruiting Report is to look ahead. We look at what prospects are doing now and attempt to translate that into what they may do down the road in college.
With the turn of the calendar, we are going to take this rare opportunity to look back at the year gone by and examine who the best teams, stock risers, and recruits really were.
Best Prep School Team – Tilton School (New Hampshire): With eight minutes left in the NEPSAC Class B championship game against Marianapolis, it looked like David was about to slay Goliath as the defending champs were on the ropes. Not only did Tilton come back to win that game but then they went on to a tremendous run to the National Prep Championship crown with wins over Class A finalist South Kent, Class A champion Bridgton Academy, and the nation’s top ranked team in Hargrave Military Academy. Tilton finished with a 29-2 record with wins over MCI, Exeter, St. Mark’s, Winchendon, New Hampton, Brewster, South Kent, Bridgton, and Hargrave.
Best High School Team – Windsor High School (Connecticut): Of all the various state champions throughout New England’s six states, who was the best team? A hypothetical question to be sure. But we believe that had it been played out on the court Windsor would have proven victorious. They sent six seniors on to play college basketball from last year’s team (an amazing number for a public school), including three to scholarship levels. When it is all said and done last year’s squad will undoubtedly produce more than 10 college players and 5 scholarships. Combine that talent with the team’s defensive prominence and the guidance of head coach Ken Smith and you have arguably the best high school team in New England.
Best Prep School Cinderella Team – Tilton School (New Hampshire): When the National Prep Championships began some wondered aloud whether Tilton even belonged in the field. 48 hours and three dramatic wins later head coach Marcus O’Neil was celebrating with Alex Oriakhi, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, and Gerard Coleman in front of a capacity crowd at Endicott College. For a Class B school to win the National Championship was a feat that had never been achieved before, and likely never duplicated.
Best High School Cinderella Team – Rice Memorial High School (Vermont): Although it was no surprise to see Rice in last year’s Vermont division I final, they came into the championship game as a heavy underdog to cross-town rival Burlington who was riding a 47 game winning streak. The game was hard-fought for all 32 minutes but with just 5 seconds left to play it looked like Burlington would sneak away with their second straight title as they held a 35-33 lead. But Rice senior point guard Jon Goldberg would have other ideas as he drilled a pull-up jumper along the baseline to force overtime and then scored 10 of his team’s 13 points in the extra session to lead Rice to a 48-39 win.
Biggest 2010 Stock Riser – Billy Baron: At this time last year Baron was putting up big numbers in his senior season at Bishop Hendricken High School. Even after leading Hendricken to their sixth straight state title, Baron still had a long list of doubters. It was only after a tremendous summer that the gritty guard finally began to convince others of what he had believed in his heart since day one…that he was a high major talent.
Biggest 2011 Stock Riser – Shabazz Napier: Napier ascension up recruiting charts really began in the summer of 2008, but 2009 was the year that his name became known on a national level. Things culminated with an invitation to the Reebok All-American Camp and a great run at AAU Nationals where he reportedly out-dueled Phil Pressey in their one on one match-up. Now Napier’s recruiting list reads like a who’s who of the top college basketball programs on the east coast.
Biggest 2012 Stock Riser – Andre Drummond: At this time last year Drummond wasn’t even the consensus top prospect in New England…now ESPN, Rivals, and Scout all agree he is the top prospect in the country. His first breakout performance came at the try-outs for Team USA’s u16 group but things reached a new level later in July when he erupted for a second breakout performance in front of various media outlets from across the country at AAU Nationals, resulting in lofty comparisons to Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudamire, and Draft Express calling him the early favorite to be the top pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Biggest Division I Recruiting Steal – Chris Gaston to Fordham: Chris Gaston proved himself to be a high major level prospect last season at New Hampton, but the New Jersey native still held firm to his commitment to Fordham. Now Gaston is one of the early favorites for Freshmen of the Year honors in the Atlantic 10 having put up nearly 20 points and 11 rebounds per game in the Rams’ first 11 outings. Harvard and Quinnipiac also get high praise for the additions of Kyle Casey and Tevin Baskin, who both were seeing legitimate high-major interest during their high school careers.
Biggest Division II or III Recruiting Steal – Jefferson Lora to Albertus Magnus: Steal isn’t even the right word. Lora was previously committed to Central Connecticut and looked like a mid-major player on last spring’s AAU circuit. But instead of opting for a prep year he chose to stay close to home and go right to college. Albertus Magnus coach Mitch Oliver was the beneficiary as Lora has helped Albertus get off to a 6-1 record to start the season.
Most Underrated Recruits – Jake Barnett, Chris Flores, Daryl McCoy: Some 2009 commitments may not have been seen as steals at the time, but have been proven to be since the beginning of the college season. That list doesn’t have a clear cut top dog but Jake Barnett to Toledo, Chris Flores to NJIT, and Daryl McCoy to Drexel are all proving to be especially noteworthy in retrospect.