CIAC Season Preview
The 2011-2012 season is shaping up to be one of the most competitive the CIAC has seen in several years. Collectively speaking, the state offers more talent than we’ve seen in recent years and the competition looks to be steep in all four classes. Here’s a rundown of the top contenders:
New London – The defending state champions return the CIAC’s top player and one of the two highest ranked point guards in the entire country in Kris Dunn. Only one starter is gone from that undefeated squad and so nothing less than a repeat performance will do for the Whalers. Look for Malcolm Simmons, Voghens Larrieux, Doug Henton, and Keith Porter to lead the supporting cast.
St. Joseph – The defending state champions will have to go through New London to duplicate last year’s success. Timajh Parker-Rivera is the state’s preeminent interior force while James Jennings is a sparkplug in the backcourt. The arrival of Diamonte Zarba will give an additional boost while Quincey McKnight is a star in the making and Pat Hopkins provides additional size and depth up front.
Holy Cross – Ed Generali has the best backcourt in Waterbury for his 25th season on the job. Senior Mike Mallory is coming off a big junior season and subsequent summer and may be the best individual talent in the NVL. Tre’Von Perry provides a more than capable running mate to give the Crusaders a nice one-two punch.
Windsor – A year after going 23-2, the pieces are in place for Windsor to make another deep run this season. Garey Allen and Andy Hurd create one of the state’s most dependable backcourt tandems while Jaquan Harrison anchors the paint with his size and physical tools. Jared Wilson-Frame looks poised to emerge as a star this season.
Crosby – The Bulldogs have won eight straight NVL titles and so, very simply, they’re the favorite until someone knocks them off. They won’t have the star power as in years past but there is plenty of depth with the likes of Tyshon Rogers, T.J. Pierce, and Anthony King leading a squad that could go ten deep with their rotation.
Hillhouse – Freddie Wilson and Drew Crudup are gone for the team that went 22-3 last year, but with Andre Anderson, Bobby Bynum, and Lyman Hall transfer Rich Bronson there is still plenty of firepower in the backcourt. With Wednesday’s win over Career, they’ve already proven they’re not a team to be taken lightly.
Fairfield Prep – William & Mary bound swingman Terry Tarpey is one of the state’s best and he’s capable of single handedly carrying this team to wins. Tim Butala will be counted on to make big contributions this year as a junior while the team’s fate will ultimately be decided in the backcourt where they are young and inexperienced to start the year.
Westhill – Tony Dobbinson is one of the CIAC’s top point guards, and when Chris Walters returns from injury, they’ll have as good of a one-two punch as there is in the FCIAC. The X factor is Antwaun Boyd, who is appealing an extra year of eligibility, if he gets it, the Vikings become automatic contenders.
• East Hartford has a weapon that few programs in the state can match up with and that’s scoring guard Cane Broome. The key will be the supporting cast.
• Cheshire has one of the CIAC’s best big man in Nate Howard and his return should help them build off a 13 win season from a year ago.
• Danbury is another sleeper in the western half of the state. Tim Jackson Jr. and Joel Harris give them two potent weapons.
• New Britain should be much improved with a talented young core of Craven Johnson, who averaged 15 points last year as a freshman, and Daequan Clark.
• Bridgeport Central has plenty of firepower beginning with point guard Tyler Ancrum and continuing with Kimani Geer and Robert Blackwell.
• Glastonbury returns junior big man Jordan Butler, who averaged a double-double for a 17 win club a year ago.
• Xavier should be a contender in the SCC before the year is out. Jovan Santos-Knox anchors the interior with an all-conference type big man.
Northwest Catholic – They’ll look to get over the hump after advancing to the state finals last year. Kuran Iverson is the team’s premier talent but there are plenty of other weapons in place as well. Zach Lewis could be in store for a breakout senior season while Tyler Huffman will provide long range shooting and P.J. Edwards will help to solidify things in the paint.
Trinity Catholic – The arrival of Jason Boswell automatically gives Trinity Catholic one of the state’s top individual talents, and he’s far from a one man show as sophomore big man Paschal Chukwu has as much upside as any player in the CIAC and Schadrac Casimir, Brandon Wheeler, Aaron Spence, Tyler Walston, and Kevin Leumene add to a deep rotation.
Career – They began the season ranked fifth in the New Haven Register poll but suffered an early setback at the hands of local rival Hillhouse. Expect them to take their frustrations out on their upcoming opponents as Treyvon More, Kenny Armstead, Earl Hassell and company have the firepower to contend with just about anyone.
Stratford – With Tom Bajda, Tafari Whittingham, and Bernard Brantley all expected back, this was supposed to be Stratford’s year. But with transfers leaving only Brantley on board, suddenly the Red Devils have less weapons, but reportedly better chemistry. If guys like Kyle Small and Kinshawn Pettway can step up, this could still be a special year.
East Catholic – They made a steady climb up the rankings in the second half of last season and return several weapons including the senior tandem of Austin Calling and Tyler Veretto, along with two talented up and coming sophomores in big man Baylen Eason and point guard Winston Morgan.
• Maloney is coming off a 25-2 season and despite suffering a decent amount of losses they still project to be one of the top contenders in class L this year.
• Wilby is deep and experienced, returning three starters and eight letter winners, so they should be dangerous out of the NVL.
• Bassick will be long, athletic and active, but their title chances could depend on the status of 6’7” Demetrius Thomas’ potential return to the line-up.
• University High School is flying under the radar but a group to be reckoned with, led by the presence of Luciano Martinez at the point.
Notre Dame Fairfield – They return virtually everyone from last year’s 23 win team and so a state championship appears to be an obtainable goal this year. Arkel Miles anchors the paint while a lethal three-guard rotation of Danny Upchurch, Earl Coleman and Trey McPherson will present troubles for any opponent.
Enfield – The Raiders return the NCC’s top player in Trechone Preston, who earned pre-season recognition from both the Hartford Courant and New Haven Register. Preston averaged close to 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists last year in leading Enfield to the semifinals of the class M tournament a year ago.
Valley Regional – They lose quite a bit after going 25-2 a year ago but still return the experience, guard play, and size to make a run this season. Jonathon Luseter and Mason King headline the backcourt, while Chris Connor and Chris Polo provide plenty of size in the frontcourt. Kyle Smith makes a capable fifth starter.
• Cromwell appears capable of making a run behind the senior trio of Colin Burkhart, Pat Sirois, and Brett Director.
• Suffield will be dangerous with the return of Eddie Danek, who averaged 21 points per game a year ago and was picked for the Courant’s Fab 15 pre-season list.
• Hyde is young and rebuilding but still bound to be a threat in the Shoreline by virtue of their depth and athleticism.
Capital Prep – The backcourt tandem of Kahlil Dukes and Levy Gillespie Jr. is more than any class S program should have to deal with. As if that weren’t enough, DeWayne Wynn is a physically imposing swingman who can put big numbers on the board.
Classical Magnet – Another Hartford Magnet School that should be among the top contenders in class S with the return of Jaquann Starks, who averaged 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals to lead Classical to the class S title game a year ago.
Kolbe Cathedral – They opened their season with a huge road win at Capital Prep on Wednesday night and that’s a match-up we might see again in March. Head coach Chris Smith has some notable weapons including senior D.J. Perry and sophomore sensation Ian Gardner.
• Immaculate has experience, size, and a playmaking guard in Dan McCorkle, all of which should make them a major factor come time for the class S tournament.
• Coginchaug knocked off Valley on opening night and looks poised for a big season with Erikson Wasyl running the show from the point.