Connecticut High School Season Preview
Hillhouse and Weaver both return significant portions of their state championship teams. But with a host of others hoping to call themselves champions, along with the CIAC’s confusing tournament alignments, there are plenty of programs in the hunt this year.
Hillhouse: The two time defending state champions have lost a lot since last year, but nonetheless remain the favorites until somebody proves otherwise. With Mike Moore gone to Fordham, the biggest question is who will step up as a go to scorer in crunch time. There are a couple of potential candidates: Tywan Samuels is a versatile perimeter player whose terrific size allows him to get his shot off at virtually anytime; Jeremy Moore is a sharp shooting junior guard who is also able to make plays off the bounce because of his exceptional quickness; and TJ McKiver is an old school type of back to the basket low post scorer who will be very difficult to stop in single coverage. Ultimately, Hillhouse’s versatility may prove to be their greatest weapon. Other obvious advantages are speed, quickness, athleticism, and depth as this team again promises to hassle opponents into numerous turnovers with their full court pressure defense. In the backcourt Moore will be joined by battle tested seniors like Chaz Stewart, Sean DeShields, and Joshua Greenwood. Samuels and McKiver will team up with Hassan Toler to form an extremely talented frontcourt. If that weren’t enough, the future remains bright with Tavon Allen and Fred Wilson stars in waiting. With plenty of talent, size, and depth on the roster Head Coach Kermit Carolina’s squad has New Haven’s faithful thinking three-peat.
Weaver: Despite dropping their first game of the season, the defending class L state champions appear poised for another run at the title. While this team has a number of strengths, they simply have one weapon that no other team can match…Tyrone Gardner. The junior point guard is probably the most dangerous scorer in the CIAC. He almost single handedly delivered the state title last year as he scored 37 points through the first three quarters of the final game. The lefty can do just about anything he wants with the ball and can score in a variety of ways. Joining Gardner in the backcourt is Charles Moreland another talented guard. Moreland doesn’t always get the credit he deserves, but is an essential piece of any championship aspirations Weaver has. Head Coach Lou LaPenna will need consistency out of his frontcourt to repeat last season’s success.
Windsor: Year in and year out Windsor is always one of the teams to beat in the CCC. But this year has the feel of something special for Head Coach Ken Smith’s group. Despite losing four starters from last season, this group has the talent to be a major player in the post-season. It begins with his junior duo of Adrian Satchell and Steven Samuels. Both players are coming off of very impressive summers and appear poised for stardom. But Smith’s teams have always been about depth and defense and this year should be no different. Senior Justin Wilson is a talented and versatile guard who should be in for a big season, as should another junior in Doug Soutar. 6’4” senior Kelvin Henry will lead a supporting cast that will no doubt leave everything on the floor. Ultimately, you can count on this team to get after it defensively for 32 minutes and wear down their opponents, force the opposition into turnovers, and score a lot of points in the open floor. However, if they run into someone who can match their depth and defensive pressure, what may put them over the top is the fact that they have guys who can flat out make plays down the stretch.
Hartford Public: Kurt Reiss’ group made a big statement as they knocked off cross-town rival Hartford Public in the season’s opening game. 5’9” sophomore point guard Danny Lawhorn and 6’9” junior big man Daryl McCoy are two players with very bright futures. But this team also possesses great senior leadership in Rasheem McCoy and Enrique Fernandez. Arshad Jackson and Lamar Burgess are two talented juniors who are also expected to produce big things. Ultimately, what this group lacks in experience they make up for in sheer talent and cohesiveness.
Trinity Catholic: Trinity Catholic appears poised for another FCIAC title this year. Tevin Baskin is already a star who can dominate the game at both ends of the floor. With his size, athleticism, and talent there is simply no one who can match up with him on the interior. Eric Jean-Guillaume is a scoring point guard who returns to run the team after a very impressive sophomore season. John O’Leary is a smart and skilled forward with good size who is also expected to have a big season. While these players form a solid nucleus, they will need consistency out of their supporting cast to bring home a state title.
St. Joseph’s: This appears to be the most talented team Vito Montelli has had in several years. Rob Harrigan, Nick Gerrity, and Greg Langston form a talented core while Kyle Walker, Dan Noccioli, Justin Bemhke, and freshman Brandon Jones are all important supporting pieces. Harrigan is a sharp-shooting lefty with great size who will need to get shots for this team to be effective. After struggling with some injuries last year, Langston should be ready for a break-out year. It will fall on Gerrity to run the offense, distribute the ball, and possibly sacrifice some of his own shots for the good of the team. If he can do that this could be a very big year for St. Joe’s.
New London: Watching Florida bound big man Allan Chaney plow through the field during New London’s conference schedule will almost be unfair. However, the Whalers will face much stiffer competition once the state tournament begins, and they will need others to step up if they hope to fulfill their championship aspirations.
Norwich Free Academy: RJ Evans returns after averaging 23 points per game in his junior season. Fresh off his commitment to Holy Cross, the sharp-shooting guard is likely to put up even bigger numbers this season. The big question is who will run the point after rock solid floor general Garvin McAlister has moved on to Post University.
Northwest Catholic: There are some new faces in West Hartford, and one very familiar one. Chris Prescott returns for his senior year and got off to a big start in his opening game by dropping 35. Junior Uzoma Orchingwa looked like a valuable second scoring option during fall league play while Justin Green, Dean Spence, Greg Peterson, and Brandon Forrester will all play important roles.
Crosby: Some people seem to have forgotten about B.J. Monteiro since last season, but we have a feeling they will be reminded of his talent soon. The super cool competitor is a natural scorer who could go for 40 on any night. With point guard Anthony Ireland coming off a big summer, Crosby is a serviceable big man away from another run at a state title.
Wilby: Marcus James and Jeremi Johnson will form a potent one-two punch for a team that may surprise some people in the NVL this year. James has the potential to emerge as one of the state’s most dominant scorers while Johnson, who transferred from Cheshire Academy, could be the perfect compliment.
Harding: With Charoy Bentley now at St. Joe’s there are big shoes to fill. Nevertheless, you can bet that with Head Coach Charlie Bentley at the helm you can still rebuild and win your fair share of games. Harding will be led by senior swingman Cornelius Brown and sophomore point guard Laquan Mendenhall.
Torrington: Torrington is known for putting points on the board in bunches and this year will be no different as there transition attack will be as potent as ever with Andre French running the point. But there half court offense could be equally as dangerous with Jordan Williams in the middle. After another big summer he returns to Torrington having again improved his physique and appearing ready to absolutely dominate the NVL in the paint.
East Catholic: East Catholic is looking to return to the state finals for the third consecutive year, but that will be no easy task now that the backcourt of Michael Auriemma and Mike Rhodes has graduated. Nick Greenbacker remains and will anchor the team inside. Freshman phenom Jerome Harris should be a major player by the season’s end.
Kolbe Cathedral: The post T.J. Robinson era begins at Kolbe Cathedral. Luckily, Dominique Langston and Andrae Beckford remain to form a very dangerous inside-out combination. Langston will serve as the team’s playmaker while Beckford is a phenomenal athlete with a much improved skill set.
East Hartford: This team may be a year or two away from reaching their full potential, but on talent alone they can compete with anybody. Jevon Williams (soph), Jakarri McCallop (soph), Tim Washington (soph), and Anthony Jernigan (fresh) form a young core that could make East Hartford an emerging powerhouse in the state. Ethan Waite and David Dudley will provide leadership and experience.
Notre Dame-Fairfield: Greg DeSantis dropping 30 in his first game was no fluke. This kid is super skilled and ready for a big year. Matt Maya is a long range specialist who is likely the conference’s best pure shooter. 6’5” Jimmy Hock will be eligible in January and provide immediate relief on the glass.
Notre Dame-West Haven: Yale bound Greg Mangano anchors a Notre Dame team that should contend in the SCC. His apprentice, Phil Gensicki, is a physical lefty who knows how to get things done in the paint. If sophomore Sean Dempsey can handle the point guard role, this should be a good year in West Haven.
E.O. Smith: After finishing last season with a 21-4 mark, E.O. Smith returns the center piece of their team in Fairfield bound big man Ryan Olander. He will have help from his little brother, Tyler Olander, who has an extremely bright future of his own.
Maloney: Maloney didn’t lose until the class L championship game last year. And while Jeron Belin has departed the vast majority of the nucleus of that team returns. Rashamell Vereen and Johrone Bunch will lead the way as the Meriden team tries to take the final step.
Xavier: With Brian Fitzpatrick on board there is plenty of talent to win the Quinnipiac Division of the SCC. In order to challenge for the conference crown Shawn Holley and Will Tye will have to step up and produce night in and night out.
Glastonbury: John Pinone was all-conference last season as a sophomore after averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. Jeff Pitkin is a valuable second option with his ability to attack the rim with the dribble, while Jon Karas keeps defenses honest with his three-point shooting. They should be much improved from a year ago.
Wilbur Cross: The Governors are looking for a three-peat in the Oronoque Division of the SCC. Behind their trademark tough defense and the play of 6’4” senior Markus Wright it could be another successful season for Head Coach Jim Reynolds n’company.
Sacred Heart: Two talented sophomores and a steady senior point guard lead the way as Sacred Heart hopes to win the battle for Waterbury and much more. Josh Turner is a star in the making while Cory Andrews is also a special talent. Bryant Corcoran is a steady floor general who runs the team.