MIAA Season Preview
The high school basketball season got off to an exciting start this week in Massachusetts. With most teams now a game or two into the season we wanted to take a look at things to come in all four of the MIAA divisions. Division I is loaded as usual with the vast majority of the top teams in the state. The notable exception is New Mission who has a legitimate argument as the state’s top team despite playing in division IV.
St. John’s Prep – The only thing left for Notre Dame bound swingman Pat Connaughton is to lead his St. John’s Prep squad to a state championship. He came close a year ago, falling only to the eventual champion Central Catholic in the state tournament. The six-foot-four swingman could very well end up averaging 30 points and 15 rebounds this year but he will be far from a one man show as his supporting cast includes talents like Steve Haladyna, Connor Macomber, and Mike Carbone.
Central Catholic – Lots of people want to count out the defending champions now that Carson Desrosiers is at Wake Forest, but Central Catholic will still be among the contenders in division I. Although Desrosiers may be gone they return another talented big man Jimmy Zenevitch at the helm of a deep and talented squad that also features lockdown defender Luis Puello, point guard Jaycob Morales, and sophomore sensation Joel Barroa.
New Bedford – The outlook was bleak in September but now New Bedford looks like one of the favorites in division I and all it took was the arrival of two of the state’s top talents. Steve Wynn left New Bedford following his sophomore year but returned this fall after a brief stint at Lawrence Academy. Jules Tavares found his way to New Bedford after a similarly short stay at Wilbraham & Monson and now the duo looks like the most explosive backcourt tandem in the state.
Newton North – If Macam Bak Macam returns to the line-up and can reassert himself without disturbing the team’s continuity then Newton North has a great chance to make a run this season. Senior Tevin Falzon gives head coach Paul Connelly a skilled big man in the middle while younger brother Aaron Falzon has similar ability and signs of stardom. While the strength of the team lies in the frontcourt, Mike Thorpe can do damage in the backcourt either running the show from the point or scoring on the wing.
Andover – Head coach Dave Fazio has a talented nucleus led by Joe Bramanti, one of the top players in the state. Bramanti is powerful, tough, and capable of putting points on the board in a hurry. Sophomore Sam Dowden could be Fazio’s next budding star and capable of making a big impact in just his second season. Andover will have to overcome the loss of Brian Miller inside but Craig Luschenat has the perimeter skill set to emerge as a third scorer.
Charlestown – There is an abundance of talent in Charlestown beginning with Akosa Maduegbunam who looks poised to prove himself one of the top two or three players in the state. Explosively athletic with a rapidly emerging skill set, Maduegbunam will lead an attack that also features the likes of Rony Fernandez, Tyrese Hoxeter, Demitry Lewis, and Omar Orriols.
Cambridge Rindge & Latin – Potential is usually a word used to describe an individual prospect, but in the case of Cambridge the word is an appropriate description of their team. The Taylor brothers, Maurice Taylor and Jacquil Taylor are still early in their development but have undeniable ability. Senior guard Deondre Starling is the man flying under the radar but of equal importance running the show.
Lawrence – They are a little bit like the Gonzaga or Xavier of division I this year in that everyone is picking them to be a “sleeper” team while it’s no real secret how good they are. Under-rated is better used to describe senior guard Jaylen Alicea, who puts points on the board in bunches. He and six-foot-eight big man Jesse Hiraldo give Lawrence as talented of a one-two punch as you will find in Merrimack Valley.
Springfield Central – They have some undeniable losses to overcome with Jaylen Brantley and Victor Aytche both transferring out of the school but head coach Mike Labrie still has enough talent at his disposal to make a claim for Western Mass’ top spot. Cornelius Tyson and Kamari Robinson are two young players loaded with talent who should both be ready for breakout years while Tyrell Springer gives them an incoming transfer to help compensate for their losses.
West Springfield – Central’s loss will be West Springfield’s gain as the addition of Victor Aytche should make them one of the prime contenders in the west. Aytche will team with Musa Elsir and Chris Hill to form a big three that should be able to hang with just about anyone in the state. Elsir averaged over 16 points per game last season while Hill was above the 13 mark.
• Another contender in the hotly contested west, Westfield has a quality inside-out duo to build around in Joe Meade and Alex Gartska.
• Speaking of duos, Acton Boxborough’s backcourt tandem of Sam Longwell and Wes Schroll is as steady a starting backcourt as you’ll find.
• There is a big difference between being a top prospect and an impact player at an early age but Jared Terrell may have the skills and determination to satisfy both requirements for Weymouth.
• Head coach Tony Bergeron has shown given a little talent he can generate a lot of wins and he’ll have more than a little this year with Brice McCallister, Luke Noreen, Brandon Bosworth, and Josh Bosworth.
• Lincoln Sudbury has a weapon few can match in John Swords as his sheer size changes the game dramatically. Mitchell Perez is an impact shot maker in the backcourt.
• Matt Kneece and Will Machalski form a tremendous interior duo for Shrewsbury but the key will be in the backcourt here Ryan Stowe will lead the way.
• The other St. John’s is a force to be reckoned with in their own right as Patrick Talentino and Rich Rodgers lead the way in Shrewsbury’s second contending school.
• The real sleeper could be in Doherty where Andre Santana and Joel Katana are two veterans who should lead their squad to big things this season.
• Western Mass continues to produce contending teams with Northampton being the latest to join the hunt behind Jake Laga and Jarred Neumann.
New Mission – They are the overwhelming favorite after making the jump from division IV. With Kachi Nzerem, Samir McDaniels, and Nate Anderson leading the way head coach Cory McCarthy has superior size, talent, and athleticism at his disposal. Most impressive about New Mission is that they don’t win on talent alone as they compete on both ends of the floor and get after it on the defensive end, which is why they could very well be the top team in all of the MIAA, never mind just division four.
Reading – They have two playmaking guards in Kenny Reed and Trey Jones. If the duo can share the ball and work together there may not be another division II team that can match their production in the backcourt.
Sabis – Jim Mack’s squad took the state title last year but has to overcome big losses in order to repeat. The Bulldogs return three starters in Eddie Hall, John Williams, and most importantly Xavier Garcia who will need to assume leadership of the team this year.
St. Bernard’s Central Catholic – St. Bernard’s returns one of the top overall players in all of division II in John Henault, a six-foot-two shooting guard who is capable of putting his team on his back at any time and leading them to a win.
• Belchertown will be a force to be reckoned with behind Pat Gooden, one of the highest volume scorers in the state.
• Salem is a team without stars but one who some are predicting could be on top of the state by the time the season comes to an end.
Whitinsville Christian – The team should have unbeatable chemistry after playing together for the better part of the off-season. They also have plenty of talent on hand in senior big man Hans Miersma and sophomore point guard Colin Richey, who should emerge as one of the top young guards in the state this season.
Watertown – The Red Raiders will be right back in the hunt this season as Steve Harrington’s squads are always well coached and dangerous, especially when knocking down their trademark three-point shots which is a bit of a specialty for Marco Coppola, who will lead Watertown in their quest for their second state title in the last three years.