NEPSAC A Preview
Class A looks to be deep and competitive this year with a variety of different programs hoping to make a run come February. Here's a look at some of the favorites:
Salisbury – They return the majority of their line-up after earning class A’s top seed and advancing to the New England finals last year. Chris McCullough returns from his breakout summer with a list of high-major followers but Samuel Dingba and Ryan Frazier are just as important to the team’s success. Dingba is an athletic monster on both ends of the floor with an evolving skill set while Frazier is the team’s undeniable leader, possessing as much individual character as he does basketball ability. The newcomers are headlined by two sharp-shooters on the perimeter in Brandon Hedley and Glenn Baral while Myles Jones and Mike Geanellis give head coach Jeff Ruskin added weapons off the bench.
Milton Academy – With Dennis Clifford now wearing Boston College’s colors, a new era has begun at Milton Academy. What won’t change is head coach Lamar Reddicks, who has developed a culture of toughness and tenacity within his program. Depth will be another major weapon this year with no less than ten players capable of playing at the college level one day. Six-foot-six Ikemefuna Ngwudo and six-foot-eight Alec Brennan are the team’s most talented players but the backcourt is full of guys like Eric Davis, Travis Sheldon, Jesse Pagliuca, Max Motroni, and Nick Pagliuca who all shoot it with range and compete to the max every time out.
Phillips Exeter – Head coach Jay Tilton has his deepest and most talented team in years and probably his first real chance to truly contend for a NEPSAC title. Versatility and experience also promise to be weapons for this club as they appear capable of going two deep at every position on the floor. Cam Shorey, Showly Nicholson, and Tony Karalekas are all back from last year while local products Chris Braley and Connor Green headline the list of newcomers along with post-graduates Reggie Perkins II, Matt Chiusano, and Christian Del Castillo plus super sophomore Kendrick Morris. Blake Chasen and Tyler Presley should also see time in the rotation.
Kent School – Kent’s program has been a pillar of consistency and success since Jason Coulombe took over three years ago. They claimed the 2010 Western New England championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of last year’s class A tournament. This year’s squad also promises to be a contender behind the returning trio of Stefon Williams, Henry Pendergast, and Travis Berry. Post-Graduate Evan Battle and future UCLA football player Conor McDermott provide two huge interior presences to boost an already talented roster while seniors Joshua Kingsley and Eric Tuder are also expected to contribute. Sophomore Cas Simmons and freshman sensation Leon Tambue headline the underclassmen.
Best of the Rest
Tabor Academy – In just his third year at the helm of the program, head coach Chris Millette has Tabor ready to contend once again in the NEPSAC. After doubling their win total a year ago, Tabor returns four starters this season including one of the class’ best individual talents, Dimitry Coronel. Fabulous freshman Jarred Reuter is one of the most notable newcomers in the entire league.
Trinity Pawling – Bill Cassum returns for year two of his second stint at Trinity Pawling and he has the program poised to return to levels of success not seen since his first stint as the program’s head coach. Connecticut native Gerald McClease headlines a list of incoming post-graduates set to spark the group while the rest of the deep roster has a distinct New York/New Jersey flair to it.
Phillips Academy Andover – Leon Modeste’s squad returns a dynamic one-two punch in big man Thomas Palleschi and skilled swingman Ryan Hartung from a program that advanced all the way to the Class A semifinals a year ago. Junior sharpshooter Brendan OConnell should be ready to step into a bigger role this season as well.
Choate Rosemary Hall – John Papale is the only returning starter for the defending class A champions after being named First Team All New England and the Class A Tournament MVP a year ago. The sharp-shooter will be a marked man all year long and so Choate will need big contributions from Casey Woodring along with newcomers Shane McLaughlin and Pete Weston.
Taft – Head coach Dave Hinman has plenty of weapons at his disposal this year beginning with the return of senior forward Kevin Trotman. Newcomers Jake Donnelly and Kade Kager form an intriguing backcourt duo while six-foot-eight Fairfield Prep graduate Matt Daley will anchor the middle as a post-graduate.
Loomis Chaffee – The Pelicans are another program that has been a pillar of consistency over the years as head coach Jim Dargati has developed a very strong program. Alex Perrone is the team’s latest anchor in the middle as a post-graduate while the return of Rich Conway from last year’s injury should also prove to be a significant addition.
Hopkins will be dangerous behind the senior duo of Laurent Firlotte and Lucas Hausman while Sam Glazer is a talented freshman who could also see consistent minutes from day one in the NEPSAC.
Avon Old Farms – Head coach Tim Roller excels at creating teams that are more than the sum of their individual parts, and you can expect AOF to do that once again this year with a culture of toughness and execution.
St. Paul’s figures to be much improved as the dynamic duo of Tarik Smith and Harrison Taggart return for their second season together at the New Hampshire prep school.
Deerfield should prove to be a formidable adversary again this year and will benefit from the arrival of Sam Willson, who graduated last year from Taft.
Belmont Hill has added some nice young pieces to their team, namely freshman guard Sultan Olusekum, that has them trending in the right direction heading into the season.
St. Sebastian’s is another program with a talented young guard in Jordan Byrdie, who is just one reason why they should be a tough out in the ISL this year.
Buckingham, Browne & Nichols will look to return to their winning ways this year with a veteran core led by Eric Olson along with a solid contingent of youngsters expected to contribute right away.