NEPSAC Class C Preview
It is hard to deny that St. Mark’s and Lawrence Academy are likely the overwhelming favorites going into the Class C season. Nevertheless, there are a host of other teams that are likely in store for big years.
Lawrence Academy: We will begin with the defending champions. Stevie Mejia is clearly the engine that makes Lawrence Academy go. The URI bound point guard is as tough and composed as they come. He is also an extremely talented basketball player who makes those around him better. Physically, he may be undersized at 5’9” but he is an extremely powerful and compact guard who rarely gets overpowered. While there may be higher levels prospects in the league, there are very few better high school players and perhaps no one else who is more important to their team.
Speaking of powerful players, there is none more physically dominant than 6’3” small forward Darryl Cato-Bishop. Last season Bishop provided his team with a ton of intangibles as he defended the opposition’s best player, rebounded the ball, and was an emotional leader for his team. In order for Lawrence to defend their championship, Cato-Bishop will have to emerge as a consistent scorer. While putting the ball in the basket has never been a problem for the BABC product, that role was held primarily by E.B. Davis on last year’s Lawrence team. With more shots available and a bigger role in store for him, this may be a break-out year for Cato-Bishop.
Denzel Brito is another player who will certainly help to put points on the board. The sophomore is coming off of a very impressive summer in which he showed he could more than hold his own against the best upperclassmen the region has to offer. And that is exactly what he will have to do this year as his role will be pivotal to the team’s success.
6’4” senior swingman Jon Wilkie will likely return to the starting line-up this year. He is a valuable role player who makes good decisions with the ball, knocks down open shots, and is a lock down defender. 6’3” Dan Giovacchini and 6’2” Marcus Grant are two freshmen who will likely have an opportunity to provide meaningful minutes.
Ultimately, this team may not be as deep as last year’s championship squad, but they may be even more talented. With Mejia, Cato-Bishop, and Brito all capable of doing big things this year, the team’s championship aspirations will likely depend on how well their supporting cast can produce in big games.
St. Mark’s: When we sat down with Erik Murphy and Nate Lubick earlier in the fall to discuss their recruitment and the upcoming season, it was obvious that the sting of losing last year’s championship game was still fresh in their minds. It was also clear that both superstars were willing to do whatever was necessary to ensure this year’s title came back to Southborough. That’s a dangerous recipe for the rest of their competition as Lubick and Murphy are as potent of an interior tandem as there is. But their effectiveness is not just limited to the paint, as both players are equally comfortable on the post or the perimeter.
Then you have big man Peter Kaasila, a potential mid-major talent. There isn’t another team in the region, at any level, where Kaasila would be the third option, which goes to show how talented and deep the St. Mark’s frontcourt is.
The big question is who is going to get these big men the ball. As soon as point guard Dave Johnson recovers from his broken wrist that will not be an issue, as both Murphy and Lubick were eager to praise their new lead guard. But Johnson’s own scoring abilities shouldn’t be overlooked either. He attacks the rim well in the open floor thanks to his speed and athleticism, and will also knock down shots from the perimeter when left unchecked.
Until Johnson fully recovers from his injury, Head Coach Dave Lubick will likely rely on Jay Freeman and Colin Keane to handle the point guard duties. Freeman is a talented and aggressive offensive player who is capable of creating his own shot at any time, while Keane is a more conventional point guard who distributes the ball without turning it over.
At the other guard, juniors Brian Grossman and Russell Braithwaite provide an excellent tandem. Braithwaite is a powerful and athletic player who gets into the paint off the dribble and finishes above the rim. Grossman does an excellent job of staying within his team’s offensive schemes, feeding the post, and knocking down open shots with a much improved stroke.
But the talent doesn’t stop there as 6’1” senior guard Cody Booth, 6’4” junior forward Victor Resto, and 6’6” sophomore forward Melsahn Basabe are all capable of making important contributions off the bench.
Overall, St. Mark’s has outstanding depth and talent, especially in the front court with Murphy and Lubick. But ultimately if they are going to reclaim the title, their guard play will be crucial. If Dave Johnson can heal quickly and live up to the hype this could be St. Mark’s year.
Brimmer & May: After winning the class D championship last year, Brimmer and May is making the jump to class C, and they appear poised to do some damage. Head Coach Greg Kristof’s team will need to be ready to go every night as they are playing one of the most challenging schedules of any team in the league.
Kyle Casey anchors the team’s efforts on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he is a versatile talent who can make threes, take his man off the dribble, or score with his back to the basket. Defensively, he holds his own man in check and is also a terrific shot blockers from the weak side of the floor.
Brendan Rollins returns under the basket where he will be joined by 6’3” junior Brian Johnson. In the backcourt senior Kyle Bond will be running the show with his excellent understanding from the game, good handle, and ability to get into the lane and make plays. Then there is Derek Retos, who may be the best pound for pound shooter in New England. The 5’10” sophomore guard is entering his third season on the varsity team (he played as an 8th grader) and has legitimate range from 8 feet beyond the line. Versatile Eric Alleyne joins the mix as well this year and should thrive giving his impressive skill set.
Overall, don’t expect the new schedule to have that much impact on the bottom line as this Brimmer and May team is a group to be reckoned with.
Holderness: Four starters return in senior point guard Mike Aron, face-up four man Vytas Kriskus, high flying forward Alex Francis, and the slashing Will Clark to form a solid nucleus. Filling the five spot will be senior Wouter Van Der Eng, who is a 6’8” big man who is getting rave reviews thus far. These first five have a couple of different things going for them. First is continuity given that the majority of them have been playing together for three years now. Second is size as the frontline will be 6’8”, 6’6”, and 6’6”. Third is an ideal blend of skill and athleticism as Kriskus and Clark will stretch the defense with their ability to make shots, Francis and Clark will attack open lanes off the dribble, and Van Der Eng gives the team a legitamite low post presence necessary to compete with Lawrence and St. Mark’s.
With such a talented starting five you might expect slim pickings off the bench, but that is far from the case. Sophomore point guard Emmanuel Smith, junior shooter Curtis Christian, and freshman forward Pape Kanteye give first year Head Coach Tony Mure valuable reserves off the bench at every position.
Overall, all the pieces are in place for a big season with an excellent starting five and terrific depth.
Noble & Greenough: Nobles will be led by forward Tucker Halpern. The 6’7” junior is a major mismatch problem thanks to his size and shooting range and has consequently attracted attention from the likes of Georgetown and Michigan as of late. But unlike last season, Halpern will have some help as junior Derick Beresford is a newcomer who should be able to provide a capable floor general and second scoring option. If the supporting cast can hold their own then the one-two punch of Halpern and Beresford should do the rest.
Buckingham, Browne, & Nichols: The team’s potential success may rest solely on Andrew McCarthy’s back, literally. With players like Austin Capaviella, Zachary & Jacob Kahane, and Michael Gould, a solid supporting cast is already in place. But ultimately the team will need a healthy star player to realize their full potential.
Kingswood-Oxford: While KO might not yet have the experience to challenge some of the more veteran ball clubs in the region, they have a very talented young team. They will have to grow up pretty quickly as they face an extremely challenging schedule, heavy with Class B opponents. Don’t expect anything less than a competitive group in West Hartford, and definitely a team likely to contend in future years.
St. Sebastian’s: You win at this level with guard play and St. Sebastian’s has two great options in their backcourt with Greg Jacques and Cory Willis. Jacques is coming off a very impressive summer that saw his ability to break his man down off the dribble improve tremendously (he was already a good shooter). While Willis is still a little under the radar he should be equally important to St. Sebastian’s. He is a powerful lead guard that pushes the ball up the floor and can beat his defender in a variety of ways. If St. Sebastian’s frontcourt can keep up with their guards, it should be a very successful season.
Middlesex: Sophomore Rod Odom was a talented but raw freshman last year. This year he appears ready for a breakout season as he has matured both physically and in his approach to the game. But Odom will get plenty of help, especially from junior Scott Anderson, a returning all-league player. David Lawson and Michael Hurynowicz are two other juniors that are also expected to be significant contributors.