Prep Profile - Bridgton
The narrative hasn’t changed at Bridgton Academy in quite a few years now as one of the most decorated coaches in prep school history continues to do his best to make more with less.
That’s not a knock on the players that make up the Wolverines’ roster, not this year or in recent years gone by, only a realistic portrayal of the amount of resources currently being allocated to the Bridgton basketball program in comparison to the rest of AAA of the NEPSAC.
For head coach Whit Lesure, the challenge is no longer to add to the collection of banners that hang above his bench but instead to help each of the 14 players on his team discover a new level to their game, hopefully increase their recruitment as a result and simultaneously buy into the team concept and score some upsets along the way.
To the head coach’s credit, he’s approached this task with no less enthusiasm than when he had high-major prospects coming off the bench and he was racking up NEPSAC titles on an almost annual basis, and so while the win-loss numbers won’t reflect it, in many ways Lesure’s best work has come in recent years.
This year, one of the most valuable pieces will be Carter Skaggs, a 6-foot-5 forward who is headed to High Point next season. The southpaw from Indiana is skilled with a knockdown shooting stroke but he also possesses the qualities necessary to help the Wolverines overachieve as he is unselfish and vocal with clear leadership tools.
Another important piece will be Kai Toews, not just because his talent will make him an immediate impact player but also because he’ll be with Bridgton for two years. A skilled combo-guard from Japan, Toews can play either on or off the ball but will certainly be utilized as one of the team’s top scoring threats and three-point shooters this year.
Toews will be joined in the backcourt by a pair of local products and former MIAA stars. David Giribaldi is a scoring guard who had a tremendous career for Andover High School and now looks to prove his prowess against an even higher level of competition as he continues to attack the rim off the dribble with his strong body and aggressive mentality.
Joey Downes put up similarly big numbers during his time at Sandwich High School but is making a quick adjustment to being a more pure point guard with more weapons around him than ever before. Like Skaggs, he too stepped into a leadership role from day one by being tough, vocal and unselfish, while also serving as the primary distributor on the offensive end.
Another player with local roots is Malcolm Moye, who transferred from Capital Prep in Connecticut and will join Toews in the class of 2017. Moye is intriguing because, while he’s far from a finished product, there are certainly some raw tools to be developed over the next two years with his length, high level athleticism and the potential that gives him as a slasher and defender. Jordan Chase, a post-graduate from Longmeadow (MA), rounds out the local products as a powerful guard with some scoring tools.
Two other post-graduate guards that should figure prominently into the backcourt rotation are Elijah Campbell, who comes to Bridgton from Florida, and Mike Syniewski, who is from Illinois. Campbell is a big guard, standing a 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders, and may even be a point guard in the making with his ball-handling and play-making abilities. Syniewski is a skilled lefty and self-made player with a cut-up physique and very good shooting stroke. Danny Yu provides additional depth to the backcourt as a solid point who can handle, pass and run the show.
Up front, it all centers around Skagg, who will play as a face-up four type of player. Neso Piletic, a 6-foot-5 post-grad from Montenegro, and Samuel Linn, an ultra-versatile multi-positional player from California, will also see time at the forward positions. Piletic is a strong and athletic player with a solid foundation of skill who is just looking to put all the pieces together while Linn may be a forward defensively, but handles the ball so well he has the potential to be a big secondary ball-handler.
The two closest things the Wolverines have to true big men are Maurice Brown and Webber Liao. Brown may be undersized to play in the post by most standards but he’s strong, willing to do all the dirty work and consequently has been one of the team’s leaders in win/loss percentage this fall. Liao, who comes to Bridgton from Taiwan, has good size at 6-foot-8 and nice touch around the rim to develop into a solid interior threat.
When it’s all said and done, there might not be another banner going on the gym wall this year but if Lesure can get his group to gel, compete and exceed expectations, the accomplishment won’t be any less impressive.