Prep Profile - Lee Academy

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

Prep Profile - Lee Academy

New England’s northern most prep program, at least with regard to high level basketball, has been a model of consistency for over a decade. 

Lee Academy has produced at least one division I scholarship player in 12 of the last 13 graduating classes. That puts them in elite company among New England’s best. 

This year, they’ve already extended that streak as Mikey West signed with Bethune-Cookman and Aidan Carpenter with Siena before opting to join the program at mid-year. 

While Carpenter’s departure creates a void for the Pandas, head coach Dan Haynes and assistant coach Doc Kennedy still have plenty of weapons, including an unprecedented amount of young talent as they build for what should be a very bright future. 

The Returners

West and Joel Pullen form a backcourt tandem that isn’t just experienced but also cohesive. The two Connecticut natives play side-by-side both during the school season as well as on the grassroots circuit with New Haven Heat and have proven their doubters wrong across the board. West is an undersized but skilled scoring guard who shoots it off the catch or the dribble, has a shifty handle, and lay-up package at the rim. Pullen is similarly skilled and undersized with an ability to make tough shots and bullet passes off the dribble. He also possesses an infectious energy level that can raise the level of those around him. 

Lee also returns a pair of impact bigs in Julius Raudonius and Cyrille Diop. Raudonius is a Lithuanian native who has been in the program for the last three seasons and made great strides during that time. He’s a massive physical presence who is physical with a high-motor, so while he’s continuing to develop and still has his best basketball in front of him, he already changes the game in the paint. Diop is a wide-bodied post with long-arms who has improved his conditioning and mobility since arriving at Lee roughly 12 months ago. He’s poised inside, can operate in the post or along the baseline, and is a consistent scoring threat around the rim. 

The Newcomers

Bulgarian native Alex Stoimenov is a big guard capable of playing multiple positions on the perimeter. He’s skilled with a good IQ of how to play the game. He passes well, makes shots, has sneaky length, and is an emerging threat that college coaches need to take note of. 

Sunny Liao is another international product who is making a quick impact. The 6-foot-3 guard from China is a true senior who could opt to return next season as a post-grad. He’s fluid with good size, skill, upside to his frame, and comes with a natural understanding and feel for the game. 

John Kenoye has been a pleasant surprise for the team thus far as well. A powerful forward from Nigeria who spent last season at the NBA Academy in Africa, he is a man among boys physically and already had at least one 20-point performance this season. Selim Gueye and Dan Mabjala are two post-grads from France who add to the program’s depth. 

The Underclassmen

Isaiah Earl is the best long-term prospect on the team. A reclassified sophomore from New Haven, he’s only just begun to scratch the surface of his potential but has the size, frame, and athletic upside to keep emerging at a rapid rate. That’s not to say he isn’t capable of impact winning right away though as he recently earned honorable mention honors at the Zero Gravity Prep Classic. 

Other youngsters to keep an eye on include: Vlado Otasevic, a skilled and fluid forward from Montenegro who is currently a true junior but could end up in the class of 2022; Theo Stefan, a 7-foot freshman with the soft touch to match his size and inside-out potential; and Adame Ouertani, a 6-foot-6 freshman with a lot of upside of his own. 

Defining Characteristics

While this is as much young talent as Lee has had in recent memory, there is a nice balance between youth and experience. In one sense, the program is building for the future by allowing the underclassmen to cut their teeth against high-level competition but simultaneously relying on their experienced upperclassmen to play the leading roles. 

Bottom Line

This is a group that is living up to the tradition of the program but also building for the future. They’re producing scholarship prospects in the here-and-now while establishing the framework for a very bright future and playing with the same fire and effort which Haynes teams have been known for in recent years.