Prep Profile - MacDuffie School
Friday night's Coaches vs. Cancer Classic will provide us with our first good look at the MacDuffie School during this still young season.
When we visited their Granby, Massachusetts campus this fall the talent level was immediately apparent, but so too was their youth, and so predictably they've faced some growing pains in the early weeks of the season.
MacDuffie fans need not worry though, the key for this group is going to be staying the course, because if they manage to learn and grow together this season, there is simply too much talent in place not to be among the contenders in AA sooner rather than later.
While head coach Jacque Rivera has had to account for the loss of three division I caliber big men from last year's graduating class, this is still a group that can differentiate themselves with their size.
Alex Christie is the latest Canadian native to arrive at MacDuffie and standing at nearly seven-feet tall with a two-hundred-and-fifty pound frame, he's an immediate factor inside the paint.
MacDuffie's size though transcends beyond just the center position though as they have tremendous positional size across their line-up.
The sophomore trio of 6-foot-7 Ismael Massoud, 6-foot-7 Dana Tate, and 6-foot-5 Dalano Banton provide a nucleus that should be capable of growing into one of the NEPSAC's best in time. They aren't just uniquely talented, and with great size, they are also versatile. Right now this trio might be best filling out the middle of the line-up, but Banton has shown some point guard like instincts and could ultimately blossom into a big lead guard while Massoud too becomes more of a true guard with each passing day.
Tate, who transferred from St. Sebastian's following last season, is best known for his power and assertiveness, but he's worked hard to develop his skill set within the last year or two and is now capable of scoring the ball, and impacting the game, in a variety of different ways.
Fortunately, Rivera has some senior leadership in the backcourt to help guide this otherwise young roster. Jake Kakar, another local transfer who spent last season at Lexington Christian, provides a proven shot-maker and scorer while A.J. Pettway is a long and quick guard who returns to MacDuffie's line-up after seeing consistent minutes last year as a junior.
The team's unsung hero could very well end up being John Bella-Hunter, a former Amherst forward who made a name for himself at last summer's Elite 75 College Showcase, before opting to repeat his junior year in the prep ranks. At 6-foot-7 he offers even more size, with some extra length to boot, and a hard-working forward to pair with Christie and/or Tate in the frontcourt rotation. Post-graduate Austin Nzige-Nyambok adds some raw power with a versatile skill set to the mix as well.
The unsung hero of the backcourt will inevitably be Khaylen Mahdi, who stands at only 5-foot-7 but has the potential to emerge as a leader of this club with his big heart and competitiveness.
Ultimately, this is likely going to be a team that is too young to challenge for a championship this season, but can realistically make hoisting that trophy a long-term goal if they develop the work-ethic and continuity to match their collective individual talent.