Prep Profile – New Hampton | Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Prep Profile – New Hampton

The New Hampton School has several players on their roster who have high-major level talent…and are already committed to mid-major level programs. 

Chris Gaston is right at the top of the list.  The 6’7” forward is already committed to Fordham University in the Atlantic 10, and while he projects to be a 3-man when he joins the Rams he is likely to play as a face-up 4-man on this New Hampton team.  Gaston is a pure scorer who can put the ball in the hole in a number of ways.  Many people would describe him as the prototypical slasher using his length and first step to get to the rim and finish.  While his dribble drive game may be the most lethal part of his offensive arsenal, Gaston can attack his defender in a number of ways.  He is shooting the ball from the perimeter with good confidence and rhythm these days, which is making him even more lethal with his dribble now that defenders have to play him more honestly.  He will even take smaller men down to the block and score with his back to the basket.  Expect Gaston to not only be one of the leading scorers on this New Hampton team but also in all of Class A. 

Another such player is 6’10” center Damon Bell-Holter who is on his way to Oral Roberts.  The Alaskan native would, without question, be generating interest from the highest levels if he were still on the board because he is a true back to the basket low post scorer with a big strong body and sound skill set for a player his size.  He was hugely impressive (no pun intended) when we were in the New Hampton gym last week and is sure to be one of the league’s best big men. 

6’4” swingman Mark McLaughlin will honor the commitment he made to the University of Nevada last year.  While Nevada may not be in a “high-major conference”, the WAC powerhouse is considered by many to be a high-major program because of their success on the national level in recent years.  McLaughlin should be ready to make an impact upon joining the Wolf Pack next year as he is a super smooth swingman with a pure stroke and good skills off the bounce. 

While Gaston, Bell-Holter, and McLaughlin already committed, drawing high-major coaches to the gym has fallen on the shoulders of repeat junior Evan Smotrycz.  The Massachusetts native has done his part as Michigan, Providence, Virginia, Northwestern, Georgia, and Oregon State are all following his progress.  It remains to be seen exactly what his role on this team will be, but he is sure to benefit from the increased level of competition on a daily basis. 

The only other committed player on the New Hampton roster is 6’0” post-graduate Jordan Callahan who is pledged to Tulane.  Callahan will play a vital role on this year’s team as he will be asked to run the show, handle the never-ending full court pressure of Class A basketball, and simultaneously get all of his talented teammates good shots.  If he’s up to the task then New Hampton should be able to compete with just about anyone. 

Michael Topercer will likely hold down the other starting guard spot.  The Arizona native returns to New Hampton for his third season after a terrific summer on the AAU circuit.  He obviously found time for the weight room this summer as well as he is noticeably bigger and stronger than he was a year ago. 

Jason Arias, Matt Powell, and Nick Checovich are likely to all see minutes off the bench in the backcourt.  Arias is a New England native who played very well the day we were in the gym.  The scoring combo guard can create his own shot on demand and put points up in bunches.  Powell is a heady point guard who should be able to provide poise and intelligence when running the team along with a good three-point stroke.  But it is Checovich’s story which is especially interesting.  He was never much of a factor during his career at St. John’s Prep (Danvers, MA) so we weren’t expecting too much from him when we visited New Hampton…boy were we wrong.  The 6’3” swingman has a sweet shooting stroke, a high basketball I.Q., and a terrific ability to come off screens.  It may be hard to believe that a guy who couldn’t crack the starting line-up of an MIAA school is getting scholarship level interest…but it’s the truth…and for good reason.  

John Daniels will be a key contributor in the frontcourt.  He combines a high motor and great physical toughness with a good skill set that allows him to be a valuable catch and shoot player all the way out to the three-point line.  Eric Dean is a 6’3” junior small forward who plays football during the fall but is also expected to contribute this season.

When it is all said and done head coach Pete Hutchins’ squad should be improved this year for a few reasons.  First, the core of his team is as good as anyone’s with the likes of Gaston, Bell-Holter, and McLaughlin all capable of being among the league’s best.  Second, players like Topercer and Daniels lead a supporting cast of skilled, tough, and intelligent players who all understand their roles.  Finally, even in mid-September Hutchins and his staff already have their guys working and competing at a high level, and it’s obvious that this group won’t back down from anyone as New Hampton once again takes on all comers with their extremely challenging schedule.