Prep Profile – Putnam Science Academy
It is that time of year again, when we start to preview the top prep programs in New England.
This year, we are going to begin with the local teams who will take part in the National Prep Showcase, held November 19th – 21st at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut.
At Putnam Science Academy, head coach Tom Espinosa and associate head coach Josh Scraba have built a national program from scratch. Because they compete outside of the NEPSAC, the National Prep Championship is their primary objective each and every year. They won that championship in 2018 and were co-champions in 2020 when the event was cut short because of COVID-19.
3 Things You Need to Know About This Year’s Team
1. Claude is ready to take the next step
If you haven’t seen Desmond Claude play since last year, then you’re in for a surprise. He’s stronger, more explosive, versatile, getting to his spots, and playing above the rim. The PSA coaching staff says he’s as good as any guard they’ve had in the program, which is high praise considering both Hassan Diarra and Hamidou Diallo are alums, while he was also recently recognized for being one of our biggest fall stock-risers. In short, he’s playing like he has something to prove.
2. 94 feet of pressure
When PSA was first emerging, they became known for their half-court 2-3 defense. That’s not their style anymore. They’re likely to pick you up full-court, force turnovers, and keep you from running your offense. In fact, being able to guard the length of the floor is essentially a requisite here. If you can’t do it, you’re going to have a hard time cracking the rotation, especially in the backcourt. Arturo Dean and Dashon Gittens have led the way in that category so far this year and solidified themselves as key parts of the rotation because of it.
3. Everything is earned
One thing that hasn’t changed is the mentality of the program. They don’t care about your ranking, offers, recruitment, or reputation. If you’re not getting it done between their lines every day, you’re not likely to see the floor. Survival of the fittest has created a climate for alums like Osun Osunniyi, Kyle Lofton, and Alexis Yetna to go from virtual unknowns to big name players. So far this year, the players who have thrived in that environment have been recent St. Bonaventure commit Barry Evans, who provides a jack-of-all-trades jumbo-wing, and Taiga Jones, a shot-maker with physical strength and competitiveness.
3 Questions Heading into the Season
1. Do they have enough size up front?
The Mustangs have put out some big line-ups over the years, sometimes with multiple 7-footers on the floor together at the same time. They have one this year in recent SMU pledge Mouhamadou Cisse, who provides a rim protector and interior presence, but not otherwise the same depth of massive bodies. Junior forward Mouhamed Dioubate should play a substantial role while Josh Rivera was certainly expected to, but still hasn’t been able to get healthy following a July leg injury.
2. Which underclassmen can step up?
This is a relatively young PSA team, especially beyond the first six or seven players. That means some youngsters are going to need to step-up. Dioubate and junior guard Darryl Simmons are the most obvious candidates. Beyond that there are talented long-term prospects like Muazibini Jabal Adamu, Duane Thompson, Miles Rose, and Travis Upchurch, but whether or not any of those players are prepared to impact a game against players three or four years older remains to be seen.
3. Who will play them?
They say it, they tweet it, and they don’t just talk to the talk, they also walk the walk. Putnam will play anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Getting other teams to agree to the game has proven more difficult over the years. The creation of New England super league could help change that this year, and if it does, PSA will have more opportunities to prove themselves than ever before.