Prep Profile - Springfield Commonwealth
New England prep school basketball and the NEPSAC were once completely synonymous.
Over the years though, a gradual divide has appeared with start-up programs like Putnam Science Academy and Woodstock Academy opting to be independent along with the likes of Lee Academy, Redemption Christian, and others.
This year, another non-NEPSAC power has emerged, or more accurately re-emerged, in Springfield Commonwealth.
The program debuted years ago with elite middle school prospects who grew and developed into a top prep program under current UMass assistant coach Tony Bergeron. When Bergeron left following the 2016-2017 season to start the program at Woodstock, most people wondered if SCA would continue to be a basketball destination. Walter Mfuko stepped in and exceeded expectations for two years before heading south to start Virginia Beach Sports Academy.
Nick Couluris, a New York native and former director at Five-Star Basketball, became the third head coach in the last four years over the summer and now, just a month into the season, he has established the program as a rising power in the prep ranks with a blue team that is off to a 10-2 start and a red team that has plenty of college prospect to offer as well.
Returners and Familiar Faces
Aaron Gray, Tyrone Victor, Valentin Romero, and Emmanuel Ferreras are back from last year’s group. Gray returned for his final season after a strong showing on the EYBL and has taken his game to new levels again this fall. He’s DNA to date has been as an athletic jack-of-all-trades who could play multiple positions, defend bigger guys, and find ways to score. This season though, he’s been more of an offensive focal point and showing he’s capable of filling that role as well. Ferreras is a powerful wing who is fully mature physically and capable of scoring the ball in bunches.
Victor and Romero have both been playing leading roles on the red team. Victor continues to attract division I interest as a true big man who has continued to grow and develop while Romero’s elite athleticism has always intrigued scholarship level schools as well.
Other familiar names on the roster include New England native Enoch Cheeks and the former South Shore (NY) tandem of Femi Odukale and Isaiah Richards, both of whom have played their fair share of grassroots basketball within the region in recent years. Odukale has been the star thus far. He’s an elite athlete with a great basketball frame and long arms. He’s playing with the ball in his hands, proving the progression in his overall skill-set, and playing to absolutely rave reviews to start the season. Richards, an athletic big-man, was previously committed to FIU in the class of 2019 but now has offers up to the A10.
Robert Morris scored an early steal with Cheeks a highly-competitive guard who plays with a chip on his shoulder and continues to consistently expand his skill-set. Alpha Diallo, the younger brother of Hami Diallo, has also moved over from Putnam Science Academy for his final year in the prep ranks as he continues to grow and develop his game.
Mondo Watkins is a big, playmaking guard from Arkansas who fought his way through a groin injury this fall and is gradually returning to mid-season form. Another guard, Brian Stevens, was the most pleasant surprise on the roster this fall as the New York native proved to be previously under-recruited with positional size, shot-making ability, and good natural pace to his game.
SCA also has a pair of twins who made the trip from California. Chris Mitchell is a scoring wing with good size, length, and shifty playmaking ability. Twin brother Bryce Mitchell is a well-built wing with the size to defend bigger forwards and the skill-set to stretch the floor to the arc.
Walt Andrews is one of the most exciting young prospects in New England’s class of 2023 to date. He stood out at the Elite 75 Frosh/Soph and has since played his way into the blue team’s main rotation. The Connecticut native has great size and strength for the position, a downhill attacking style, and some natural playmaking instincts. SCA also has a strong international representation led by a couple of notable underclassmen. Saliou Seye is a 6-foot-9 big man from Nigeria who has been a consistent presence around both rims so far this season while Sammy Pinder is a versatile 6-foot-4 wing from the Bahamas showing early promise.
The upgrade in talent is clear. They have a roster with enough sheer firepower to rank among the top five programs in New England. They’re also deep and athletic, allowing them to play an up-tempo style that helps explain how they scored 177 points in a single game earlier this season. More than anything else, this is a group with a collective chip on their shoulder. Whether this year provides a second chance or whether they’ve been previously under-rated, just about all of them have something to prove, and they’ve used that as a rallying cry thus far.
The program is getting back to its roots under Couluris. They’re deep, talented, gritty, willing to play 40 minutes at 94 feet, and capable of knocking off anyone in their path on any given night.