Prep Profile - St. Andrew’s
The defending NEPSAC Class AA champions open their 2019-20 season tonight when they host Kingswood-Oxford.
It will be the first of many games this month in Sage Gym as St. Andrew’s School has become a major destination for multiple prep school events in the month of December.
Under the continued leadership of legendary head coach Michael Hart and his consummate right-hand-man John O’Shea, the Saints have been a fixture of NEPSAC basketball for decades, winning multiple championships, producing prospects for the very highest levels of college basketball, and being a virtual post-season lock on an annual basis.
This year’s squad, which was recently picked fourth in the league’s pre-season coaches’ poll, is younger and more inexperienced than last year’s, but still a group that should continue to grow throughout the course of the season and be a formidable foe come March.
Butler bound forward Myles Wilmoth is back for his second year in the NEPSAC after making tremendous strides last year. The 6-foot-9 New Jersey native has undeniable talent with fluid athleticism, a wiry body type, and budding versatile skill. He’s gotten more assertive since his arrival but will be relied on to play a leading role on a nightly basis this year and establish himself as one of the premier players in Class AA.
The Saints also return a pair of juniors who gained valuable experience last year. Matt Constant was among the unsung heroes of the NEPSAC championship game and has been known for his gritty and hard-working approach to the game since his freshman year. He’ll take on more of a leadership role this year while also becoming more of a focal point in the backcourt. Dylan Ahearn is a skilled wing with a high basketball I.Q. He plays with a maturity and feel for the game beyond his years as he makes reliable decisions with the ball, is a good team defender, and consistent shooting threat.
Jack Vaske and Paul Roche are two seniors who should have an opportunity to earn additional minutes this season. Vaske has good frontcourt size, soft touch, and developing versatility. Roche is an athletic guard whose explosiveness may be unrivaled in the team’s backcourt.
Five post-graduates have arrived to help offset the numerous losses from last year. Sean James, a graduate of the very same Kingswood-Oxford team which St. Andrew’s opens against tonight, could be the most impactful of the bunch. Highly skilled with a pretty shooting stroke, he fits the Saints’ prototype in the backcourt and should be their best shot-maker from day one.
Cam Stiepock is a skilled six-foot-six forward who could really benefit from the additional season as he continues to mature physically and adjust to a new level of play. Also up front, two Connecticut natives should split time at the center position as both Ryan Biberon and Evan Gutowski provide good size inside the paint.
The son of former URI star and longtime college assistant, Preston Murphy Jr. arrives with a big early reputation of his own after attracting early high-major attention while previously starring in Nebraska. Murphy is as savvy and instinctive as you would expect from a coach’s son, especially in the pick-and-roll, and might just be the best long-term prospect on the team. He’ll have to grow up in a hurry though as he’ll be counted on to produce right away from day one.
St. Andrew’s has one of the proudest basketball traditions in all of New England prep school basketball and a coach who hasn’t just won hundreds of games over the years but literally been the face of the NEPSAC at times. They also have a roster that is deep and full of prospects for all levels of college basketball. Nevertheless, this is still a group with a lot of questions early on. Is Wilmoth ready to step into a star role on a nightly basis? Is Preston ready to be given the keys to the team in his first season? How will the post-graduates respond to bigger and more talented competition than they’ve ever seen before?
They may not have the experience or sheer weapons they did a year ago, but anyone who knows anything about St. Andrew’s and Mike Hart knows they are always one of the teams to beat in Class AA.
After all, they are the defending champs.