Prep Profile - Vermont Academy
The 2016 NEPSAC Class AA champions are once again one of the most talented teams and top contenders for the AA championship this season but nonetheless still different from a year ago when they advanced to the semi-finals of the post-season tournament.
Last year, the task of replacing Bruce Brown proved to be almost impossible, even for a roster that featured numerous high-major prospects. The team struggled to live up to the pre-season expectations that the talent of their roster created and ended up learning valuable lessons along the way.
This year, head coach Alex Popp has once again built a roster capable of playing with absolutely anyone at any prep level, but appears to have created a group with clearer role differentiation not to mention more unselfishness and continuity.
Simisola Shittu is a top ten national prospect in the country and the best player in New England. The numbers he put up for CIA Bounce during the recent EYBL season where absolutely off the charts and he’ll look to continue that dominance on the coming prep season.
Shittu is best known for his dominance inside – he was nearly unstoppable scoring around the rim and rebounding in high volume against the best talent in the country this spring and summer. There’s far more to his game than that though. He’s a very good ball-handler and exceptional passer for his size as well, giving him some very legitimate point forward type tools. There are still questions to answer though. Can he become a more consistent outside shooter? As versatile a defender as he is an offensive player? Most importantly, can he lead a team to a championship?
Joining him from last year’s team will be fellow seniors Sebastijan Skoko, Jon Lyons, and Trevor Brink, all of whom have improved a great deal in the last fifteen months. Skoko has always been known for his playmaking abilities but he’s now boasting a stronger body and more consistent jumper than ever before. Lyons has also changed his body and added notable muscle mass since last year while also evolving from a good shooter to now the type of guy who can make tough shots with very little separation. Brink has worked his way up through the program and is now able to hold his own at this level thanks to his ability to space the floor with his three-point shooting.
VA has added three post-graduates to this year’s roster who all have the ability to make immediate contributions.
Alec Spence, who was initially committed to Rice in the class of 2017, was arguably the most impactful player in the open gym we watched. He’s a powerful 6-foot-6 combo forward who can bully people off the dribble, make tough plays in the paint or mid-range area, and is simply productive.
Thornton Scott, who committed to William & Mary last week, is one of the biggest stock-risers in the northeast over the course of the last five months. After an injury cost him his senior season on Long Island, Scott came into July very much under the radar and has simply blown up since then. He’s a big guard at every bit of 6-foot-4 whose feel for the game and floor vision are off the charts while his shooting stroke isn’t far behind.
Daniel Schreier, a 6-foot-9 big man from California, came into the fall without a D1 offer but has quickly changed his fate as coaches have been intrigued by his combination of size and strength inside along with a budding skill set facing the basket.
Symir Torrence, a repeat sophomore from upstate New York, is the only true underclassmen on the team, but he’s an ideal piece to build off of long-term as the 6-foot-3 guard has good size and strength, a high basketball IQ, and winning pedigree.
Aside from Torrence, the rest of the relative youth on the roster comes in the class of 2019 where Tyler Bertram has set the bar thus far. Bertram, another upstate New York product, has stood out with his shot-making and feel for the game to date. Seth Buchanan, a 6-foot-9 forward, is another talented prospect in the class with a wealth of tools and significant upside.
Jack Scotnicki and Deng Adiang provide a pair of local products who will spend the next two years in Saxtons River. Scotnicki is a skilled guard with good perimeter size while Adiang, is a scrappy guard and defender, with a very similar approach to his older brother, former VA product Tinga Adiang.
There are some very obvious ones – they have potentially the most dominant player in the league in Shittu as well as a supporting cast made up of numerous other D1 prospects. Their overall depth, age, and size are all as daunting as they’ll be able to play 6’10”, 6’9”, 6’6”, 6’5”, and 6’3” whenever they want.
More subtly though, this may also be the best passing team in AA. Shittu, Thornton, and even Torrence are all as good as you’ll find relative to their position and age while Bertram may not be as flashy but is a heady player and passer in his own right.
The other factor at VA is that they’ve become to Class AA essentially what Brewster is for class AAA – the team everyone wants to beat. Ultimately, that’s a massive compliment but one that requires their kids to quickly realize they have the X firmly on their back every time they take the court this season and so reaching their goals requires them to be at their best on a consistent basis.
Vermont may not be as overwhelming of a favorite as they’ve been to start the last two seasons but their combination of talent, depth, and experience is still probably the best in Class AA. The journey to a championship won’t be an easy one though as the race is as wide open as it has been in years with Tilton, South Kent, Cushing, MacDuffie, St. Andrew’s, and numerous others determined to stand in their way.