Prep Profiles 23-24 - Vermont

Owen Carlson | Wednesday, December 20th, 2023

Prep Profiles 23-24 - Vermont

Vermont Academy, another member of the elite NEPSAC-AAA conference, has begun the year on a great note with a roster filled with high-level talent, including some key returners. They already have players signed to play in college as well. Let’s take a look at the intriguing lineup for this year...


“Vermont Academy looks to be a team to beat in the NEPSAC-AAA once again, as they return their core of five-star Joson Sanon, Towson-commit Chike Ndefo, and guards Darius Lopes and Mantas Zilys. Jayden James, Bangaly Berete, Matt Leaver and Jayden Watkins have had some huge minutes as well. A strong scoring punch is provided by BU-commit Azmar Abdullah out of Rhode Island. The underclassmen duo of Rokas Zilys and Isiah Rose have contributed when called, keep an eye on them down the line. Don’t sleep on John Zall and his Vermont squad…” - Dylan Thayer


3 Things You Need to Know About This Year’s Team


Two have committed, others have received offers…

Vermont Academy’s 2024s who have announced their college commitments include Chike Ndefo, who heads to Towson, and Azmar Abdullah, who heads to Boston University. They have been some of the squad’s biggest pieces so far this season. Ndefo recently tallied a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in a tough loss to Perkiomen. Even more recently, Abdullah had 15 points and 6 assists in a win over Worcester Academy. 

But the talent doesn’t end there, as Mantas Zilys has received offers from Stony Brook, Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois, and VMI, and Jayden James has a received a couple of offers at the D2 level. Zilys recently earned player of the game honors in the win over Worcester Academy, dropping 24 points and adding 3 steals. James tallied 16 points and 4 steals against Worcester Academy, also scoring 11 against Western Reserve Academy. 


VA’s 2024 talent doesn’t end there…

Other notable 2024s include Bangaly Berete and Jayden Watkins, who have each been dominant on the glass, as well as Matt Leaver who was a big part of Norwell High School’s quarterfinalist squad last year and continues to contribute.

Berete grabbed 5 boards against St. Thomas More, as well as 6 against Hoosac with 3 steals. Watkins had 6 rebounds and 5 assists in a win over Redemption Christian. Leaver had 6 points and 2 rebounds in a win over Phelps.


Plenty more talent who will be ready to step up…

Some of the non-2024s are already doing it, as Joson Sanon has been the biggest name on the team for some time now. He was one of the only two sophomores to earn All-NEPSAC Class-AAA First Team honors following last season, and the only representative of VA to earn All-NEPSAC recognition at all. He has received offers from Bryant, UMass, Marquette, Providence, Boston College, Iowa, Nebraska, Alabama, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, UConn, Washington, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Creighton, Miami, Maryland, LSU, Arizona, Syracuse, Indiana, UNLV, Georgia, and Villanova.

Other 2025s who have received offers include Darius Lopes and 6’11” big Zachariah “Zack” Scherler. Lopes has received offers from Georgetown, Albany, Siena, and UMBC. Scherler has received offers from Arizona State and UC-Santa Barbara. Lopes recently had 9 points and 8 assists in a win over Brewster (Prep). 

Other notable 2025s include Emmanuel Cheung-Hernandez who also competes for the Costa Rican National Team and Rodrigo Dos Santos who had some big performances with the Wildcats throughout last season, including a double-double in a win over Winchendon.

VA also has two 2026s who have made some noise, including Isiah Rose and Rokas Zilys. Rose had 6 rebounds in a win over Phelps and 5 rebounds in a tough loss to Perkiomen more recently. Zilys and Rose were both named to the Elite 75 underclassman list after their performances at the Elite 75 Frosh/Soph Showcase in September.


3 Questions Heading into the Season


Can they continue meshing? 

With a lot of talent on the roster, especially with the biggest name coming from outside the class of 2024, it will be interesting to see how they can all play together throughout the season. Joson Sanon has carved himself out as a clear leader—will any other non-2024s use this season as a chance to step up? 


Can they maintain their current success? 

With big wins coming against some of the top-ranked preps in the country, where will they end up by the end of the season? In our most recent coaches’ poll, they were just short of cracking the list of the top ten prep teams in the country, still earning some votes however. Will they finish the year in the top ten?


How will they compare to last year?

Last season, the Wildcats gave South Kent a run for their money in the first round of the NEPSAC Class-AAA postseason tournament, who would go on to win the NEPSAC-AAA Championship, but they ultimately fell by a margin of 7. Can VA advance past the quarter-finals this year? 


So far this season:


Big New England wins for the Wildcats have come against NEPSAC-AAA competitors New Hampton (77-63) and Brewster Academy’s Prep squad (85-64). They have also had big victories over some national powers, including Western Reserve and Phelps. With one of the region’s top prospects and so much more, this squad will surely be a tough one to beat.