Prep Profiles – New Hampton | Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Prep Profiles – New Hampton

The theme of this pre-season at New Hampton has clearly been improvement.  When we visited the New Hampshire gym on Wednesday evening we were blown away by how much the five returning players had improved. 

Perhaps no player is a better example of this than Zach McBey.  While earning playing time with the likes of Kendall Durant, Twany Beckham, Michael Topercer, Jeffrey Osborne, and Ennis Whatley all in the backcourt might prove to be an extremely daunting task, McBey deserves a world of credit for improving his game exponentially since last season. 

In the fall of 2006 when we last visited New Hampton, McBey struggled to compete in the open runs.  But after a summer of hard work, the New Hampshire native is boasting a much more powerful physique, improved athleticism that allows him to dunk the ball, a reliable three-point stroke, and an ability to attack the rim hard and finish inside among the trees.  Currently, most of his recruiting attention has come at the division III level and given his obvious work ethic and recent development he would have an excellent career at that level. 

Topercer is the other returning player in the backcourt.  While we were very impressed when we first saw him last fall, his game did have some areas that were in need of improvement, and that’s certainly what he did in the off season as he is now making much better decisions with the basketball and making shots at a much more consistent rate. 

Another local product, Mike Howlett, returns to New Hampton for a second year after reneging on his scholarship from Lehigh in August following their coaching change.  While Howlett’s skills were very impressive last season, the additional year has only sharpened his offensive repertoire.  He has gone from a good three-point shooter to an exceptional three-point shooter, a capable low post scorer to a reliable low post scorer, and a player who wasn’t a threat to put the ball on the floor to someone who makes opposing defenses pay for poor close-outs by getting into the paint off the bounce.  College coaches have clearly noticed his progression as a variety of schools have been in to see him, although he lists Pennsylvania at the top of the list. 

Massachusetts native Orion Outerbridge, who recently committed to URI, arrived at New Hampton last year as a tremendous athlete who could run, jump, and rebound with the best of them.  Now he is a player who has learned to be more assertive at the offensive end who can also stretch defenses to the perimeter with his new found ability to knock down the 15 footer.  It wasn’t hard to identify the cause of his improvement as he was getting shots up early before the rest of his teammates arrived on Wednesday. 

The fifth returning player to the New Hampton line-up is another New Hampshire native in Patrick Saunders.  Last season Saunders was a crucial player off the bench for his team with an extremely well rounded skill set.  But after another year of maturing physically and becoming more confident, the Princeton commit appears poised to become one of the cornerstones of his team’s offensive attack this season.  His skill level allows him to be one of the biggest mismatch problems the league has this year.  Although he is likely to start the game at the small forward spot where he can drain threes and score from the mid-range area, opposing coaches should be warned against putting smaller and quicker players on him as the 6’7” forward will simply take them to the block. 

While New Hampton’s returning players will all stand out with their level of improvement, the newcomers shouldn’t be overlooked as there is quite a bit of talent there as well, especially in the backcourt where Kendall Durant and Twany Beckham will both shine.  Durant is an explosive and powerful guard who can put points on the board in a hurry.  His combination of athleticism, strength, and skill is likely to make him the most sought after player on the roster this year.  Not far behind will be Beckham who Coach Hutchins describes as a “facilitating point guard in a wing’s body”.  Standing at 6’5” it’s not hard to figure out why a variety of mid to high major programs have inquired about the Kentucky native.   

In the frontcourt, 6’5” power forward Tori Gurley appears to be the perfect compliment to the skills of Howlett and Saunders, as Gurley could be the Ben Wallace of the NEPSAC.  The two sport star (football) is like a man among boys on the glass as he pursues each missed shot with a passion and energy that we have not yet seen duplicated this fall.  6’9” center/forward Hassan Safieddine should also provide some meaningful minutes up front with his impressive combination of size and athleticism.  Sharp-shooting swingman and Vermont native Sam Cieplicki and Massachusetts native Jesse Sabolis could also see some minutes at the wing spots. 

Overall this is a team who features a little bit of everything.  They have a returning core of veteran players who know what it takes to be successful in the NEPSAC and a talented group of newcomers who appear poised to make major contributions this year.  Most importantly, this is clearly a collective group of players who understand the importance of working hard and improving themselves on a daily basis.  And with that crucial foundation in place, New Hampton will clearly be a team to be reckoned with this season.