Rhode Island Division I Preview
The big story in the state of Rhode Island this year will be whether or not Bishop Hendricken is able to capture their seventh consecutive state title and match the record set by Classical High School between 1969 and 1975. Here is a look at Hendricken’s chances as well as a glance at where the competition will come from.
Bishop Hendricken High School – Hendricken has won an amazing six straight division I state championships under head coach Jamal Gomes. The seventh may prove to be the most challenging as they will have to overcome the graduation of Billy Baron and Matt Barboza as well as the loss of Ricardo Ledo to St. Andrew’s. Coach Gomes’ squad will replace the departed stars by committee and will rely on a three guard line-up to help boost his scoring punch with seniors Nick Manning, Ryan Palumbo, and Bryan Vachon. Junior forward Tim Lyons will help to solidify the frontline. Manning and Palumbo both averaged just over 9 points per game last year while Palumbo is a sniper who will need to improve upon his 3 points per game for this group to be successful.
North Kingston – They lost their opener to Portsmouth but we still expect them to be much improved this year and a legitimate contender for a state championship. The team will be built around Tom DeCiantis, a senior swingman who is skilled and savvy as he is tough. He knocks down open shots, has good size for the wing, and is a pure winner. Sophomore guard Rob Hazard is a player who can fill it up in a hurry while junior forward Derryck Kilgore is also especially dangerous inside the paint. Tom Stacom, a transfer from Bishop Hendricken, could also prove to be an important contributor. Put it all together and North Kingston may be the most talented starting five in the state.
Hope High School – Hope is especially dangerous this year. They may have more natural talent than anyone and if they can get all the pieces on the same page they could be capable of taking the whole thing. Stephen Wegbey and Denzell Lewis give them a very capable backcourt but Dante Gomes is the X factor. On talent alone he is one of the state’s best and if he puts it all together he is capable of living up to that billing this year, but if not Hope could struggle to find their continuity. Ditto for Shaquille Jones, a uniquely talented sophomore with a good combination of size and skill.
Mount Pleasant High School – Much like Hendricken, last year’s runner-up has also been hammered by losses as Frank Robinson, Billy Soriano, and head coach Chris Coleman have all moved on. Nevertheless, Mount Pleasant will certainly have retribution on their minds after falling to Hendricken in the state final. Isaiah Odunlami figures to be one of the team’s more prominent threats on the offensive end while longtime assistant coach Charlie Holliday will look to get his team going defensively.
Central High School – They are definitely a program to keep an eye on during the course of the season. Their strength will lie on the perimeter as juniors Ben Nunez and Dayvon Heard, and sophomore Bryan Gautier are all capable of pushing the tempo and putting points on the board.
• Adrian Oliveira is already one of the state’s top guards as a sophomore and he will make Cumberland much improved this season.
• Cranston East loses a ton from last year’s team but they will get a boost from transfer Rob Bell.
• Cross-town rival Cranston West also has a rebuilding project of their own after Ethan Smith graduated.
• First year head coach Bill Black has a balanced but more than capable crew at LaSalle Academy with Jared Hopkins, Tommy Hunt, and Curtis Lucas.
• St. Raphael Academy may be a year away but there is a ton of young talent on hand led by sophomore Cesar Mejia who scored 16 points in a season opening victory.
• East Providence is good enough to knock someone off with Donald Williams and Joe Garnevale who scored 21 & 20 points respectively on opening night.