Rhode Island High School Season Preview
Bishop Hendricken has been New England’s most dominant team in recent years as they have gone for a four-peat of Rhode Island state championships. And while there have been other teams who have won titles in different divisions, year in and year out it has been the Warwick program that has dominated the state.
While David Rufful is gone from last year’s championship team, a host of talented players return. Their backcourt is arguably the state’s best with senior Brendan Degnan, junior Billy Baron, sophomore Nick Manning, and junior Nick Maglio forming a terrific foursome. Degnan and Baron are returning starters from last year’s team while Manning could be a star in the making. If there is a question it lies in the frontcourt. While 6’6” Matt Barbosa is expected to have a big season he will need help, as someone from last year’s bench will have to step up to fill the spot left vacant by Rufful’s departure. Ultimately, Bishop Hendricken is the favorite to five-peat as their abundance of ball-handlers and playmakers gives them a big advantage over the competition. Here is a look at some of the state’s other top programs (in no particular order).
Woonsocket: 5’9” junior point guard Antjuan Jones, 6’5” senior power forward Michael Akinrola, and 6’4” sophomore forward Michael LaPlante are all college prospects. Jones went for 30 as Woonsocket doubled Ponaganset 86-43 in their opening game of the season. Akinrola is a true low post presence while LaPlante is one of the state’s top sophomores.
Mount Pleasant: Four players scored in double figures as they defeated Greg Newton and Barrington 73-57 in the opening game of the year. Mount Pleasant also has one of the top freshmen in the state in Billy Soriano. Jordan McDonald will be eligible at mid-season and should provide immediate help under the basket.
St. Raphael’s: They will have to make up for the loss of Corey Wright Jr. who transferred to Marianapolis Prep. But the team is in capable hands with senior Mike Holland running the show. The real story here should be Jeff Holmes who is coming off a big summer and should be ready to dominate.
Exeter/West Greenwich: Dave Storti and Pat Sturdahl form a dangerous backcourt. They combined for 42 points on opening night as their squad knocked off Coventry 72-59.
Cranston East: Cranston East will rely on a balanced offensive attack. With Mike Juarez, Mackensie Dagobert, Kevin Fuller, and Kevin Cabrera there are plenty of people capable of putting points on the boards.
Central: Carl Mangum is one of the state’s top guards. Central will need his best night in and night out to have a chance to compete for a championship. Lamonte Thomas has also played well to start the season averaging over 20 points per game.
Feinstein: They have to be considered a contender as long as Jerell Gomes is in the line-up. Gomes has already recorded a triple double this year with a 23 point, 11 assist, 10 rebound performance against LaSalle Academy. However, they will have to find a way to account for the loss of Adalberto Bueno and Josh Hilario who have both exhausted their eligibility.
Classical: Senior guard Josh Cabrera can put points on the board in a hurry while 6’4” junior Ashton Price is another impressive talent. The duo form a quality 1-2 punch that should make Classical competitive with some of the state’s best.