Yags’ Point Forward - All New England
Putnam Science claimed their 1st National Prep Championship, Tilton made an unbelievable run to the Final Four after winning AA and Northfield-Mt Hermon may have had the best team in their program’s history despite losing in the title game. And just like that, the ’17-’18 prep hoops season has come to an end. Now it’s time to hand out my postseason awards.
As I did last year there will be two Player of the Year Awards. But this year, it will be split up a bit differently. One MVP will come from the Power-5/GAC/AAA and the other will come from the NEPSAC AA/A/B conferences. The three All-New England squads will be comprised of 10 players each.
POWER-5/GAC/AAA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: NATE LASZEWSKI, NORTHFIELD-MT HERMON
After spending the summer on the Adidas circuit with the New England Playaz, Laszewski entered his final season at NMH at full health and brimming with confidence. The 6’10” wing/big was challenged by Playaz coach John Carroll to assert himself more often in the post and recognized that the most important part of being tough is simply being tough. There’s not much another player can do to you in the post to hurt you without risking a foul or worse, regardless of how much bigger or stronger he might be. As a result, Laszewski improved as a rebounder and added another dimension to his offensive arsenal to go along with his elite shooting stroke. And he put it on display from the very beginning.
Notre Dame pledge Nate Laszewski (@natelaszewski) showed off his ELITE SHOOTING STROKE, dropping 29 points with eight 3's in @NMHbasketball's win over Sunrise in the 2017 @NERRHoops Prep Showcase. Future-Harvard wing Noah Kirkwood chipped in w/ 16pts… pic.twitter.com/840BuaW6h7
— Mike Yagmin (@MikeYagmiNERR) November 18, 2017
Laszewski set the tone for his season by knocking down eight 3’s en route to an uber-efficient 29 points in a win over Sunrise at the National Prep Showcase. He came back a few weeks later with a 36-point, 10-rebound performance vs Canada’s Top Flight Academy. Prior to Christmas, Laszewski took over at the BasketBull Holiday Tourney by scorching the nets for 31 points on 10-12 FG/8-10 3pt/3-3 FT. In a highly anticipated matchup with St. Andrew’s and Cole Swider, he went off for 30pts, 13 rebounds and 4 assists. In back-to-back games vs. Bridgton and Proctor in mid-February, Laszewski averaged 38 points while shooting 72% (26-36 FG) from the field, 62.5% (15-24 3pt) from beyond the arch and 91.6% (11-12 FT) from the line. Laszewski’s season included 12 games in which he drilled 5-or-more 3’s in a single game. He also had four games with 8-or-more 3’s.
His willingness to mix it up inside also allowed him to impact games for NMH coach John Carroll, even when he wasn’t scoring at an elite level. In the national semifinal against Tilton, Laszewski only scored 6 points on 2-8 shooting. Instead of continuing to fire away, Laszewski hit the post, ripped down 15 boards and dished out 5 assists in NMH’s 94-80 win. In the 5 games in which he was held under-10 points this season, Laszewski averaged 8.6 rebounds, 4 assists and NMH finished with a 4-1 record. Over the last five games of the season, Laszewski averaged 11.6 rebounds. Laszewski also saved his best for last from a scoring perspective, averaging 24.5 points over the final 11 games of his NMH career. In the 18 games in which Laszewski scored 20-or-more points this season, NMH’s record was 17-1. Behind Laszewski’s consistent production, NMH broke the school record for wins and finished 31-4 on the year.
On the season, Laszewski averaged 19.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2 assists while shooting 49% (233-474 FG) from the field, 40% (132-327 3pt) from 3 and 80% (88-110 FT) from the line. He leaves NMH with the school record for points in a season, made-3’s in a season, made-3’s in a career and became the 6th player is program history to score over 1,000-points. Laszewski, a 2-time NEPSAC AAA Tournament MVP, heads to Notre Dame in the fall where his size and skillset will be used in a similar manner within head coach Mike Brey’s offensive system.
NEPSAC AA/A/B PLAYER OF THE YEAR: MARCUS ZEGAROWSKI, TILTON
The only thing Marcus Zegarowski did throughout his prep career was produce. He produced points by the dozens, open looks for his teammates by the handful and, most importantly, wins for his coaches in bunches. Whether it was at Hamilton-Wenham where he led his undefeated team to a MIAA state title in 2015 or in the Nike EYBL where he led his Expressions teams to Peach Jam berths at the 16U-&-17U levels the past two summer, Zegarowski has consistently built one of the winningest resumes that New England has seen over the past decade. Zegarowski put the finishing touches on that sparkling resume this season, leading Tilton to a NEPSAC AA title and a run to the Final Four in the National Prep Championship.
The bigger the stage was this season, the brighter Zegarowski shined. The bigger his opponent’s name, the more viciously Zegarowski went at his throat. And he literally didn’t stop until the final buzzer sounded. He started the season with a 31-point, 9-rebound gem in a win over New Hampton. After scoring 34 points in a heartbreaking loss to MacDuffie at the St. Andrew’s Holiday Tourney, Zegarowski led his team to a blowout win over Cheshire and immediately boarded a plane bound for Florida, where his team had business to attend to and a message to send. Zegarowski proceeded to put together a 33-point, 8-assist performance vs. IMG followed by a 21-point, 8-assist game vs. DME. Tilton would ultimately finish the trip with a 3-0 record and use it as a springboard for the rest of their season. Zegarowski finished the regular season with a 32-point outburst in a road win over Brewster to get his team primed for a postseason run.
Marcus Zegarowski (@MZegarowski1) put the finishing touches on one of the BEST INDIVIDUAL POSTSEASON RUNS in recent memory. The @BluejayMBB-bound PG took home MVP honors and led @TiltonBVHoops to a 99-92 win over St. Andrew’s to capture the ‘17-‘18 NEPSAC AA Championship… pic.twitter.com/bRcVRyP5T4
— Mike Yagmin (@MikeYagmiNERR) March 5, 2018
If it was necessary for Zegarowski to put a defining stamp on his prep career, he took care of that in Tilton’s AA semifinal game against South Kent. With his team against the ropes, Zergarowski simply dragged them to victory. The more crucial the possession became, the more comfortable Zegarowski looked. He scored on slashing lefty lay-ins, mid-range pullups, step-back 3’s and by getting to the line every few times down the floor. Zegarowski’s side-step 3 as time expired in the 1st OT tied things up and sent it into a second extra session. That’s when the 6’1” point guard really went to work. When it was all said and done, Zegarowski would finish with a career-high 57 points and lead his team to a 118-116 victory in the season’s most entertaining game.
Zegarowski finished the season averaging 23 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3.5 steals per game while leading his team to a 30-5 record. He’ll head to Creighton next season where Big East defenses will be loaded with bigger, stronger athletes on a nightly basis. It’s also where Zegarowski will continue to improvise, adapt, overcome and prove the naysayers wrong for the next four years.
1st TEAM ALL-NEW ENGLAND
Cole Swider, 6’8” Wing, St. Andrew’s
David Duke, 6’5” PG/Wing, Cushing
Kyle Lofton, 6’2” Point Guard, Putnam Science
Noah Kirkwood, 6’6” PG/Wing, NMH
Derek Culver, 6’10” Big, Brewster
Isaiah Mucius, 6’8” Wing, Brewster
Jose Perez, 6’6” Wing, Putnam Science
Malachi de Sousa, 6’7” Wing, South Kent
Tre Mitchell, 6’9” Big, Woodstock
Brycen Goodine, 6’3” PG/Wing, St. Andrew’s
Simisola Shittu, 6’9” Big/Wing/PG, Vermont*
Notes: Lofton and Perez were two of the best leaders in New England throughout the season. They also did it with extremely different styles. Lofton is as steady as they come, the type of point guard who isn’t fazed by anything that’s happening around him. On the other hand, Perez brings a ton of emotion to the table and it’s contagious. He realized early on that his energy had to remain positive in order for his younger PSA teammates to remain confident in the face of adversity. The styles blended together perfectly and carried PSA to a National Prep Championship….Kirkwood was simply outstanding all year long. The 6’6’” Canadian averaged 15.7pts/6reb/6.7ast while shooting 56%FG/38% 3pt/79% FT for the AAA champs. Kirkwood had season-highs of 30 points (vs. New Hampton), 18 rebounds (vs Canada Top Flight) and 16 assists (vs. Proctor). He also had nine games in which he tallied 14+pts/7+reb/6+ast and nearly averaged a triple double with 21pts/9reb/9ast in those contests. NMH also went 9-0 with Kirkwood at his best….Goodine, a Syracuse-commit, averaged 21.1pts/6.5reb/5ast/2.4stl while shooting 52.3% from 3 and 89.8% from the FT line. He finished the season with a 31-point performance in the AA title game vs Tilton….Woodstock’s depth was their greatest asset throughout the season but the consistency of Mitchell, the team’s little brother as a 2019 prospect, wasn’t far behind. His season averages of 16pts/11reb/3ast/2blk don’t do justice to his overall contribution to his Final Four squad. Teams constantly had to remain aware of Mitchell’s presence, which opened up space for his teammates to create and score from beyond the arch. When opponents slept on Mitchell, he would smack them with a quick 6 points and was just as likely to do it from the post or the perimeter. He’ll enter next season as one of the most sought after prospects in the region….de Sousa took the next step in his prospect development, leading South Kent to a 15-3 record in AA. The Albany-commit put together a dozen-game string in which he averaged close to 30 points a night in the middle of the season, sparking his squad to a memorable surge during the second half of the season….I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Simi Shittu at some point in this section. Shittu was putting together a monster season prior to suffering an ACL tear at the Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament in Delaware on December 28th. In that particular game vs Gray Collegiate, he had already racked up 17 points 6 rebounds and a few assists in just 11 minutes of action. Shittu’s absence left a real void that was felt at HoopHall and in NEPSAC play. Shittu was named a McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American despite his abbreviated season. His resolve will allow him to recover and get back to action before we know it. He’s in good hands at Vandy.
Jose Perez (@showout_zayy15) & Kyle Lofton (@bball_lifestyle) provided veteran leadership all year. Akok Akok (@_akok11) saw his abundant potential turn into production. Osun Osunniyi was at his best on the biggest stage. Add it up and @PSAhoops are the 2018 National Prep Champs! pic.twitter.com/pxYNgJRdw3
— Mike Yagmin (@MikeYagmiNERR) March 10, 2018
2ND TEAM ALL-NEW ENGLAND
Jaiden Delaire, 6’9” Wing, Loomis
Nick Timberlake, 6’4” PG/Wing, Kimball Union
Akok Akok, 6’9” Wing/Big, Putnam Science
Dana Tate, 6’7” Wing, MacDuffie
Cormac Ryan, 6’5” PG/Wing, Milton
Osun Osunniyi, 6’11” Big, Putnam Science
Miles Norris, 6’10” Wing, Brewster
AJ Reeves, 6’6” Wing, Brimmer & May
Mika Adams-Woods, 6’4” PG/Wing, New Hampton
Daniel Buie, 6’4” PG/Wing, Gould
Notes: Osunniyi unselfishly stuck to his role as a rim protector throughout the regular season but really burst onto the scene in the postseason. The Lasalle-commit finished his prep season with a dominant 27-point, 13-rebound, 6-block performance against NMH in the National Championship Game. As far as ceiling is concerned, Osunniyi may own one of the highest in the 2018 class and will step into an Atlantic-10 conference devoid of a force of his nature….Timberlake finished his lone season in the NEPSAC by scoring over 620 points on the season and averaging 24 points per game. His recruitment has ticked up a bit but he remains one of the most under recruited players in New England….Buie, a 2019 prospect, strong-armed the NEPSAC to the tune of 25pts/6ast/4reb/2.5stl in his first season at Gould. Buie remains under-the-radar recruit but at the rate he’s producing and the level of play he’s doing it against, that should change very soon….Delaire was sidelined until January with an injury but made the most of his season once he returned. The versatile and ever-improving 6’9” wing averaged 21.3pts/7.4reb/2.5ast while leading Loomis to the #1-seed in the A playoffs. By the time the NEPSAC playoffs rolled around, Delaire was back to full health and the results were almost scary. He was recently named Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
Jaiden Delaire (@jdelaire11) capped off his prep season with an outstanding all-around effort for Loomis in the NEPSAC A Tourney. Delaire is fully prepared to step into the spotlight and continue his accent on a national level with @NE6Hoops in the @UAassociation this spring… pic.twitter.com/rP0PYBOIvK
— Mike Yagmin (@MikeYagmiNERR) March 1, 2018
3RD TEAM ALL-NEW ENGLAND
Ryan Greer, 6’2” PG/Wing, NMH
Dalano Banton, 6’7” PG/Wing, Redemption
Jaemeril Wilson, 6’7” Wing/Big, Woodstock
Adrien Nunez, 6’5” Wing, St Thomas More
Max Lorca, 6’9” Big, NMH
Anthony Nelson, 6’4” PG/Wing, South Kent
DJ Mitchell, 6’4” PG/Wing, Notre Dame Prep
Tyler Burton, 6’6” Wing, Marianapolis
Max Zegarowski, 6’7” Wing/Big, Tilton
Taelon Martin, 6’4” PG/Wing, Masters
Notes: Greer’s improvement from the start of the fall to the end of the season still has me bewildered. Something clicked inside the 6’2” force of nature at the beginning of the season and he realized that he absolutely belonged in the best prep conference in America. Greer averaged 12.7pts/7.2reb/4.5ast/1.5stl with shooting slashes of 50% FG/49% 3pt/80% FT….It boggles my mind how under-recruited Max Zegarowski remains heading into the spring of his final season. After having a handful of games in which he hit 7-or-more 3’s during the season, the versatile 6’7” sniper showed off his defensive chops by harassing Cole Swider in the AA title game and holding Laszewski to 6 points by using his 6’10” wingspan to aggravate two of the nation’s best shooters. There is a reason why Tilton won so many games this year and Max was one of the biggest….Martin, the lone member of the 2020 class to make an appearance, led Masters to back-to-back wins over Woodstock and SPIRE in late-January. His ability to put the ball in the hole has never been questioned but Martin became more of a point guard over the course of the season, averaging close to 6 assists per game….Burton has truly emerged as one of New England’s best 2019 prospects over the course of the last year. The Class B Player of the Year has a great length/strength package, a solid stroke from distance and a nose for the ball that allowed him to average a double-double on the season. Burton had 25 points and 16 boards against Governors in the playoffs…Lorca emerged as an efficient difference-maker in the middle for NMH. The bouncy 6’9” big man averaged 10.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game while shooting an astonishing 75% from the field this season.