Yags’ Point Forward - Reflections from the NPSI
The 19th annual National Prep School Invitational took place at Rhode Island College last weekend. New England’s top prep programs joined a handful of international basketball academies to form a 32-game schedule, featuring a deep talent pool that attracted a plethora of high major college coaches looking to make both early and late additions to their recruit classes.
New England was well represented once again, finishing with a 9-4 record against teams from outside the region and a sparkling 6-0 record against programs from outside of the United States. In the least shocking development of the 4-day event, our region’s teams played with passion, pride and a contagious energy while constantly displaying grace and humility throughout their victories.
As for individual accolades, here were New England’s top performers along with some of their highlights from 2017 NPSI:
2017 Nation Prep School Invitational MVP(‘s): Even after stewing over it for a couple days, I can’t bring myself to choose between the two players that carried their teams for extended stretches and led them to multiple victories over the weekend, so my only answer is to hand out two imaginary trophies. Redemption Christian’s Chris Duarte and Cushing’s Wabissa Bede are my MVP’s from the 2017 NPSI.
Duarte exploded for 32 points in a win over Bridgton on Saturday night, only to come back and drop 38 points on a Tilton team that has suffocated some of the best players in New England this season. After a 12-0 Tilton run put Redemption in a 53-42 hole early in the second half, most in attendance expected Tilton to add another quality win to their resume. But Duarte and his teammates had different plans.
Redemption went on their own 18-2 run behind Duarte’s hot hand from beyond the arch and Bernard Kouma’s rim protection on the defensive end. It was all Duarte from that point on. His slashing, open court lay-in broke a 69-69 tie and put RCA up two. Tilton responded to tie things at 71. Duarte quickly responded with back-to-back treys, first from the short corner off an Anderson Gomes pass and followed by a gorgeous step-back dagger with the shot clock expiring and both Zegarowski Bros challenging admirably.
Redemption took a 77-71 lead with under a minute left and iced their second victory of the NPSI at the line, eventually winning 79-73. The Dominican Dandy averaged 35 points and 9 rebounds over the weekend and drew the interest of multiple mid- to high-major programs sitting courtside.
Bede continued on his torrid individual pace that started back in July, while leading Cushing to wins over the Czech Republic’s GB Academy and the Rivers School last weekend.
Bede kicked off his weekend by ripping a pair of 3’s through the net in the game’s opening minutes. After a talented Czech sniper knocked down a pair of 3’s of his own and emphatically pounded his chest in an attempt to shift the momentum, all eyes turned to the Virginia Tech-bound floor general. Bede promptly isolated him on the right wing and proceeded to drill a step-back trey of his own.
From that point on, Bede and his Cushing crew controlled the game’s pace with exhausting defense and steadily pulled away from the Czechs. Bede put the finishing touches on his 25-point, 6-assist night by breaking down GBA’s most athletic perimeter defender late in the second half. After a series of shifty hesitation moves, Bede drove into the heart of GBA’s collapsing defense and hit Francis Uzoh with a gorgeous drop off for an easy bucket, cementing a 66-53 Cushing win.
The next night was more of the same from Bede and Cushing, except this time it came against a much more familiar opponent in Jermaine Samuels and Rivers. Tasked with defending his Mass Rivals teammate Azar Swain, Bede invested too much energy fruitlessly attempting to hold the deadeye shooter scoreless instead of wearing him down on the defensive end.
With the score tied at 23-23 to start the second half, Bede began trusting his instincts and went into attack mode offensively. The result was stifling team defense that allowed 19 2nd half points, a free-flowing Cushing offense in which Bede scored or assisted in the majority of its points, and a decisive 24-point victory to seal the win. Bede would finish with 20 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks on the night.
After shooting 62% (18-29 FG) from the field and 50% (6-12 3pt) from the perimeter to go along with a 13:3 assist-to-turnover ratio in Cushing’s wins, Bede simply refused to let his name be omitted in any discussions about the weekend’s superlatives.
New England’s All-NPSI Team
Devante Jones, ND Prep – Averaged 20 points, 5 assists leading ND to a 2-1 record
Kimani Lawrence, New Hampton – Averaged 27.5 points and scored the game-winning bucket in 31-point, 6-rebound performance against South Kent
Alexis Yetna, Putnam Science – Averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds, w/ a 7’2” wingspan
Malik Ondigo, Putnam Science – Averaged 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, picked up offers from Pittsburgh, Boston College and Grand Canyon (dad’s alma mater) in 1-1 Putnam weekend
Hasahn French, Commonwealth – Averaged 18 points, 14.5 rebounds in CA’s 2-0 weekend
Jonathan Duvivier, Commonwealth – Averaged 23 points, hit 12 3’s in two games including a 33-point (8-13 3pt) performance vs Bridgton
Kellan Grady, Northfield-Mt Hermon – Averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals in NMH’s 2-0 weekend
Andrew Platek, Northfield-Mt Hermon – Averaged 16 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, hit 6-14 3pts, grabbed 7 offensive rebounds in two NMH wins
Marcus Santos Silva, Vermont Academy – Averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds during VA’s 2-0 weekend including a 26-point, 20-rebound, 4-assist, 4-block, 2-steal performance vs Cheshire
Thomas Allen, Brewster Academy – Scored 21 points on seven 3’s in Brewster’s 86-54 win over South Kent and improved to 20-0 on the season (missed that bunny though!)
New England Underclassmen’s All-NPSI Team
David Duke, Cushing ‘18 – Stuffed the stat sheet, averaging 14.5 points, 8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2 blocks in two Cushing wins. Received an offer from Florida and gained interest from UConn, Syracuse and Cincinnati among others
Eric Ayala, Putnam Science ’18 – Averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, buried seven 3’s on the weekend in front of members of the UConn, Syracuse and Memphis staff.
Marcus Zegarowski, Tilton ’18 – Battled toe-to-toe with Duarte on Sunday morning, scored 25 points vs Redemption
Brycen Goodine, St Andrew’s ’19 – Scored at all three levels, finishing with 20 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists vs NMH
Simi Shittu, Vermont Academy ’18 – Averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks in Vermont’s two wins over the weekend. Picked up an offer from Pittsburgh
Luis Mora, Redemption Christian ’19 – Was a perfect wingman to Duarte, averaged 21.5 points, 4 assists, and helped guide Redemption to wins over Tilton and Bridgton
Shandon Brown, New Hampton ’18 – Averaged 15.5 points, 5 assists in two close wins and hit the game winning FT’s during 21-point, 7-assist, 3-steal performance vs Orangeville Prep (CA)
Quest Harris, Worcester Academy ’20 – Scored 17 points, dished out 4 assists vs Vermont in NPSI finale
Chuck Hannah, Northfield-Mt Hermon ’18 – Racked up a double-double (10pts/10rebs) in NMH’s 88-68 win over Helsinki
Sidney Wilson, Brewster Academy ’18 – Scored 18 points, grabbed 7 boards and constantly left South Kent looking over their shoulder trying a track-down blocks