Yags’ Point Forward - Thoughts from BasketBull Hoopfest
Teams from New England and Canada flocked to Springfield, MA this past weekend to participate in the 2016 BasketBull HoopsFest at the MassMutual Center.
It looks like Northfield-Mt Hermon found their mojo. After disappointing early season losses to Tilton and IMG, NMH again found themselves in a 12 point hole at halftime of their game against Spire Institute. That’s when they decided to turn things around.
Jerome Desrosiers made a handful of momentum turning plays within the first four minutes of the second half, completely changing the complexion of the game and tying the score at 40. From there, veterans Kellan Grady and Tomas Murphy went to work. Grady hit three consecutive treys while Murphy seemed to get his hands on every loose ball for putbacks or quick dishes that led to easy buckets. Kai Toews provided a steady hand at the point, Matt DeWolf happily did the grunt work in the paint and, even though his shot wasn’t falling on this particular night, Andrew Platek logged 36 minutes of inspired play.
The result was NMH outscoring SPIRE 50-31 in the 2nd half en route to a 78-71 win. Desrosiers ended with 15 points (5-5 FG/5-6 FT) in just 12 minutes, Murphy had an efficient 18 points (8-14 FG/2-2 FT) to go along with 12 boards and 5 assists, Grady hit four 3’s on his way to 16 points and DeWolf used his 8-point, 10-rebound performance as a jumpoff for the rest of his week.
NMH would go on to beat two tough opponents in Believe Prep (95-76) and Bill Crothers (98-71) pretty handily over the course of the next two days, with the usual suspects providing production. However, it was the most unheralded NMH prospect who did the most damage. DeWolf put up back-to-back double-doubles and did so in efficient fashion, scoring 50 points on 19-27 shooting from the field and 12-18 from the line. DeWolf’s 30-point/16-rebound effort against Believe were both individual season highs for NMH and came on the heels of a 20/11 performance from the Brown-bound big man against Bill Crothers.
Bigger than the three convincing victories may be the fact that NMH has found its point guard going forward. Toews has improved immensely since arriving on campus this fall. Confident with his handle and steady when handling pressure, Toews certainly looks like the answer to who is going to step up and lead this year’s team. His selfless mentality and calm demeanor are perfect fits for this year’s NMH squad. Now that Toews is now a legitimate threat from beyond the arch is an added bonus for head coach John Carroll.
From a leadership perspective, It’s impossible for any one player to fill the void left by Ian Sistare (currently at Dartmouth). Early on the team’s lack of accountability and passion was glaring at times, but that seemed to change last week as roles started to become defined, and more importantly, accepted. Veterans like Platek, Desrosiers, Murphy, Grady and DeWolf have become acclimated with their new roles as leaders, each filling a small portion of the position formerly held by Sistare.
Each of them is equipped with the necessary traits and talents to lead this year’s NMH team back to where their season ended last March; on the court of Albertus Magnus at the National Prep Championship. Whether they leave floor as champions this year is entirely up to them.
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES FROM BASKETBULL HOOPSFEST
• MJ Richardson put on the best individual scoring performance at this year’s event, exploding for 37 points (14-21 FG/8-13 3pt) in a Masters 91-64 win over Salisbury. Richardson put his entire repertoire on display, scoring at all three levels and consistently hitting deep 3’s to extend the Salisbury defense. Richardson wasn’t just looking to put himself in position to score though, as he dished out 6 assists in the process. At one point early in the first half, Masters actually trailed 27-6. Instead of mailing it in and looking forward to their games in Vermont Academy’s Northeast Showdown, Tobias Ceasar’s squad battled back and took a 32-31 lead into the half. Richardson came out firing in the second stanza, knocking down dagger after dagger and facilitating for teammates whenever he faced double teams. Sophomore Ben Eke and post grad Rayon Christie kept the defense honest and were extremely efficient in their own right. Eke (18pts) and Christie (11pts) combined to make 11-17 field goal attempts including 7-12 from beyond the arch.
• While he was on the losing end of Master’s extended 85-37 run to finish the game, Salisbury junior Bryce Daley was extremely productive himself. The 6’3” point guard with a rock solid frame and 6’5.5” wingspan scored 20 points (9-13 FG/2-4 3pt) in 20 minutes and never allowed the score to dictate his shot selection. Daley also went for 7 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists against a strong St Luke’s squad led by Walter Whyte.
• Whyte was tremendous once again, leading his team to two victories in front of his future head coach at Boston University, Joe Jones. Whyte averaged 21 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists in St Luke’s two wins, was constantly around the basketball and made big play after big play. Whyte has an improved supporting cast around him this season, the last thing opposing Class C coaches want to hear.6’4” wing Joel Boyce ‘17 and 6’2” point guard Jonas Harper ‘19 combined for 68 points and 26 rebounds against Dexter and Salisbury, meaning St Luke’s Big Three scored 110 of their team’s 140 points at the MassMutual Center.
• Dexter has not ended up in the win column too often this year but head coach George Wright-Easy created an ambitious schedule for a team led by their own Big Three. 6’10” sophomore big man Charles Coleman, 6’3” wing Jordan Mason and 6’ point guard Noah Kamba compares favorably to any trio of prospects in New England when it comes to their ceiling. Kamba scored 20 points against St Luke’s and is currently their most consistently impactful offensive weapon. Mason can rack up points in a hurry and can stretch a defense to the point that Coleman has room to work with in the post. Meanwhile, Coleman has the highest ceiling of the three and could be a special prospect before it’s all said and done.He already boasts the necessary strength/length (7’4”) combo to become unstoppable on both ends of the court but his skillset is much deeper than the typical young big man. He is comfortable stepping out beyond the arch but still welcomes physicality in the post and works tirelessly around the basket. Coleman doesn’t lack discipline or work ethic wirhwe, two qualities that will carry him as more responsibility is placed upon him offensively.
• The matchup between Putnam Science and Vermont Academy was good but the rematch at HoopHall promises to be even better. Vermont played without the services of Bailey Patella and Christian David, which created mismatches for Putnam and allowed them to dominate in the paint. Hamidou Diallo continued his impressive play with a 18-point/4-steal performance with Celtics GM Danny Ainge sitting courtside. Diallo’s stroke has become much more consistent, which helped him to average 22.5 points per game while shooting 17-32 from the field and 11-14 from the foul line during Putnam’s two wins over Vermont and Bill Crothers. Putnam’s big men were just as responsible for the wins though. Alexis Yetna, Malik Ondigo and Isaac Kante combined for 75 points while shooting 64% from the field (32-50 FG) in the process. When Putnam’s big men are bringing that sort of production to the table, there isn’t a team in America that can beat them.