Prep Profile - Putnam Science Academy
For as much as things change, when you have established yourself as a top national post-graduate program, they remain the same.
And that is what has happened at Putnam Science Academy.
This is the first time in four years that the season has begun without Hamidou Diallo in the PSA gym as he is now set to begin his freshman season at Kentucky after enrolling at mid-season last year.
Nevertheless, with a roster that is almost entirely new, the Mustangs are once again loaded with talent and poised to be among the national contenders.
There are only three players back from last year and none of them saw consistent rotation minutes in 16-17.
Jose Perez didn’t even arrive until after the season came to an end, but the opportunity to settle in last spring gave him just the head start necessary to maximize his already strong leadership skills. The New York native looks like the heart and soul of the team early on as he’s tough with a great work-ethic and contagious energy.
Akok Akok was buried behind a deep collection of frontcourt talent last year but the on-the-job training prepared him for a breakout spring. There won’t be anywhere to hide this year as he’ll be asked to take on a major role on both ends of the floor as his ability to stretch the floor offensively and protect the rim defensively will be major assets for head coach Tom Espinosa.
Fellow junior Dan Porcic a local Putnam product, has made notable strides in his game since last season. He’s known for his smooth stroke and rightfully so, but he looks more capable of making tough shots within the flow of a high level game and in the best shape of his, albeit still young, career to date.
Jonathan Kabongo, the younger brother of former Texas star Myck Kabongo, was once one of the most promising underclassmen in the country but he had drifted off most radars after battling a back injury for the better part of the last year. The 6-foot-3 guard returned to the line-up earlier this month and was scooped up quickly by Buzz Williams and Virginia Tech.
Joining him in the backcourt is former Milwaukee signee Caleb Nero, who opted to re-open his recruitment and opt for a post-grad year following last year’s coaching change, and Kyle Lofton, who has been the team’s most pleasant surprise this fall. The 6-foot-3 lead guard didn’t score his first D1 offer until mid-August but is only going to keep collecting them this year. Cam Gooden and Alex Morrow add more perimeter depth to a talented line-up.
Up front, Josh Mballa is the most notable addition. A 6-foot-8 man-child who ran with E1T1 in the EYBL and represented his native France in FIBA action this summer, Mballa is athletic and powerful with a high motor. 6-foot-10 center Osun Osunniyi was a sleeper from New Jersey until LaSalle scooped him up and now the late blooming rim protector is A10 bound. Nick Brennan, a floor spacing forward who really shoots it, and Ibrahim Sylla, a big body with some inside-out tools, provide depth to the frontcourt rotation.
There is a sophomore quartet that has a chance to be truly special as they evolve alongside each other over the course of the next three years.
DeMarr Langford is the most recognizable name not just as a local product from nearby Worcester, but also as the younger brother of one of New England’s best in 2017, current Providence freshman Makai Ashton-Langford. DeMarr is a different kind of player than Makai but he’s physically mature, already able to impact the game on both ends, and disciplined to play the game the right way.
Kareem Reid is probably the most naturally talented of the group. The 6-foot-8 forward is a long and athletic lefty (with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) who has potential to score both inside and facing the basket. Another New York native, Hassan Diarra, who is the younger brother of UConn big man and former PSA star Mamadou Diarra, has been the most pleasant surprise so far with a warrior like mentality, high motor, and better than advertised skill set.
The fourth and final piece of the class is Anthony Thomas, a 6-foot-6 wing from Baltimore who already owns high-major offers and has a high ceiling with his long slashing style.
In a year in which PSA is virtually starting from scratch they not only built a roster which is poised to play with anyone in this country this year, but also has a tremendous bridge to the future with 6 players in the classes of ’19 and ’20 who already hold division I offers, 5 of which have also earned high-major attention. The sophomore class in particular is absolutely loaded and clearly the best in New England to date, but those youngsters will need to grow up quickly and prove they’re ready to play significant minutes right away this year.
This team should also be able to rally around having something to prove. The youngsters want to prove they’re ready. Kabongo wants to show he’s healthy. Mballa, Lofton, Osunniyi, and Brennan that they’ve been under-rated. Scroll down the roster and almost everyone here has a reason to have a chip on their shoulder.
They may be young and inexperienced at this level but Espinosa and assistant coach Josh Scraba have built a group that is undeniably deep and talented. That alone is likely to earn them a spot in most national top ten polls. If they prove to be as motivated as we expect they will make a climb up those marks all year long and be in position for their latest birth in the National Prep Championship.