CT region boys basketball preview
Will Bassick be able to regroup and win a third consecutive FCIAC title? Will St. Joseph find more FCIAC playoff success with a new cast of characters? Will one team rise from obscurity to claim the title, or will it be the same old cast of characters?
These questions and more will be answered as the 2012-13 boys basketball team gets under way this week.
Bassick always seems to find a way to win no matter who’s on the court. The Lions did it last year, riding the sky-scraping talent of 6-6 forward Demetrius Thomas and point guard Devin Coleman to their second straight FCIAC championship, a 20-6 overall record and a spot in the Class L state playoffs.
Thomas, a First-Team All-FCIAC pick and arguably the best player in the conference by season’s end last year, is gone along with most of Bassick’s starting five. But enough talent remains for the Lions to remain in the hunt. Bassick will be led by 6-2 sophomore point guard Kobe Ancrum, senior forward Devan Bramwell, junior forward Anthony Brown and senior guard Demetrius Young.
St. Joseph will begin a new era with Chris Watts taking over for Vito Montelli as head coach. Montelli stepped down in September after 50 seasons and 878 wins, the most in state history. Watts should be very familiar with the program. A 1987 graduate, Watts played for Montelli before moving on to Providence, and spent the last seven seasons as an assistant for St. Joseph.
The Cadets return only one starter in sophomore guard Quincy McKnight from last year’s team, which won its second straight Class LL state title. Gone are 6-7 forward Timajh Parker, now playing at Division I Towson, point guard James Jennings, a First-Team All-FCIAC pick, and 6-7 defensive specialist Pat Hopkins. St. Joseph won’t be as big as it was last season when it went 18-0 during the regular season, but should make up for it with great quickness and a more refined offensive scheme.
Juniors Raekwon Reid and Florian Judenick will share time at point guard while junior Jon Dzurenda and senior captain Jake Pelletier supply support on the wing. Behind the talent of McKnight and a solid group of newcomers, the Cadets should still be in the FCIAC mix.
Ridgefield could be the odds-on favorite, returning both size and talent from a team that went 18-7 with a trip to the FCIAC semifinals and Class LL quarterfinals. The Tigers will be led by 6-7 senior guard Kurt Steidl, a First-Team All-FCIAC pick as a junior who can do it all. Ridgefield will continue to be one of the longest teams in the conference behind rising star Pat Lacy, a 6-6 sophomore center, and senior Jeff Racy, a 6-5 swingman.
That bodes well for Ridgefield, which should be one of the toughest defensive teams in the conference.
Trinity Catholic suffered an upheaval during the offseason with forward Jason Boswell transferring back to North Carolina and 7-2 center Paschal Chukwu moving over to Fairfield Prep. The Crusaders, who went 19-7 with a trip to the FCIAC finals and Class L quarterfinals last season, should still have a solid base to work around behind senior Schadrac Casimir, one of the top shooters in the FCIAC, and Tremaine Frazier.
Norwalk should be a team on the rise. The Bears will have one of the conference’s best young players in 6-5 sophomore Roy Kane Jr., a complete player who could be on the verge of a breakout season. Senior guard Jabari Dear gives Norwalk a shooting threat and 6-4 senior power forward Luke Sweeney supplies added strength in the paint along with senior forward Saeed Soulemane. Senior Nick Boccanfuso takes over at point guard for high-scoring Rasheed Thompson.
Another team to look out for is Greenwich, which will feature one of the league’s top defensive players in senior Alex McMurray and 6-9 center Alex Wolf, a transfer from New Jersey. The Cardinals went 11-10 last season behind departed seniors Greg Donlic and Alejandro Rodriguez, whose scoring will have to be equaled if Greenwich hopes to reach the playoffs.
No team lost more talent than Westhill, which said goodbye to two-time All-FCIAC point guard Tony Dobbinson, a second-team All-State pick who averaged 15 points and four assists last season, All-FCIAC forward Chris Walters and 6-5 center Sam Dorrisaint. This could be a rebuilding project for the Vikings, who went 15-8 last season. Senior guard Terrell Middleton and senior brothers Yveson and Guyveson Cassamajor, both guards, will look to keep Westhill competitive.
Stamford will also be shuffling the deck with the loss of its top three scorers from last season, center Shawn Padilla and twins Barry and Bryan Boderick. The Black Knights, who went 12-10 overall, will lean on senior point guard Joe Palumbo and junior guard Kenny Wright.
Staples has established itself as a consistent competitive force under head coach Colin Devine. At the very least, that shouldn’t change this season. The Wreckers, who went 9-12 overall last year, should be a tough defensive team behind senior guard Peter Rankowitz, a Second-Team All-FCIAC pick as a junior, and senior James Frusciante, coming off a standout season as a wide receiver for the Staples football team.
Harding will look to rebound after one of its worst seasons (4-16) in program history, the first for head coach Charles Clemmons. The loss of six seniors, including Steven Walker, will make that a tough task. Junior Dennis Hinds is someone to watch.
Central, which went 12-10 overall and upset top-seeded St. Joseph in the FCIAC quarterfinals, was hit hard by graduation but still has some dangerous players in junior point guard Kobe Ancrum, who could be the best passer in the league, and sophomore Marcus Blackwell, an emerging star.
Warde and Ludlowe should fall in the middle of the pack once again. Connor Peterson, a 6-5 senior forward, will be the top weapon for the Falcons following the graduation of its 1-2 punch supplied by guards Mark Cerulli and Justin Berardino last season. The Mustangs lost Mike Wright and Sal Siciliano, two tough post players, but return senior Max Garrett.
McMahon will break in a new coach with Ken Dustin taking over for Mo Tomlin, who guided the Senators to a 4-16 season last winter. Dustin will inherit a young team led by junior forward Larry McKinney and sophomore point guard Timmy Hinton. The Senators might be another year away from contending.
Wilton will have to work hard to equal last season’s 11-11 mark without leading scorer Chris Nugent. The Warriors should have good depth behind sophomore Matt Shifrin and seniors Weston Wilbur, Chris Curtis, Max Maudsley and Olondi LeGrand.
New Canaan and Darien are each looking to turn things around after going 2-18 overall. The Rams are led by juniors Willie Burger and Andrew Read, both guards. Darien’s top returning players are senior Liam Naughton and junior forward George Phillips.
Notre Dame of Fairfield should be in contention for the SWC title, one season after losing to Immaculate in the championship game. The Lancers, who went 21-6 overall with a trip to the Class M state tournament semifinals last season, have one of the top backcourts in the state in Dan Upchurch and Earl Coleman.
Already a 1,000-point scorer, Upchurch is poised for a huge season. The veteran guard averaged 16 points, eight assists and two steals per game as a junior. Notre Dame lost some muscle in the paint with the graduation of Arkel Miles, but head coach Vinny Laczkoski will find a way to work around it.
Kolbe Cathedral lost a ton of talent, including point guard D.J. Perry, who led the Cougars into the SWC semifnals and Class S semifinals last season. The Cougars should still be one of the top teams in the conference with the return of talented 6-3 junior forward Ian Gardner, who has Division I talent. Also returning is senior guard Taivon Jones and senior forward Jawan Pringle.
Stratford should be ready for a bounce-back season behind All-State senior guard Bernard Brantley, a two-time All-SWC pick who averaged 19 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals as a junior. Stratford had a down season last year, going 12-11 overall, but still managed to reach the Class L quarterfinals. That could be an indication of what’s to come.
Bunnell should also be solid behind senior guard Matt Nolting, a First-Team All-SWC pick who averaged 20 points per game for the 13-10 Bulldogs.
Weston lost leading scorer Max Molinsky, a point guard who averaged 14 points per game, and center Lyle Mitchell, who averaged 10 points and 11 rebounds last season. But the Trojans, who lost in the SWC quarterfinals and second round of the state tournament, have a solid group of guards returning in juniors Ethan and Asher Lee-Tyson and senior Charlie DiPasquale. Junior forward Grant Limone will give Weston some muscle in the paint.
Fairfield Prep should battle Hillhouse for the league title. The Jesuits lost one of the top players in the state in Terry Tarpey, but return just about everyone else of subsequence. Prep also landed 7-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu, a transfer from Trinity Catholic during the offseason. The Jesuits also expect good things from 6-2 freshman guard Ryan Murphy, who should pair with returning sophomore point guard Tom Nolan to make up one of the best young backcourts in the conference.
Prep’s top returning player is 6-6 senior forward Tim Butala, who usually got overshadowed by Tarpey, but averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds as a junior, earning All-SCC honors. Prep is coming off a 23-4 overall record, including a trip to the SCC finals and Class LL semifinals.
Amity will continue its hard-nosed style of play behind 6-3 guard Zac Campbell, who averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game in the rugged SCC.
Watertown will be hard-pressed to match the success it had last season when it went 24-4 with its first NVL title and an appearance in the Class M state championship game at Mohegan Sun, its first trip to the finals since 1943.
The Indians should be one of the top teams in the league once again, however, with three starters returning. That includes senior forwards Jonathan Mitchell and Eddie Hill, who averaged 15 and 16.5 points per game, respectively, last season.
In the FAA, Greens Farms Academy is a team to watch with 6-foot-9 double-double machine Sean Obi, who has signed to play at Rice University.