Class A Basketball Super 8

With the basketball season under way, most teams in Class A have around 7-10 games under their belt. Here is how the season has transpired so far


 

#1 Suffield

After losing in the Class A NEPSAC championship last year to Williston, as well as losing three big time senior players, Juwan Anderson (Nevada), Sam Averbuck (Wyoming), and Christian Wilkins (Clemson football), it would have been easy to predict that Suffield would have a rebuilding year. The Tigers have done just the opposite. Yale commit, center Miye Oni ’16, has been a force down low. The Tigers have also seen solid guard play from Elijah Wilson ’16 and Tyreek Scott-Grayson ’17. Junior power forward Garrett Stephenson plays a big role in the Tigers game-plan; he is ranked the 6th best junior in the state of Connecticut by NERR.

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 5.32.51 PMSuffield currently stands at 6-1 with their biggest win coming at home against Hotchkiss, where the Tigers won convincingly 69-52.

Suffield’s only loss came at Tabor Academy over Christmas break. The Tigers fell in a nail-biter 54-52, but by no means was this a bad loss for Suffield.

#2 Exeter

Coach Jay Tilton has rebuilt his championship caliber pedigree from the 2013 & 2014 seasons with a strong team this year. He has coached his team to a 7-1 record so far.

Leading the way is Dartmouth signee James Foye ’16, who is one of the best three point shooters in Class A. Foye has shown impressive ball handling and playmaking ability. Joining Foye are Division III bound seniors, Jack Alberding (Wesleyan), Cooxooeii Black  (Colorado College), and Perry DeLorenzo (Middlebury).

Exeter has been able to combine exceptional perimeter shooting with overpowering size down low and have proven to be a handful for their opponents’ defenses.

Exeter has picked up a couple of key wins so far this year including a convincing 13 point victory over Kimball Union (AA) and a hard-fought three point win over the defending Class A Champs, Williston Northampton.

Kimball Union, a team in the class above that includes big man Nathan Knight ’16 (William and Mary) and guard Travis Valmon ’16 (Harvard) would be a tough matchup for any Class A team. Exeter, though, was able to pull away with an impressive victory.

Exeter’s only loss came against a well-rounded Hotchkiss team in the Seacoast Classic. Although the Bearcats are missing a definitive star player, they play well together on both ends of the floor, especially on defense. The final score was 52-49.

#3 TaborScreen Shot 2016-01-10 at 5.37.53 PM

After making the semifinals last year in the NEPSAC A playoffs, Tabor currently sits at 8-3. Though some teams on this list below them have two losses, Tabor’s losses came to big time teams in other leagues. After 2015 NEPSAC A player of the year Jesse Bunting ’15 (Fordham) graduated, Tabor was able to have big man, Akim Sanni ’16, and guard, Brandon Beloti ’16, pick up the workload. Beloti has been Tabor’s best scorer this season. Tabor has impressive wins this year including a 14 point win over Taft and a 2 point win over Suffield Academy.

As mentioned earlier, Tabor has three losses, but those losses came to power house, AA schools and the cream of the crop as far as Class B goes. Cushing Academy was the first loss of the year for Tabor. The Penguins are lead by point guard, Makai Ashton-Langford ’17, who is ranked the 35th player in the class of 2017 by ESPN. Ashton-Langford has offers from multiple division I programs including Boston College, UConn, Georgia Tech, and Providence College. With great court vision and tremendous athleticism, there is no wonder why Ashton- Langford provided match up problems for Tabor.

A loss to the Rivers School (Class B) in over time 68-63 was the second blow for the Seawolves. Rivers is lead by Jermaine Samuels ’17, who was ranked by ESPN as the 40th best high school recruit in the class of 2017.  Samuels, a small forward, has received similar offers to Ashton-Langford including, Boston College, UConn, and Providence. Samuels has also been offered scholarships by Harvard, The University of Miami, and Villanova. Samuels uses his athleticism as well as his ability to shoot in order to exploit defenses.

Their only other loss came to St. Andrews (Class AA). Overall though, the Seawolves look to be in good shape. Their next matchup is next Saturday against a struggling Andover team.

#4 Hotchkiss

The Bearcats sit at 5-2 to begin the season. Led by two very gritty and smart guards, post-graduate Elijah Bailey and captain Pierre Coffy ’17. Hotchkiss is an undersized team that relies on their transition offense to put points on the board. Young guard, Kobi Greene ’18, also looks to continue to play big minutes for the Bearcats.

Hotchkiss biggest wins both came during the holiday break at the Seacoast Classic over Exeter and St. Sebastian’s. The Exeter game was a close, the score being 52-49.

Their losses came to the highly talented Suffield Academy Tigers, and a non-NEPSAC team, Millbrook.

Up next for the Bearcats is Kingswood-Oxford on Wednesday.

#5 Avon

Avon Old Farms has struggled over the past 3 seasons. Last year the Winged Beavers went 7-17. This year though, Avon stands at 5-2 so far. The Winged Beavers are led by multiple upperclassmen, including guards Isaiah Nichols ’16 , Rodney Henderson ’16 , as well as co-captains Packy Witkowski ’16 and Raheem Spence ’17.

The Winged Beavers’ guard play is nothing short of outstanding. All of the guards mentioned above have the ability to shoot the lights out of the building. Nichols and Spence play more of the point guard position and can run an offense well. Henderson and Witkowski are more suited as shooting guards, as the two are two of the best shooters in the league, with their size and skill, both are sure to keep on making positive impacts for the team.

Brandon Arnold ’17 and Mark Michaud ’16 are two players who play big minutes for Avon as well, both can give the team an offensive burst at anytime.

Defensively, Avon has a lot of potential. Their athleticism helps them press incredibly well. They can keep up with anyone in Class A.

Wins for the Winged Beavers include a 15 point road win against Loomis, as well as wins against Salisbury, KO, Deerfield, and Milton Academy.

Avon’s two losses came to a Nobles team that includes quick guards and big men who could stretch the floor.

Avon also suffered a loss to Class AAA powerhouse NMH, who are led by many highly-touted Division I prospects including AJ Brouder ’16 (UPenn) and Kellen Grady ’17 who has offers from schools like Villanova, Davidson, BC and Creighton. Tomas Murphy ’17, who has two brothers who play/played at Florida (Erik and Alex), is considered to be the Murphy brother with the most potential, and has entertained offers from Florida, Northwestern, Iowa, and Xavier. NMH is one of the top teams in the country with talent flowing from all ends, it would be a tough matchup for any Class AAA team, let alone a Class A opponent. Avon hung with NMH for the opening 10 minuets, but in the end NMH was too strong and won in a blow out.

Though with two losses, Avon has loads of optimism and a 5-2 record to show for it. With a Class AA team in Cheshire Academy up next for Avon, it will be interesting to see how they respond after not playing a game for almost 3 weeks.

#6 Kent

Kent was the early season favorites to repeat as Founders League champions. Currently, the Lions sit at 7-3. Led by 6’10” center, Jack Stevens ’16 (Holy Cross), and guards, Kena Gilmour ’16 and Kylan Guerra ’16,  Kent seemed like they would role over opponents as they did last year. That has not been the case this season.

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 6.11.12 PM

Kent has played a tough schedule thus far as they have fallen to Blue Ridge (VA) and two Class AA schools, Vermont Academy and Wilbraham & Monson. Both schools have ESPN top 30 players in the class of 2016. Wilbraham & Monson big man, Wenyen Gabriel ’16, will play for John Calapari next year at the University of Kentucky. While Vermont’s Bruce Brown ’16 will play for coach Jim Larranaga at the University of Miami. Gaberial and Brown are the second and third best recruits in New England according to ESPN, behind only Omari Spellman (Villanova) of St. Thomas More.

Though losing to these tough teams, Kent has been able to pick up 7 wins so far. Their most impressive victory came over Class AA school, Macduffie, by the score of 57-54. Most recently Kent knocked off fellow Founders League member, Loomis, 81-59.

Up next for Kent is a matchup with the red hot Taft Rhinos.

#7 Williston

The defending NEPSAC Class A champs are off to a bumpier road than expected. Playing a tough schedule early, Williston stands at 5-4 this season. Losees have come against Bruce Brown’s Vermont Academy, a tough Exeter team, and perennial power Putnam Science Academy, who are led by the number 11 player in ESPN’s class of 2017 rankings, Hamidou Diallo. Williston’s last loss came to a two win team in Phillips Andover.

With eight returning member from a championship squad including big man Kyle Doucette ’16, small forward Jake Ross ’16, and point guard Isiaiah Brooks ’16, it seemed as if Williston would be able to cruise past their opponents.

Though only 5-4, with wins over AA school Commonwealth Academy and routs against TP and Deerfield, Williston could be on the rise.

A key matchup is right around the corner for Williston, the rematch of last year’s championship, as they have a date with Suffield Academy on Sunday the 17th at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

#8 Taft

Taft is currently 5-2, riding steadily with the leadership of 6’6″ Swedish small forward, Ludvig Swanstrom ’16. Swanstrom is a big wing who shoots the mid range fairly well and is a good passer for his position.

Watch his highlight tape here.

Joining Swanstrom are guards Shamir Johnson ’18 and Darius Chester ’17.

Taft’s losses came to Tabor where the Rhinos lost by 12 and Suffield Academy where the the Rhinos kept it close with the Tigers as they fell 53-50.

With two wins over Brunswick and wins against struggling squads like Gunnery, Choate, and Canterbury, Taft has yet to earn a win over a playoff contending team.

With games against KO on Monday and Kent on Wednesday, Taft has a chance to move their way up and make their case for the postseason.


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