Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Two of NHIAA's Top Freshmen Headed for Prep School

The trend of top local high school hoops talent leaving the NHIAA for prep school continues. Angelique Ngalakulondi, a 6-foot-1 forward from Manchester Central and Pinkerton's 5-foot-9 guard Nicolette Arnold are two of the top freshmen girls basketball players in NH. Both ooze with potential, and even as freshmen they're being touted as scholarship level prospects. They're both headed for prep school.

Ngalakulondi is transferring to Proctor Academy, while Arnold is leaving for Lawrence Academy - according to TJ Thompson, who trains both of them. Both will repeat their freshman years next season, reclassifying to the Class of 2019. Ngalakulondi will attend Proctor with her older brother Tschiefu, who is a standout wing for the school's boys basketball team from the Class of 2017. She'll play at Proctor alongside point guard Amanda Torres, who transferred there last season following her sophomore year at Trinity High of Manchester. Around the same time another guard left a NHIAA school in Manchester for the prep ranks, as Angelina Marazzi transferred from Memorial High to Northfield Mount Hermon. Each of these players has trained with Coach Thompson.

Both Arnold and Ngalakulondi helped lead their respective high school teams to the NHIAA Division I Final Four last month. Arnold has a deadly jumper (off the catch or the dribble) can blow by defenders off the bounce and sees the floor well. Ngalakulondi has good size, off the charts athleticism, runs like a deer and can block shots like nobody's business.

Green, Baker & Rosinski Receive Offers from UNH

In the past 10 years only 2 locals have played for the UNH men's basketball team and both of them were walk-ons. That could change over the next few years. This week Caleb Green (Londonderry, NH), Geo Baker (Derry, NH) and Luke Rosinski (Derry, NH) all received scholarship offers from Coach Herrion. This news is according to TJ Thompson, who coaches all 3 of them with the DC Blue Devils AAU program.

Baker (Pinkerton Academy) and Green (Proctor Academy) is the Blue Devils starting back court. Both are among the region's top rated point guard prospects from the Class of 2017. Rosinski (Kimball Union Academy) at 6-foot-7 is a post player / face-up 4 from the Class of 2016. This is Rosinski's first offer, while Green was offered last summer by UNH's conference rival Stony Brook and earlier this spring Baker received his first offer from Central Connecticut State University. It's nice to see the hard work pay off for these kids, and with it still so early in AAU season more offers could be coming.

Thompson's DC Blue Devils squad is loaded with local talent. His entire starting five are potential D-I recruits, with four of them being from NH (Green, Rosinski, Baker and Tschiefu Ngalakulondi). That is unheard of in this area.

"We're trying to change the perception of NH basketball" said Thompson, who went on to play proefessionally in Europe after his college career at George Washington.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Benway to Play College Ball at St. Joe's

Spaulding High senior Emily Benway was one of NH's top players from the Class of 2015, but because she played for a struggling high school team she didn't receive the same type of exposure and fanfare throughout the state as the other top players did.

Benway didn't let that discourage her, though. She just kept on working and in the end it paid off. Last month she was named a 2nd team all-state selection by the NHBCO and was picked to play in the Granite Games, which recognize the state's top senior players. She has also decided on a college for next year, as the 5-foot-10 wing forward has committed to Saint Joseph's College of Maine.

"My recruitment was stressful because I was stuck between going to a Division II school and a Division III school - Merrimack and Saint Joe's" Benway told the NH Notebook. "I chose Saint Joe's because I just felt like I would fit in very well there. I had watched a practice and had lunch with the team, it just felt right. The campus is great. I also received a very good financial aid package from Saint Joe's. Another big factor was that I want to be focused on school and also play basketball and have fun with it. Saint Joe's has my number one major which is Biology / Pre-physicians assistant, whereas Merrimack does not."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

NH Elite Girls Workout - Event Recap

AAU basketball season is now in full swing, and the NH Notebook will be covering many of the state's top teams and players. We kicked off our coverage on Monday night at Portsmouth Christian Academy in Dover, by observing a NH Elite girls practice and evaluating the talent on hand.

NH Elite is in its fifth year and is one of the state's premier programs. Their older teams are coached by Dustin Freeman and Kent Coffey. They stress the fundamentals of the game and doing the little things well, such as making the extra pass, hitting explosion points when driving, boxing out and making the smart play rather than the fancy one. The practice included conditioning, full and half court skill work followed by full court scrimmaging.

Many of NH's top up and coming prospects were in the gym, including 5-foot-10 Spaulding senior Emily Benway, who has committed to play college ball of St. Joseph's of Maine. Other standouts included Kaya Cadagan (Winnacunnet), Kelsey Coffey (Londonderry) and Emily Francoeur (Somersworth), Allie Sirmaian (Salem), Riley Bennett (Bishop Brady), Ashley Hill (Trinity), Katie Valcich (Winnacunnet) and Sadie Shore (Portsmouth).

Here's a closer look at what we saw from the program's local prospects.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

ESPN NH's Friday Night Lights - Hoops Season Wrap Up Podcast

Friday Night Lights Saturday morning show airs from 9-11 during high school football and basketball seasons. This past Saturday was their season wrap up show. The show's hosts are Sean Sendall, Chris Shuker and Mike Beliveau. They do a great job and were nice enough to have me on as a guest for a couple segments on the show.

We looked back at the season that has just completed in NH basketball, touching on the boys and girls side and all four divisions. Take a listen!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Boys Basketball Recruiting Rankings - Class of 2017

Next up is the boys basketball recruiting rankings for the Class of 2017. We've seen these kids play in person, on film, we've talked to coaches. All to make the list as accurate as possible. Again, the criteria is simple. Any kid who resides in NH from the Class of 2017 is eligible. The rankings are based on how the players project as college recruits, and like on the girls side this article will also be e-mailed to our database of college coaches free of charge.

Like on the girls side, we have prep school players at the top. 5 of the top 10 prospects come from prep schools, including Proctor Academy teammates Caleb Green (Londonderry, NH) and Tshiefu Ngalakulondi (Manchester, NH) who occupy the top 2 spots on the list. Green, Ngalakulondi and Geo Baker in the third spot will all be playing for the same AAU team this year - the DC Blue Devils. Green already holds a scholarship offer from Stony Brook, and there's little doubt that all 3 of them are future D-I college players if they keep working.

Without any further ado, here's a breakdown of NH's top local boys basketball prospects for the Class of 2017.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NHIAA Season Wrap-Up

March 25, 2015
By: Jeremy Leveille

NHIAA Division 1 – Londonderry 47 Pinkerton 46

A thrilling title game between arch-rival schools. Londonderry wins their first boys basketball championship in school history and completes a perfect 22-0 season. They were led all season long by their ‘Big 3’ of Cody Ball, Marc Corey and Jacob Coleman. All three of them can move the ball well, can shoot it from anywhere and defend. To read this story in its entirety, click here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Girls Basketball Recruiting Rankings - Class of 2017

Like we have done on the NH Notebook since the site began in 2009, we rank the top local prospects in boys and girls basketball as well as football. Why? To give exposure to the kids, that's it. We'll be e-mailing this article to our database of college coaches free of charge. Who's eligible? Local NH players only, from the Class of 2017. They can be attending an NHIAA school, a prep school like Tilton or a private school like Central Catholic, but they have to be a NH resident. Players are ranked in order of how they project as college recruits, not necessarily who the better high school player is today.

It's no secret who the top rated player in this class is. Rebecca Ripley (Stratham, NH) is the most sought after local recruit since Tiffany Ruffin. She is only a sophomore, but already holds 9 scholarship offers - from Syracuse, Clemson, Seton Hall, Providence, BC, Fordham, URI, Bryant and UMass. The first time we saw Ripley (pictured above) play she was ripping down boards, leading the break, then putting the ball through her legs and draining step-back 3's - not bad for a 5-foot-11 freshman. Her game has continued to get better since then.

Rounding out the top 3 is 2 more prep school players, Amanda Torres (Hudson, NH) from Proctor Academy and Ripley's teammate at New Hampton, Kaitlyn Petrocelli (Merrimack, NH). Both are potential D-I college prospects. The rest of the list comes from the NHIAA. The top public school player in the class? The answer may surprise folks who only follow the bigger schools in the southern part of the state - it's Katie Frederick from Sunapee. We already had her pegged for the #4 spot on the list, then she dropped 25 points and pulled down 37 rebounds (no, that's not a typo) in the D-IV title game to lead the Lakers to the ship'. In at #5 is Bishop Guertin wing Meghan Cramb, the first of a whopping 6 BG players on the list. It's scary to think how good BG will be when they're all seniors.

This is a very deep and talented class. Without any further ado, here are New Hampshire's top girls basketball prospects for the Class of 2017...

Monday, March 23, 2015

This & That

Here's a few things I jotted down in my NH Notebook these past couple weeks.

As we have already reported, the D-I state title for the Londonderry High boys basketball team is their first in program history. It comes during head coach Nate Stanton's year at the helm. In coach Stanton's first year as head coach at Londonderry he won D-I Coach of the Year. So a COY in year 1 and in year 2 he has an undefeated state title. Not a bad start for Coach Stanton.

Other coaches who have had very impressive 2 year starts in recent years:
Sean Young - a D-IV state title in year 1 and in year 2 his Epping boys team are D-IV runners-up
Jeremy Faulkner - In first 2 years at Souhegan he won back-to-back titles, including an undefeated season in 2010-2011
Scott Hazelton - Won girls D-I title at Bishop Guertin in 2012, and in his 2nd year in 2013 they were D-I runners-up
Rob McLaughlin - D-I Coach of the year in each of his first 2 years at Salem
Tim LaTorra - back-to-back Final Four appearances in his first 2 years at helm for Sunapee girls, then this year won undefeated state title

Londonderry is the basketball capital of NH this year. Their boys and girls basketball teams this winter season had a combined record of 42-2 and both won D-I titles. It was the first time since Nashua High in 1986 that a school won both D-I boys and girls titles in the same year. Both of the Lancers'girls teams' losses came on buzzer-beaters, and in the loss to Bedford the Lancers played without 2 injured starters (Brittany Roche and Noelle Lambert). They avenged that loss later in the season, beating Bedford 46-28. It was truly a dominant year for Londonderry basketball. What's even more impressive is that both the boys and girls teams won titles this year despite the fact that they graduated multiple players off last year's teams who went on to play college ball this year. On the boys side they graduated Drew Coveney (UNE) and Max Coleman (Plymouth State), while the girls graduated Gatorade Player of the Year Aliza Simpson (UNH) and Elisabeth Caron (Plymouth State). Londonderry not only graduated those players, but they also had key returning players leave for prep school. Caleb Green (holds an offer from Stony Brook) transferred to Proctor Academy for his sophomore year, while on the girls side their best returning player Casey Evans left for St. Andrews School.

Stanton wins a title in his second year, and on the girls side Nick Theos wins a title in just his first year. Not only that, but first year head football coach Jimmy Lauzon led the Lancers to an undefeated season against teams not named Pinkerton. I'd say A.D. Howard Sobolov has done a good job selecting coaches lately.

I know it's still just year 1 for new NHIAA executive director Jeff Collins, but here are a few things which should be on his agenda.
-Get a shot clock. I know this has been beaten to death, but for the love of God it's time NH basketball has a shot clock.
-System of seeding teams that accounts for strength of schedule. In Divisions II, III and IV you have unbalanced scheduling. 2 teams can both go 9-9 but one gets seeded higher despite playing a much weaker schedule. This needs to be fixed. Even in D-I it's an issue, because on the girls side everyone has 1 team they play twice. If you play Keene twice and you're tied in the standings with someone who played Londonderry twice that can have an impact. A few years ago the NHIAA used the 'Heal Points System' which is similar to what Maine does. This system overall worked well. If they just tweak it a little it would be a lot better than what we have today.
-Get rid of hand checking. Also, refs this season had a quick trigger on blowing the whistle for jump balls. You don't need to blow your whistle the second you see players from both teams with their hands on the ball, let them battle for the loose ball a little first. There's nothing worse than watching a game and having fouls/jump balls get called every darn time down the floor, ruining the flow of the game.

A couple more suggestions, but these aren't under the NHIAA's control. First off, it's no secret that once we get to the Final Four and the games are on the college floor players get nervous and make mistakes they wouldn't typically make. How do we fix this? Well, one way is to go back to the way it used to be, when the quarterfinal games were also played at a neutral site - on the college court (I'm in favor of this either way). Another solution is to get these kids more experience playing on the bigger college floor. Colleges are off for winter break and so are their basketball teams - why not have select high school Christmas tournaments take place on college courts. Right now the only colleges that host a Christmas Tournament is Keene Statel and NHTI. Why not have the QCIBT at SNHU? Why not have the Oyster River Holiday Tournament at UNH? In order to increase fan interest and fill the stands more, why not have the games count in the standings? Maybe invite some top teams from out of state to play? Maybe on the final day of the Christmas tournament, why not have an alumni game, where you have the tourney all-star team for that year vs. a group of alumni who are all former all-stars from that same tourney who have since graduated? Maybe have a prep game, like New Hampton vs. Tilton as part of it? The more games these kids play on the college court and in front of big crowds the better.

Lastly, and I've also mentioned this in the past so I'll be brief - the all-state teams should be voted on after the season has concluded. I'm okay with the coaches submitting their nominations for the players on their own teams for consideration at the end of the regular season. But the actual all-state, Player of the Year and Coach of the Year award voting should wait until after the last tournament game has been played. Often times the POY voting is a tight race between 3 or 4 guys. At the end of the regular season it's anyone's guess - any of those 3 or 4 kids could be deserving. But typically the state tournament is when 1 of them emerges as the correct choice (like Mayson Kimball in D-II girls last year, Zach Mathieu in D-I boys in 2010, etc.).

That's all for now. Check out New England Recruiting Report in the next few days for my NHIAA season review article. We'll also be releasing Class of 2017 prospect rankings for girls and boys basketball and Class of 2016 prospect rankings for football. Also, thanks to Ross Laorenza, Tuesday & Friday and DC for their hard work covering games this season.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Londonderry Wins First Boys Basketball State Title

NH Notebook coverage of the boys D-I hoops Final Four is sponsored by Catania-Spagna oils. They have a reputation for quality and integrity, providing a broad range of products in the retail, food service, bulk and private label sectors.For more information, visit www.cataniausa.com or call (978) 772-7900.

By: Tuesday and Friday
We all know the family drill. We get together for the holidays and usually around half way through the day or evening the family sidles up to Grand Pa to hear stories of days gone by. We respectfully listen, even though it could be Gran Pa’s 10th or 15th retelling of the story. We always lose track after some jumbo shrimp or opening of yet another present. The reason I bring this up is someday Grand Pa Brandon Radford will be spinning the tale of the winning state title layup.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bell Brothers Win Title in Final HS Game as Teammates

Jourdain and Joe. The Bells are the most heralded brother duo to come out of NH in the past decade. They've played together all growing up - on school teams, AAU, at showcases and in the driveway. After all the hard work and all the games it ends today - with a state championship.

It was a standing room only crowd at UNH's Lundholm Gymnasium. For many of those fans, this was the best state title basketball game they will ever witness. For the Bishop Brady boys basketball team (and the Bell family in particular) it will be a day they'll never forget.

Portsmouth led 56-50 with 1:30 left in the 4th quarter. The game was all but over. Then Bishop Brady senior point guard Jourdain Bell (game-high 27 points) drained two 3-pointers, Clippers sophomore guard Christian Peete missed the front end of two 1-and-1's and we were tied 56-56. With 12 seconds left Portsmouth had the ball. The Giants got a deflection and stole the ball. Brady junior forward Aaaron Svendsen threw the ball ahead to Joe Bell, who laid it in with 3 seconds left. Clippers freshman shooting guard Cody Graham's last second shot from 3/4 court fell just short. Brady wins 58-56 to capture the 2014-2015 Division II state title.

"Once I saw Jojo got that layup I said it's over - we got this" said Jourdain Bell, arguably the NHIAA's best player. "I don't think I could ask for a better last game with my brother than what just happened. It's a once in a lifetime thing."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Portsmouth Physically Beats Lebanon 56-41

By: Tuesday and Friday
Portsmouth used a distinct rebounding advantage in the 2nd half of 22 to 12 and rode the young shoulders of freshman Cody Graham, who led Portsmouth with 18 points, to defeat Lebanon and move to a much anticipated State Title game with Bishop Brady this Saturday at High Noon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bishop Brady Runs Past Goffstown & Into D-II Finals

By: Jeremy Leveille
Bishop Brady has a first-year head coach and prior to tonight, no one on their team had played in the Final Four at UNH. You would have never guessed it judging by their performance in the D-II semi-finals vs Goffstown. Led by the 'Big 3' of the Bell brothers and Brendan Johnson, plus big man Aaron Svendsen and sharpshooter Matt Quirk the Giants showed why they have arguably the most talented starting 5 in NH.

"I believe we're the most talented team" said Johnson, who is having one of the best multi-sport years by an NHIAA athlete in recent memory. "When we put our mind to it, we make it look easy."

"We can all shoot, and we can all drive" added Joe Bell.

Brady ran a clinic on fast-break basketball, en route to a 15-2 lead. They went up 47-20 in the 3rd quarter and cruised to the 61-47 win. The Giants advance to the championship game on Saturday, back at UNH vs. Portsmouth.

Pinkerton Dances Past Cinderella 63–58

NH Notebook coverage of the boys D-I hoops Final Four is sponsored by Catania-Spagna oils. They have a reputation for quality and integrity, providing a broad range of products in the retail, food service, bulk and private label sectors.For more information, visit www.cataniausa.com or call (978) 772-7900.

By: Tuesday and Friday
Steve Lane, the driver of the Cinderella carriage, said: “I’m proud of my team. They did everything they needed to. They went up against the Pinkerton pressure. They handled it and attacked it superbly….. Then Geo Baker happened. He’s a heck of a player.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lancers Advance to 1st D-I Final in School History

NH Notebook coverage of the boys D-I hoops Final Four is sponsored by Catania-Spagna oils. They have a reputation for quality and integrity, providing a broad range of products in the retail, food service, bulk and private label sectors.For more information, visit www.cataniausa.com or call (978) 772-7900.

By: Ross Laorenza
The Londonderry Lancers knocked off the Spaulding Red Raiders with a come from behind 58-51 win to advance to the school’s first championship game. The Lancers trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half, before storming back in the fourth quarter. Seniors Cody Ball, Joey Kwiatkowski and Marc Corey led the way down the stretch for Londonderry with the Red Raider’s Darian Berry trying to keep pace. Londonderry also got some great shooting from sophomore Jacob Coleman. Coleman scored a team high 19 points, including 5 of 9 from three point range.

Catania-Spagna to Sponsor NH Notebook's Coverage of D-I Boys Hoops Final Four

The NH Notebook is proud to announce our latest sponsor, Catania-Spagna oils. Catania-Spagna are processors and packers of vegetable, olive and blended oils. It is a family owned business, based out of Ayer, MA. They have a reputation for quality and integrity, providing a broad range of products in the retail, food service, bulk and private label sectors.

For more information, visit www.cataniausa.com or call (978) 772-7900.

We sincerely thank Catania-Spagna for their support, which helps to make our coverage of NH high school sports possible. For information on becoming a sponsor for the NH Notebook or making a donation, please e-mail: jeremy.leveille@gmail.com

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pinkerton Punches Final Four Ticket

By: Tuesday and Friday
Pinkerton went 13 – 17 from the FT line in the 4th quarter to secure a 57 to 50 victory over Pembroke in the quarterfinals. Geo Baker handled the ball under Spartan pressure in the final quarter and went 6 – 7 from the line in helping to send the Astros to the Final Four to meet the Cinderella #15 seeded Titans of North Tuesday night at 6:00 pm. For Pembroke this loss marked the end of the longest season in NH high school basketball history (more on that later).