Sunday, November 22, 2009

Boys Basketball Preview - Class L

12/16/09
Trinity’s Losses Leave Class L Wide Open

Anyone who followed Class L basketball in NH last season knows that Trinity was on another level. They went 17-1 in the regular season, and won the title, following back to back championship game losses to Salem. The Pioneers would have been the consensus favorite once again in NH’s big-school division. But they lost six of their top eight players, including the state’s 2009 Mr. Basketball Jordan Laguerre. Laguerre reclassified and transferred to the New Hampton School, and starting guard Cormac Fitzpatrick transferred to Manchester Memorial. As a result, there is no clear cut favorite in Class L, and there are six teams with a legit shot at the title.

The goal for every team in Class L and Class I in NH is to get to UNH, where the semi-finals and championship are held. Here’s a look at the field, and their chances of getting to Durham:

Ok, before you read any further, I'll warn you. This is a long, detailed post. If you want to read the whole thing keep reading. For a more condensed version of this post, check out my Class L preview on the New England Recruiting Report. It's right here.

The Top Dogs

1) Merrimack – Last season Manchester Memorial went from a team who won less than six games to the title game, a remarkable turnaround. Merrimack could be this year’s Memorial. Not only do the Tomahawks have everyone back from last year’s team, but they also have the best freshman in the state in Dimitri Floras. Floras is a silky smooth guard who can shoot and drive. He joins his brother, Anthony Floras in the backcourt. The older Floras is one of the state’s best defenders, and is one of four strong senior players for Merrimack, along with forward Eric Watson and guards Travis Maser and Matt Hardwick. Watson could be an all-state player this year; he’s strong and can score inside and out. This team showed they were for real by defeating Trinity, Dover and Memorial in one day, and edging Bishop Guertin in another at the Rivier Fall League.

My Take: The more I watch this team play the more I like what I see. The first word that comes to mind when I think of them is: Toughness. These kids are tough, and they don't get rattled when the pressure is on. They seem to thrive when playing against good teams, and in the last two minutes of a close game, they flat out get stops on defense and take good shots on offense. They make up for what they lack in size and depth with exceptional team play. Everyone on this team has a role, they know their role, and the pieces fit together. In that department, they are much further along than most teams at this point in the season. All five players in their starting lineup are quick, can handle the ball and can shoot it. As for the question marks. Size. Will they be able to rebound, defend the post and score inside against bigger teams like BG, Pinkerton, Trinity, Alvirne and Londonderry? Depth. They have Garstang, Gendron and Fulling off the bench to provide depth. Serviceable players. But when their starting five is out there they are a MUCH better basketball team. But of course if they play their starters too much they'll get burned out by the tournament. Keep an eye on how Coach Goodridge uses his rotation. There is really no clear-cut favorite this year in Class L. If you ask me, there are 6 favorites. But I do have Merrimack as my preseason #1. I think they will have some off-games, some games when they just don't have it working. But over the course of the season, I fully expect this team to stay near the top of the standings and make a run come March.

2) Trinity – Only Trinity can lose the state’s best player, four starters and two key player off the bench and still be the second best team in the state entering the year. Of course it doesn’t hurt when you replace an outgoing transfer with an incoming one. Senior forward Gordan Duffley joins Coach Dave Keefe’s squad following his transfer from Manchester Central over the summer. He joins senior point guard Phil Hayden in the starting lineup. But the player to watch for this team is David Madol, a junior forward who just might be the best player in the state. Zach Stevens gives Trinity an outside threat, and sophomores Logan Kesty and the 6’9” Silvere Aluko join the crew after playing on a talented Pioneer JV team a year ago.

My Take: On paper, this team does not seem to have a weakness. They have size, speed, depth, they defend well, they have a dominant inside scorer, a pure point guard, a good coach and a pair of sharpshooters. They're a very confident bunch, and they play with a swagger that you like to see from a winner. So what's the problem? One is experience. True, Hayden and Madol were both key contributors to last year's title squad. But outside of those two, there isn't much varsity experience. Stevens saw limited playing time last year, Duffley barely played for Central a season ago, and Kesty and Aluko played JV ball. They have one freshman, a fistful of sophomores, one incoming transfer and only two seniors. Lots of different parts here, lots of players who haven't played together very much before this season. Can they get all of those parts to fit together? Also, Aluko has a ton of potential, but his game is still raw. If he can continue to improve, Trinity will really be a tough out.

3) Bishop Guertin – If the games were played on paper, the Cardinals would easily be the favorites in Class L this year. They have the most talented trio in the state with senior forward Scott St. Lawrence, and junior wings Connor Green and Sean McClung. Green transferred from Bedford High over the summer. These three kids are some of the best college prospects in the NHIAA. Guertin plays a frenetic style, pressing the entire 32 minutes. And they have the depth to go with that style, with nine or 10 quality ballplayers. The key for them will be sharing the ball, not turning it over, and not getting into foul trouble. Other key players will be senior forward Ryan Turner, senior guard Luke Lavash, and junior guard Nick Pyzocha.

My Take: This COULD be a VERY scary basketball team for anyone to play this year. Like I said above, they have an extremely talented "Big 3" with Green, St. Lawrence and McClung. This team is probably the fastest team in Class L, and they have size and skill to burn. They force a ton of turnovers and subsequently get a ton of easy layups off of their full court press which they run all 32 minutes. The "Big 3", along with Turner, Lavash, Pyzocha, Fontanella, Coumas and Cuipa is a scary roster. If the games were played on paper they would defeat Trinity in the title game. But they're not. The question marks with BG are clear. One is fouls. They press full court the entire game. The risk with that style is that if your players are not disciplined and they reach in, you could end up with seven fouls five minutes into the game and give your opponent 20 points at the free throw line alone. The other question here is Coach Migneult's substitution pattern. He subs in five players at a time all game long. And he starts his "Big 3". This means that he sits his three best players all at the same time...for many different stretches throughout the course of a game. Bad move. If you ask me, it is never good idea to rest your three best players at the same time, ever, let alone sitting your entire starting lineup at one time. BG can play their pressing style, but they should sub in between 1-3 players at a time, not five. The other question with this team is passing. Can all of their stars share the ball? And when they do, will there passing be erratic? Sometimes their players try to do it all on their own and force shots. And when they do pass, they're so enmeshed in their fast paced, pressing style of play that they pass the ball over the head of their teammate and out of bounds. The Cardinals must share the ball, and play disciplined basketball if they want to go all the way. Talent-wise they're as good as anyone though. Migneault is a good coach. If he can get the most out of this squad, they will go very deep into the tournament.

4) Dover – The Green Wave have been a competitive team in recent years, but haven’t been able to take the next step to get to UNH. Don’t be surprised if they take that step this season. Alex Burt was the most improved player in the state last year as a junior, and this season he is perhaps its best player. At 6’0”, he can play either guard spot, can handle the ball well and shoot the lights out. Dover loses its other big scorer off last year’s team in John Boyatsis, but this year they will be a more gritty, better defensive unit. Other key players to watch are a pair of juniors in forward Morgan Faustino and guard Kenaan Al-Darraji. This team proved they could play with anyone by winning the BST Summer League, defeating Memorial, Milford and Bishop Guertin in the process. Dover will have three other key returning players, and they're all seniors. They include wing Ricardo Taveras and forwards Justin Dube and Rory Duffy.

My Take: I really like Dover's chances this year. They're in a similar boat as Merrimack. Neither Dover nor Merrimack is as talented, deep or as big as Trinity and BG. But like Merrimack, Dover has toughness to burn. And also like Merrimack, they have a group where everyone has a role, and the parts fit together well. This was a team on a mission in the B.S.T. Summer League playoffs. They really made a statement. And unfortunately they were playing without three starters at the Riv. League playoffs, because I really would have liked to see how they would have done at full strength, particularly vs. Merrimack. The Green Wave might very well be the best defensive team in the state. Duffy is not only one of the best defenders in the state, but he's also one of the most underrated players in NH. Faustino and Dube are also very tough and excellent defenders. This squad may lack size, but they're a disciplined and hard nosed group. They also have some very good shooters with Burt, Al-Darraji and even Faustino and Duffy can step out and drain the three. To beat them you have to take away the perimeter shots and make them put the ball on the floor, where they aren't nearly as strong. Only other weakness I can see is that they play an up-tempo game but they're not very deep. When they're at their best they just play their top six kids. But it's a long season, and with their fast paced style, they'll have to go deeper. They have a couple other guards off the bench they sometimes go to, but they're not nearly as good, and when they're in is when teams will make runs. Any major injuries to their top six players especially to either Burt, Al-Darraji or Faustino could put them in big trouble. But when they're healthy they're as good as anyone in Class L.

5) Manchester Memorial – After the Crusader’s well documented turnaround last year, they lost their entire starting lineup to graduation; and that was a team that only played six kids most nights. The biggest loss was Jason Chevrefils, a first team All-State forward. But the team adds Fitzpatrick, who transferred to Memorial over the summer. He’ll play his senior season for his father, Mike Fitzpatrick, one of the best coaches in NH. His son, Cormac is one of the state’s better shooters, and is looking to win back to back titles…for two different schools! He joins senior Matt Couture in the backcourt. Couture was a key player off the bench last season, and this year will make the switch to the point guard spot. Other key players will be senior forward Edhem Mahmutovic, junior guard Shomari Morgan and senior guard Vinnie Zenni.

My Take: At one point this summer I had Memorial ranked #1. They were virtually unbeatable in the B.S.T. League. Fitzpatrick, Couture and company were hitting on all cylinders. Morgan and Zenni looked like two of the most improved players in the state. And the Crusaders had an incoming transfer named Isaiah Scurry who was coming in to man the middle. I think Memorial is still a good team, it's just that other teams have passed them since July. Merrimack and Dover emerged as top teams, BG added Green, Trinity added Duffley, and it appears that Scurry will not be playing basketball this season for Memorial. Like I keep saying, there are six favorites in Class L this season. It's just that all of this puts Mike Fitzpatrick's team a little lower on my power rankings. Without Scurry, they really lack size. Mahmutovic will have to start at center, and he is NOT a center. He's tall, but he's not strong enough to bang around down low with the Class L big boys. Senior forwards Dan McLean and Eric Landry will be asked to play more minutes than they are capable of. And Cormac has had a nagging knee injury since the fall. It may hold him back, he may miss some games. Then again it could turn out to be a non-issue. We'll see. All that being said, this is a very smart, disciplined team that gets good shots and plays defense. Look for them to be right around the top of the standings all year long.

6) Alvirne – The Broncos were the surprise team of last year’s Class L tournament. They were only the 13 seed in the regular season, but made it all the way to the state semi-finals. They lost inside force Brennan Donnelly off that team, but they return his younger brother, junior guard Caleb Donnelly, an excellent shooter. Also returning are senior forward Ryan Sweeney, senior guard Joe O’Hearn, and junior forward Sean Moyen to give Alvirne as good of a “Big Four” as anyone in NH. Moyen missed the second half of last season with a knee injury, but he’s healthy now. He and Sweeney are both dominant inside players. And O’Hearn does a little bit of everything. The starting point guard is Cody Lambert, a solid senior leader. Off the bench Alvirne has four quality players. They are sophomore guard Tony Beaulieu, sophomore forward Jim Tomaswick, senior forward David Skinner and junior wing Jonathan Baldwin.

My Take: If there's a team that can make a case that fall league results don't matter it's Alvirne. How else could you explain how a team could finish with less than a .500 record in fall league, and still be considered one of the six favorites? Truth is, out of the nine players I expect to comprise the Bronco's rotation, only three of them were regulars at the Riv. (Sweeney, Lambert and Tomaswick). And even those three missed some games. Donnelly had cross-crountry, Bealieu and Baldwin had football, and Moyen was still recovering from knee surgery. Skinner meanwhile is a transfer from Nashua Christian. He changes high schools for the second time after he spent his freshman year at Fellowship Christian School in Methuen. This team has all of the pieces, and a very talented "Big 4" as mentioned above. And they can go nine deep. Question is can Moyen stay healthy and be productive all year? He looked good in a scrimmage against Londonderry, but can he sustain it for a full year? Tempo is also very key with Alvirne. This is NOT a fast break team. They want to slow it down, play half court. Thy have a talented squad, but they lack quickness at many positions. If they are forced to play an up-tempo game they will likely lose. But in a slow-down game they can beat anyone.

Other Contenders

7) Nashua South – South relied almost solely on four players last year in Jake Nelson, Mike Polley, Dan Feehan and Josh Ramos. Nelson is the only one who returns this year, with the other three graduating. But the Purple Panthers and Head Coach Nate Mazzerole reload, with talented players like junior forward Nilsson Basora, senior wing Louis Muccioli, and his brother, sophomore guard Anthony Muccioli. Add to the mix Kaleb Joseph, a guard who is one of the state’s best freshman. Nelson is possibly the best player in NH. He’s a great floor general, leader, passer and defender. But he will start the season on the sidelines with a foot injury. He is expected to miss the first 2-3 weeks of the season, but possibly more. If he can return healthy soon enough, this team will have a shot.

My Take: The key here is Nelson. When will he return from his foot injury, and how long will it take him to get back to 100%? If he's healthy, this team could make a run, and is as good as anyone outside the "Six Favorites." Outside of Nelson they have some very talented role players. But let's be honest, they're still just role players. They'll still be competitive but will likely struggle to beat good teams without their star guard. Regardless, this is still a very fast, athletic ball club that can really push the ball up the court, put some points on the board and defend people. Anthony Muccioli and Brandon Cox are both tough, hard nosed guards who play well under pressure. Louis Muccioli and Nilsson Basora both very athletic players with good all-around games. And Kaleb Joseph is an explosive freshman who can put up points in a hurry and plays with a ton of energy. This team does lack size, however; which is why they NEED to play fast break basketball. If they can push the ball up-court and score before the opposing bigs get down there to defend they will win a lot of games. And I think they'll be able to do that because they're strong deefensively, which makes it much easier to get out and run. The question then becomes about Coach Mazzerole. He's known as a conservative coach who likes to play slow-down ball. They can't do that with this team and be successful. They also need a healthy Nelson. If they get those two things, they will be scary to playe late in the year.

8) Salem – Under Head Coach E.J. Perry, Salem has been a perennial Class L powerhouse. They won back to back titles, including an undefeated campaign in 2007-2008. Last season they made it to the semi-finals. But over the last two years they were carried by stars Josh Jones and Mike Kimball, who both graduated in the spring. Returning however, is starting point guard Alex LaRosa. LaRosa is a great shooter, and one of NH’s best all-around guards. Junior forward Joe Gallant gives the Blue Devils a good inside presence. Salem’s teams are always very disciplined and well coached, they’ll be in the hunt once again.

My Take: This is a good team. I just don't think they have enough talent to beat the teams ranked ahead of them. Junior guard Jeff Meisser is one of the most underrated players in the state, and is the best shooter you've never heard of. And they have a solid three player big man rotation with Gallant, Mike Lorenz and Kyle Henrick. Henrick is only 6'1" though, and Lorenz and Gallant at times lack toughness. Cannone is one player who doesn't lack toughness. He is strong, quick, good defensively and he's a good shooter. The loss that hurts them is Analdo Vasquez. Vasquez sat out last season as a junior due to not being academically eligible. He played with the team all summer an fall, but suffered an unfortunate knee injury in the Riv. League and will miss the entire season. The Blue Devils will miss his speed, defense and driving ability. He's not a good shooter, but his strength is penetrating and dishing. Salem has two of the state's best shooters with LaRosa and Meisser. They would have been scary to face with Vasquez driving and those two shooting. Still, this will be a very good ball club. EJ Perry is one of the best coaches in Class L, and LaRosa is in for a big year. They're fundamentally sound, and they won't beat themselves.

9) Nashua North – The Titans missed the tournament last year, but with the offensive talent this team has they will be scary to play, especially later in the season. Expect to see some high scoring games when North plays this year. Defense and rebounding could be a problem for them, but they have the firepower to put up points in a hurry. Their weapons include Javon Williams, the top sophomore talent in the state, as well as fellow sophomore guard Ryan Gauthier. These two are young, and will make mistakes, but they’re very talented and will get better as the season goes on. Also contributing offense will be seniors Alex Pratt and Trevor Rancourt, and senior big man Kevin Rosenberg provides muscle inside.

My Take: As disciplined as Salem is, that is the area that North is really lacking. They have a pair of young guards who play out of control at times. The team as a whole sometimes has poor shot selection. But what they lack in discipline they make up for with sheer talent. Williams and Gauthier have quickness, athleticism and offensive skill to burn. Pratt is an above average shooter and a decent slasher. Rancourt can also drive and hit the mid range jumper. The Titans have four kids who have the ability to score 20 points on any given night. Plus a banger inside in Rosenberg. The question with them is discipline. Can they keep their turnovers down, and improve their shot selection? Another question is depth. Zach Nadeau is a solid forward off the bench, but they'll need one or two other kids to step up off the bench to give the starters a breather. Another question is size. Rosenberg is there, but he's still recovering from his back injury. He won't be able to play a ton of minutes, especially early in the season. And Nadeau is an undersized big at only 6'1". There are plenty of questions. But there's also plenty of talent. Expect to see a high scoring game if you see North play this year. They'll be fun to watch. And they'll probably be a little inconsistent. But they'll be good.

10) Londonderry – Londonderry had a solid team last year, and returns most of its talent. Senior Matt Sanborn and junior Mike Colby are two of NH’s best shooters. Senior C.J. Flanders is also a solid shooter, and senior Jeff Bintz, at 6’6” is a good inside player. The key loss for the Lancers is point guard David Feinstein, as Londonderry doesn’t have anyone to replace him at the one. Also, Head Coach Jim Zorbas is taking the year off from coaching, and Sanborn is suspended for the first six games of the season. Still, once Sanborn returns, this will be a tough team, with a good combination of size and shooting ability.

My Take: Without Sanborn, this team does lack some extra offensive firepower. Colby can score, Flanders is a good spot up shooter, and Bintz is a decent inside scorer. But after that they struggle offensively. Once Sanborn rejoins the roster they'll be a much better team. He's out for the first six games, maybe more. And there's no guarantee that once he's back on the team that he'll stay there. He has to stay out of trouble. How far this team goes will rely heavily upon him. This team does however, have more size and muscle inside than possibly anyone else in NH. Between Bintz, Mike Swanson, Jake Finnegan and Troy Mansfield. These kids are big, tough and strong. The questions with this team, besides Sanborn, lie at point guard and in coaching. They ned someone to step up, take the reigns and be the man at the point. Flanders is a spot up shooter, Colby and Sanborn are scorers. They need someone else to step up and distribute the basketball. As far as coaching goes, Jim Zorbas is one of the state's more underrated coaches. But he's taking a year off from coaching, leaving the team with assistant Jeff Gustavson. Zorbas was always able to get the most out of his team, will Gustavson be able to do the same? If they do, if they get a point guard to step up, and if Sanborn stays out of trouble this team will be as good as anyone.

Other Teams to Watch

11) Pinkerton – Seniors Zack Mathieu and Ben Proulx are two of the best inside players in the state. They’ll be tough to stop in the paint for any team, and the Astros have a solid new point guard in junior Chad Park.

My Take: Unlike Londonderry, Pinkerton knows who their point guard is. Park might be small, but he's very quick, can handle the ball well, and can run the offense. This team also has strong inside play with Proulx and Mathieu. But who are there wings? Who will shoot the ball from the outside, or penetrate into the lane and create space for the bigs to operate? Patrikis and Light have the most potential to step up into those roles, and Colbert can also make plays. But these three, and Park for that matter, are very inexperienced. How will they perform in the big situations, late in games? Then of course there's coaching. Can Rosinski put the issues from last year behind him, move forward and get this team to listen to him, believe in him and play hard for him? They fizzled at the end of the season last year, and that was with a roster loaded with talent. If they can get the backcourt to step up, and have the whole team stay on the same page all year they'll win a lot of games. Some teams they play will flat out be scared of their size. Either that, or they just won't be able to compete down low with Pinkerton. But can they win the close ones, against good teams? That will be the test for them.

12) Manchester West – Senior guard Richard Valentin is one of NH’s best guards. He leads a fast, athletic team who exceeded expectations last year under new head coach Sam Carey. Other key players will be junior guard Sammy Abdalla, junior wing Quentin Hunter, and senior center Greg Asselin.

My Take: West is a very fast, athletic team. They have one of the state's best guards in Valentin, and a handful of other players who are skilled offensively and defensively. Abdalla and Hunter are two players to watch this season. Both players could be primed for breakout years. Either player could really take a step forward with their game. If they do, and if Valentin can stay out of trouble and stay on the team all season, the Blue Knights will be tough. But I think both Abdalla and Hunter are boom or bust players. Will they take that step up and be breakout players, or will they remain average players? If they only play like average players, this team will finish around 12-14th. If they breakout like I think they can, and if Valentin plays all year, they could finish in the 6-9 range. Asselin, along with junior forward Jose Gonzalez, could give West some solid inside play. But again, like with Abdalla and Hunter they also lack experience. This team could win a lot of games, but they're relying on a star guard who may not make it through the whole season, and four talented players without much varsity experience. This is definitely a team worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.

13) Winnacunnet – Head Coach Jay McKenna always gets the most out of his team. This year they will live and die by their guard play, and they’ll be led by seniors Ryan Dunn, Jesse Gould and Harry Knowles.

My Take: The good...Dunn is an excellent point guard, a great leader. He can drive, shoot, play defense, he does it all. Gould is a great shooter. McKenna seems to get the most out of this group when I've seen them in scrimmages. The bad...They have some size, but their bigs aren't very good, and they're very inexperienced. Cody Rahn is 6'5", and is a very wide body, and Christian Oweifie is 6'6". Both players are still very much a work in progress. Rahn played JV last year, and Oweifie was on the freshman team. Juniors Sean Dolan and Spencer Cutting may also get minutes down low. Steve Cronan is better on the wing, but he will likely get minutes at the four when McKenna wants to go small. Their frontcourt is definitely not their strength, and they may struggle against teams with good bigs. Paging Kyle Ratcliffe, anyone? Anyone? Bueller? All jokes about 80's movies aside, Also, Nick McGrail is a very underrated player in the backcourt. He plays smart, and is a good shooter. He does however, lack speed and athleticism at the guard position. And Harry Knowles has not looked good in preseason scrimmages. Perhaps he's still getting back into basketball shape after football season. For Winnacunnet to be a top team, they'll need Knowles to revert back to his previous level of play, when he was considered one of the state's best wing players. I think Gould is in for a big senior year, and you know what you're going to get from Dunn. If those three are hitting on all cylinders, they might not need inside play to beat a lot of teams.

14) Exeter – The Blue Hawks had the state’s best freshman last year in Mike Thorpe, but unfortunately for Exeter he moved over the summer to CT…then again to Newton, MA. They’ll still be a good team, led by senior guards James Holler and Louie Vigars. They bring in a transfer of their own, senior forward Mike Fecteau, a 6'2" forward from Epping. Tucker Munroe, a 6'4" senior forward/center, is a returning starter. He is still recovering from off-season knee surgery, but will be back in time for the season. Senior wing Dan Driscoll and senior forward Ben Callahan also return from last year's team. Coming up from the JV team to contribute will be James' little brother Brad Holler, a sophomore guard, sophomore wing Tim LaRoche, and junior wing Jesse Dionne.

My Take: This is an interesting team. They're another squad which has a wide range as far as the number of games they might win. What comes to my mind first about Exeter is depth. The funny thing is, depth for the Blue Hawks is both a strength AND a weakness. Allow me to explain. It is a strength because you have nine good ballplayers. It is a weakness because while they have nine good players, they lack a star, a go-to guy, someone who can create space, get to the rack, and be a difference maker on both ends of the floor. Exeter HAD a player who fit that description. His name was Mike Thorpe. But unfortunately for them he moved out of state. Coach Holmes recently told me that he thinks Thorpe will be a Division I basketball player. With Thorpe, this Blue Hawk team has as good a shot at the title as anyone. But instead, they lack that go-to guy. And while they have nine good players, too many of them are just that...good. Good, but not great. Average, but not above average. And while James Holler is an excellent defender, overall as a team they lack speed. And =while they have the 6'4" Munroe, overall as a team they lack size. Still, they have a lot of seniors, and a lot of experience. And some good shooters, especially Vigars. They'll be a tough out for anyone.

15) Manchester Central – Tough summer for Coach Doc Wheeler. You graduate four of your five starters, including All-Stater Will Bayliss. Then have two of the players you actually were returning transfer to Trinity. And another returning player, junior guard Joe Stisser, won't be back from injury un til a few weeks into the season. The lone returning starting is big man John Wickey, a 6’6” junior who is in for another big season. Another returning player, albeit one who didn't see much floor time a year ago is Gabe LaCount. LaCount, a sophomore guard, will start at the wing this season. Another sophomore guard, Stephen Ferge is an above average shooter.

My Take: The two big "What if Players" here are Stisser and Luis Martinez. Incidentally, they're both point guards. This team really needs at least one, if not both of these kids to play. Without them, they have no point guard. LaCount is a slasher, Ferge is a shooter. Stisser is expected back sometime in January, but who knows? Martinez is a solid point guard, runs the offense well, distributes the basketball. But he may or may not play. Also, outside of Wickey they lack size. What if he gets in foul trouble or is just being rested for a few minutes. Who plays center, Junior Brown? Even with Martinez and Stisser, this team lacks depth. You have those two, Ferge, LaCount and Wickey. Then who? The Little Green will likely struggle at times this year, but next season watch out. Everyone I have mentioned on here with Central is either a sophomore or a junior. They'll take their lumps this year, but but next season watch out!

Ranking the Rest
16. Spaulding
17. Goffstown
18. Timberlane
19. Keene
20. Concord

My Preseason All-State Picks

First team: Alex Burt, Sr., Dover; Jake Nelson, Sr., Nashua South; David Madol, Jr., Trinity; Connor Green, Jr., Bishop Guertin; Richard Valentin, Sr., Manchester West; Alex LaRosa, Sr., Salem

Second Team: Eric Watson, Sr., Merrimack; Scott St. Lawrence, Sr., Bishop Guertin; Matt Couture, Sr. Manchester Memorial; Phil Hayden, Sr., Trinity; Ryan Sweeney, Sr., Alvirne; John Wickey, Jr., Manchester Central

Honorable Mention: Sean McClung, Jr., Bishop Guertin; Zack Mathieu Sr., Pinkerton; Cormac Fitzpatrick, Sr., Manchester Memorial; Ben Proulx, Sr., Pinkerton; Caleb Donnelly, Jr., Alvirne; Ryan Dunn, Sr., Winnacunnet; Mike Colby, Jr., Londonderry; Alex Pratt, Sr., Nashua North; James Holler, Sr., Exeter; Anthony Floras, Sr., Merrimack

46 comments:

  1. I'll finish up the "My Takes" in the morning. Stay tuned...

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  2. nh sport pages has just released his predictions,he has merrimack 10th.

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  3. Jeremy does love Merrimack. He is staking his young journalistic reputation on this prediction. Hopefully Merrimack doesn't let him down.

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  4. Wow..All State picks before the season even starts..get real! Let the season play out at least a few games first before making predictions like that.

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  5. it's called pre-season....they do pick all-american's "preseason" too for college...have an opinion. At least Jeremy is willing to put his thoughts out there for discussion.

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  6. bg won't go 5 in and 5 out every time through out the game. there not stupid. be real

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  7. I thought Kevin Rosenberg from North wasn't playing due to back issues.

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  8. These are all very reasonable, well-thought-out opinions. Dude did his homework. Congrats. Disagree with some of the opinions, though. Zach Duffy (Dover) is solid but has to learn what that round orange circle thing hanging over the court is, then visualize the round orange ball going into it, before he can be labeled an elite player. Just my opinion.

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  9. Do you mean Rory Duffy? Becaus he's actually a decent shooter. And I didn't say he was elite, just underrated. He is an elite defender though.

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  10. Nice Job Jeremy....Although I still think until they falter that the road goes through Trinity, Madol's the real deal and I see him having his way this season very much in the same manner as Jordan, the kid really developed over the summer in the AAU tour.Their current backcourt I feel is overrrated but a guy like Madol can hide weaknesses elsewhere. Trinity starts my #1.BG/DOVER/MEMORIAL...2?3?4?...Maybe not in that order but these next three SHOULD be top 4/5. BG: Talent/Coaching, should be there, but can and will they set aside the ego's and perform together? Coaching is excellent but will a couple of head cases tune him out?. Dover: will the rest of Class L just let Burt run rampant? I say no!rest of team will have to take pressure off of burt and be able to perform to free him up. are they talented enough? Burt alone will take them to the top 5 with shear skill and heart/will power/work ethic. could be an early exit though in the post season for a one demensional team unless he makes players around him, better.Memorial: FITZPATRICK...the father.....Sons good, but Father is best. Gets most out of Talent..He will be top 5. #'s 5 through 10 (it's wide open, long season, alot can happen)...order? who knows? but they should be there: Merrimack,Nashua South and North,Winnacunnet, Exeter, Man.West...:Merrimack: got the talent but always way to much drama over there, coaching overrated, Watson overrated,Dimitri : real deal, just young, Anthony will help him settle in. They just dont seem to jell..we'll see.Nashua South and North both have 1 or 2 big time talent players. albeit young but seasoned AAU talent and year round ballers in Javon and Kaleb (both are really good, my sons have and do play with both on the Rivals and Reebok Team boston elite)Coaching is biggest concern here, in this league one or two really talented players can get you there with good coaching...dont believe either have it, but like I said they should be there. Winnacunnet:Excellent coach, good senior backcourt and Leadership.If a couple of players click watch out....Exeter: under the radar no more thanks to the sports page:Excellent backcourt, Best defensive guard in state in underrated Holler and if Vigars becomes more consistant scorer and less streaky watch out.front court weak and undersized, wont scare anyone. best defensive unit in state and if Holmes plays ballers could surprise. Coaching huge concern: inconsistant gets out coached regularily..Man.West:Valentin good but will he make season? could end up 15 to the scrap heap without him, Coach is good but he wont surprise the elite coaches this year no depth.#11 - #15:Salem,Londonderry,Pinky, Alvirne,Central, Salem: Excellent coaching, Perry lacks top notch talent and depth this year, even Larosa wont be able to hide weaknesses, Londonderry: just not that good, Pinky;coaching, Drama, lost their talent and Mojo, Mathieu because of size will keep them competitive..Alvirne: Sorry Jeremy...I see Alvirne as this years bust,This years underachievers, They will surprise no - one and there just not that good.teams will figure them out.Central: Wheeler is just lacking in talent,Wickey will not be anywhere near enough, long year for Central.16 - 20,consistant basement dwellers and concord has no excuses for it, Others coaching? schools dont care? rec. dept? Nhiaa should rotate out bottom five in L every year and replace with top 5 in I every year and give some of those programs a chance to rebuild with a little sucess......Let the Games Begin.....Keep it up Jeremy...the engines are warming up.....Looking forward to great insight from you this season...........

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  11. "Jeremy does love Merrimack. He is staking his young journalistic reputation on this prediction. Hopefully Merrimack doesn't let him down."

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 7:43:00 AM EST


    Heh, 7:43 am, I'm sure Jeremy will lay awake at night now that you've put the "young journalistic reputation" verbal gauntlet down. Not!! I think Jeremy's not worried too much, pal.

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  12. I'll be shocked if Merrimack is in the Top 5 of the standings come February. Now imagine if they had McClung, Cuipa, Kelly, and Remillard... with that depth I could see them top 3, but unfortunately BG snagged those kids.

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  13. Hey 7:43 am i guess the rest of NH basketball loved Merrimack this summer too?

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  14. Is that a guarentee or a guarantee? If you are going to hate, atleast do so in a manner that leads us to believe you are competent.

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  15. Who is that directed towards, 10:12?

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  16. 10:12 you make no sense. Try again Cheese-Moe.

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  17. I don't love Merrimack. I just think they're a good team. Only time will tell whether I'm right about them. But I stand by my predictions, and I back them up with rationale.

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  18. Class L preview is up on New England Recruiting Report. Nice job Jeremy.

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  19. why dont you do previews for class M?

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  20. I'm an assistant coach for a Class M team, so I try to stay away from covering it too much. There's a few Class M players in the player rankings, though.

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  21. Hey did you guys hear that class L and class I championship games are on the same day at UNH?

    I think this is the best thing that has happened to NH basketball in some time. Getting to watch the two biggest divisions crown champions on the same day should be quite a experience and quite an atmosphere in Durham in March.
    Class I at 1pm and Class L at 4pm.

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  22. That sounds great and long overdue. My only concern now is capacity. I was at the Trinity / Memorial game last year and they were turning people away at the door because there wasn't any more room in the stands (with both student bodies there in full force and the sheer number of fans coming over for the all Manchester final, the stands were actually shaking when people stood up and sat down for the national anthem - it was crazy). With this move to have both championship games on the same day, I think it would be a really good idea if the NHIAA looked into having the games at a place like the Verizon Wireless Arena. I really don't think there will be any way UNH can handle the numbers that might attend and a lot of people that make the trip over will be left out in the cold (literally), which would be real shame.

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  23. NHIAA needs to go to Verizon and say this is what we pay at UNH. We'll give you 4 title games in one day; can you make this work. You will get concessions,parking etc AND it will bring a slew of people into their arena who will now KNOW how nice and accesible it is for other attractions. Expand your fan base, it will pay dividends in the long run!

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  24. NHIAA needs to go to the mayor and have him put some pressure on the Verizon arena, I agree that is where it should be and that would make baketball a true event in NH.

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  25. what is the capacity for the whitemore center?

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  26. 6500 for hockey... think that is big enough?

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  27. guess what is scheduled at the Verizon center that night at 7.. Harlem Globetrotters... lol

    can you say a trilogy, kids could maybe meet the players and stay for that game too? Want to make basketball an event.. there you go!

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  28. by the way the last time I went to a Globetrotters game at the Verizon center they let move down to the lower level cause no one was down there. Which means they sold all the 12 dollar tickets .. and then paid the Globetrotters.. I cannot beleive that it wouldnt be more profitable to have the high school games there.

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  29. It would be so much more central as opposed to durham which would create an even larger fan base.

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  30. 3000 in Lundholm is a great atmoshpere....3000 in the whit or at the vorizon is an empty gym.
    Perhaps a larger crowd would attend if it were 2 manch schools in the final however if it were Keene and say Exeter in the final....you would have 2000 people in an empty cavern.

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  31. Problem is you have to prepare for the worst case in terms of capacity problems otherwise it could be a complete disaster in terms of people left out of the building. Could you imagine being a parent or family member of a kid playing in the Class L championship who arrives an hour before game time and is told sorry, you can't get in to watch because people who arrived to watch the first game aren't leaving and we have no more seats. Even in your Keene and Exeter example, what is going to happen in terms of getting all of the people out of the gym and parking lot from the Class I championship while people arrive for the Class L championship. The logistics at Lundholm would be brutal. At the Verizon, you would have much easier traffic flows for people in and out of the building and parking. There are a lot of considerations that really have to go into this as the NHIAA implements this long overdue transition to a Championship Saturday type event, the most important one being that every single NH high school basketball fan that wants to take in the games will have the opportunity to do so.

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  32. I say fire the globetrotters and get the class finals in Manchester. Everything points to that, more central location,better facility, better parking,better traffic patterns .. whats not to love, Globetrotters should be at Lundholm..

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  33. unfortunately i don't think anyone here can change where the game is held which sucks

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  34. Do you really think NHIAA is going to let you pay one admission and watch both games? Absolutely not. It makes no financial sense to throw away 3 to 6 thousand dollars in admissions because a certain amount of fans stay for both games. The I game starts at 1 and will go to 2:30. It'll be around 3 and the gym will be empty. One hour will be fine for the gym to fill up again with students at $6 and adults at $8.

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  35. Jeremey, interesting input on pinky. it has never been an issue of whether "coach' can put last year's "events" behind him. that player and his folks know the truth. The player needs to put last years events behind him and PLAY! when this happens they will own Class L.

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  36. Is this actually happening or is it just a rumor?

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  37. class L and I scedules are on the NHIAA website. So it seems real and something they have done over the offseason.

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  38. this is for the poster on December 17, 2009 12:29:00 PM EST.

    http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091219/GJSPORTS_01/712199871/-1/FOSSPORTS

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  39. i believe trinity has 3 seniors

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  40. Trinity does have 3 seniors. But only two of them are in the rotation (Hayden and Duffley). The third is Westley Leclerque, who very rarely plays.

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  41. I went to the Greater-Lawrence Chirstmas tourny, Pinkerton looked much better then expected. I always thought Proulx was more of a rough and tough post player but he was hitting threes and slashing to the basket seemed like he had 30. Matheiu had about 15 blocks and 20points Pinky will be very scary in class L

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  42. In the Eagle Tribune box score, Proulx had 20 and Mathieu 16. Proulx hit one 3. 15 blocks sounds like a bit of a stretch - but I'm sure he had his fair share. Still nice performances by both. I don't think Lawrence is much of a power down in Mass., and Pinkerton did lose the game...so I wouldn't get too excited just yet...

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  43. Pinkerton also blew a 7 point lead in the last couple minutes of the game vs. Lawrence. Still, Lawrence is a pretty good team from what I hear so Pinkerton has to be doing something right.

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  44. Lawrence will be a lower tiered Division 1 team this year - nothing special. They have a couple of wins against bad teams so far - haven't played anybody yet. I think the point about Pinkerton blowing a 7 point lead late is probably more a cause for concern than anything. The rep of not being able to close out games, getting out coached down the stretch, etc., is for real and blowing a game with that type of lead late is just another in a long line of head scratchers. Let's not forget they had a much better team last year with Verge and Cassidy in the backcout to go along with Proulx and Mathieu and they were absolutely run off the floor by Alvirne in the first round of the playoffs. Although there were a lot of other distractions as last season wrapped up, hopes should not be too high for a big year this year until they show they can overcome their own internal issues and deliver on the court. Will this be the year they figure out how to put it all together? I wouldn't bet on it, but time will tell.

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  45. Verizon would be a terrible decision. They switched hockey from the Whitt to there a few years back and the atmosphere isnt as good. Keep it at Lundholm

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  46. watch richard valentin is the TOP PLAYER IN STATE and samy abdala and quintin hunter are going to be break out players and greg is a monster and jose ... hes the most improved player i have seen

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