(Last updated 1/13/10)
Oh, and how about this one for a "What If". Zach Stevens is from Londonderry. Imagine the shooters the Lancers would have right now if he went to LHS instead of Trinity. Sanborn, Colby and Stevens. That's three of the top 10 shooters in NH on one team! Plus you have CJ Flanders who can also shoot the rock. Then you have Bintz and Finnegan down low providing muscle and rebounding. That's a scary team!
A lot has been made about Kyle Ratcliffe not playing for Winnacunnet in his senior season this year. But Ratcliffe isn't the only player that the Warriors are missing. Billy Lane from Portsmouth used to live in the Winnacunnet district before he moved a couple years ago. Also, Chris Walker from Oyster River played last season for the Winnacunnet JV team. He transferred from Winnacunnet to Oyster River over the summer. Lane and Walker are now both starting guards for Portsmouth and Oyster River, respectively. So that's three pretty good players, Ratcliffe, Lane and Walker, who all could easily be wearing a Winnacunnet uniform this season but are not. Just imagine the lineup and the depth that Coach McKenna would have at his disposal. They could have had a starting lineup that includes Ryan Dunn, Harry Knowles, Kyle Ratcliffe, Jesse Gould and the speedy Billy Lane! Plus the crafty sharpshooter Nick McGrail, another good shooter in Chris Walker and the athleticism to burn of Steve Cronan. For more depth you would still have the 6'5" 240 lbs. Cody Rahn and slashing guard Shawn Munson. That team would have been scary good. You have about 8 kids in that lineup who are capable of going for 20 on any given night.
But of course that is just a hypothetical scenario. Unfortunately for Coach McKenna, Lane did move to Portsmouth, Walker did transfer to Oyster River and Ratcliffe is sitting out the season. I still wouldn't count out the Warriors though. They might not have the most talent around, but I've seen them scrimmage a few times and McKenna gets the most out of his team. They play very hard for him and they play the game the right way.
Of course Winnacunnet isn't the only team that can play the "What if game." Look at Trinity. Coach Keefe is probably asking himself what if Jordan Laguerre stuck around for his senior year instead of going to New Hampton, and what if Cormac Fitzpatrick stayed instead of transferring to Memorial. The Pioneers would have been hands down the Class L Favorites.
Bedford is another obvious one. They had their two best players leave for greener pastures over the summer, Connor Green to BG and Jared Fahmy to Brewster Academy. If those two stay, Bedford would have easily been one of the top 3-4 teams in Class I. Think about a starting lineup of Green, Fahmy, Joey Maher, Mike Marinelli and Tyler Weber. For a program that is in just its second year playing varsity ball that would have been remarkable!
Look at Central. They had two key players, Gordon Duffley and Jake Hamel, transfer to Trinity. Junior point guard Joe Stisser was injured and couldn't play with the team all summer, fall, and likely won't be back in the lineup for at least another few weeks. And the point guard who played so well for the Little Green this summer, Luis Martinez, decided not to play basketball anymore when the school year rolled around. These are the kind of setbacks that are tough to swallow when you're a team that graduates 6 key seniors including Will Bayliss.
And how about this for a what if: What if Carson Desrosiers never went to Central Catholic. The 6'11" senior who has a full ride to play ball at Wake Forest next year is a Windham resident. He would have went to Salem High. Just think of the teams that the Blue Devils would have had, especially last year. Jones, Kimball, LaRosa...Desrosiers! Now that's scary. Even this year, if Salem still has Desrosiers around, the inside-outside combination of LaRosa and Desrosiers, with Gallant complimenting him inside. Plus Cannone doing a little bit of everything. Lorenz adding depth down low, Meisser draining three's. And while we're on Salem, what about Analdo Vasquez. At times he looked like Salem's second best player this fall, with his speed, ability to penetrate and dish and defend. Imagine Salem having all of those names I just mentioned this year, plus him. Yikes!
And while we're talking Central Catholic, what about Billy Marsden? The kid was one of the best players in Massachusetts as a junior and senior for Central Catholic. He's now a scholarship player at SNHU. But he's from Pelham. I know this has nothing to do with this year, but just think of the backcourt Pelham could have had last year and the year before: Billy Marsden and Justin Hojlo. Wow. It would have been arguably the best under 6'0" backcourt in NH history.
What about Pinkerton? What if Scott King stayed for his senior year instead of reclassifying and transferring to Holdnerness? The Astros would have had a front line of 6'7" center Zach Mathieu, 6'5" power forward Ben Proulx, and 6'8" small forward Scott King. Especially after how much better King has gotten from playing with the Rivals all spring and summer, that would have been the best front line in recent memory.
How about King's AAU teammate, Mike Thorpe? Thorpe was the best freshman in the state last year. I saw him play a few times, and I actually thought he should have made second team all-state rather than just being an honorable mention. BUt he moves to CT, then moves again to Newton, MA. As it stands right now, Exeter is somewhere in the 7-11 range in Class L. Imagine if they still had Thorpe, though? They'd be as close to a favorite as anyone else. Thorpe, Vigars and James Holler, all playing 28 minutes+ per game. Now that's scary.
Merrimack Valley has recently jumped in the Class I rankings after they defeated Pembroke. The Pride are now a top 5-6 team in Class I. And that's without Coleton Neely, who is of course back playing at Pembroke. But let's remember that Neely did play with MV all summer, and after Kevin Cressy he was their second best player. Obviously, there must have been the chance that he would attend Merrimack Valley this year or he wouldn't have played with them all summer. And if they're a top 5-6 team without him, just think how good they would be with it. Cressy down low, Neely on the perimeter. Good luck stopping that, Class I.
Finally, let's not ignore Class M. The 6'10" Kaleb Tarczewski and the 6'6" Kevin O'Connor could have been the most dominant twin towers Class M has ever seen. Hard to believe with their size and talent they were only sophomores last year. Just think how good those two would have been together as seniors in 2011! But unfortunately for Stevens High, Tarczewski reclassified and transferred to St. Mark's prep school leaving only O'Connor. There's been a lot of the talk on here lately about Conant and Campbell, and being able to compete with the top teams in Class L and Class I. Both teams are about as good as we've seen from Class M in quite some time. But imagine if Tarczewski stuck around in Claremont. You would have had not two but THREE teams in Class M that could compete with anyone in Class L or Class I. We would have been able to see the best trio of Class M squads in a very long time.
Just imagine, if all of these players stuck around. If all of these teams came together. You would not only have the above teams, but you would have teams like Dover, Merrimack and Milford which would still be loaded. 2009-2010 Could have been a season for the ages in New Hampshire.
However, that's not to say that this season won't be a good one. Because that is not what I'm saying. As a matter of fact, it might even be better now. Because what all of these changes have created is parity. There is no clear cut favorite in Class L. There are 5, maybe 6 teams that have a legit shot to win it. And there are 15 teams in Class L where, any game involving two of those 15 teams could truly go either way. We've already seen a depleted Central team take Dover and Trinity to overtime. We've seen BG beat Exeter on a buzzer beater. We've seen North win at Salem on a buzzer beater. We saw West beat Exeter on a last second shot against a Blue Hawk team playing without one of their best players. Another buzzer beater was John Stark winning in a thriller over Bow. We've seen Pembroke beat Hanover by 24, and Milford beat Oyster River in Durham by the same amount. We've seen Lebanon beat Milford, then lose to Conant. It's already been a crazy season. And it's just getting started. The real action is yet to come.
So yes, it would have been fun to see some of those stacked teams play if some of the above players hadn't gone elsewhere. But what we have instead is just as good. It's parity. It's that feeling that when you walk into a gym around the state anything can happen.
Our state may not have the most talent. We might not have all kinds of future D-I players. But what we have is a lot of really good basketball teams, and the kind of parity that will produce a ton of exciting games that will go down to the wire. Gyms will be packed, crowds will be loud. There will be a lot of close games, and there will be a lot of upsets. I can just feel it in the air. It will be a great year for New Hampshire High School basketball. Just watch.