Thursday, July 23, 2009
Basketball's "What if Players"
Obviously, the most important basketball games are played in February and March. Still, there are certain players to watch for in scrimmages over the next two weeks and in the first week of the regular season. These players are all very important to their team's success. In some of these cases, they will either play the whole season, or not at all. So whether or not they're in the lineup early on will be very telling. They are this season's "What if Players."
Alvirne - Sean Moyen...The Bronco's big man showed a lot of potential as a freshman and sophomore, before he suffered a knee injury early last season that he still hasn't returned from. He's expected to be back in time for the season, but that's no guarantee. And when he does come back, how effective will he be, and how long will it take him to get back into game shape. If he can come back and be 100% from the get-go, it would be huge for Alvirne. They would be able to start him, Sweeney, Donnelly, O'Hearn and Lambert, all seniors or juniors. Then off the bench you have a pair of very talented sophomores in Beaulieu and Tomaswick. Without Moyen, Tomaswick would be forced to play more minutes than he's ready for.
Exeter - Tucker Munroe...Munroe was a starting forward for the Blue Hawks a year ago, and is arguably their top returning player. But he suffered a knee injury over the summer and needed surgery. He told me after one of Exeter’s Fall League games at the RAC that he’d be back in the lineup the following week against Winnacunnet. But he was a no-show not only that week, but the following week as well. I figure he’ll be back when the season starts, but like with Moyen, that’s also no guarantee.
Manchester Central - Luis Martinez...He played JV last year for the Little Green as a sophomore, but this season he is expected to be the starting point guard with the graduation of Will Bayliss. He played very well all summer long for Central. He played and started nearly every game the team had in the B.S.T. Summer League. But he didn’t play at all in any of Central’s games this fall at the Riv. League. Little Green big man John Wickey said that Martinez is focusing more on skateboarding and snowboarding now, and whether he’ll play basketball this winter is up in the air. Without him, Central has no point guard and will struggle to win games this year.
Manchester Central - Joe Stisser...The junior still has not returned from the injury that kept him off the court all spring and summer. Central hopes to have the talnted guard back in time for the season. If he and Martinez play, Central will combine with fellow sophomores Gabe Lacount and Stephen Ferge to make a very talented (although very young) backcourt. When you consider that these four are all underclassmen, and the team’s best player, Wickey is also only a junior, the Little Green might struggle this year but watch out for them next season.
Manchester Memorial - Isaiah Scurry...Scurry is a senior transfer from Florida. He’s a big kid, and if he’s on the floor would definitely help Memorial win some games with his size, inside scoring and rebounding. But at this point that’s a big if. Scurry played in just one game for the Crusaders in the Riv. Fall League. And over the course of the fall, there were rumors that he wasn’t even going to bother playing at all. He looks more like a football player than a basketball player. He didn’t play football for Memorial this season, because he wanted to focus on getting in shape for basketball season. But in the one game he did play at the Riv. League, he didn’t look like he was in any better shape than he was over the summer. Not only that, but even if he does decide to play basketball this winter, he may not be academically eligible.
Manchester West - Richard Valentin...He had an excellent junior season for West, as the second best player (after Syla) on a good Blue Knights squad. With Syla graduating, Valentin, a 5’10” guard, would be the go-to-guy this year. He didn’t play with the team all summer, however. At one point over the summer I asked Coach Carey what Valentin’s status was and he said, “As far as I know he’s not on the team.” Still, I think if Valentin shapes up and gets his act together and gets committed to the team once again, Carey might change his mind. Stay tuned.
Nashua South - Jesus Cortez...Cortez, a junior, did not play for South last season, but he is very talented. He’s about 6’4”, maybe 6’5”, with great speed, defensive and rebounder ability. If he can get through the entire season and stay on the floor, he would really help out the Purple Panthers. But again, that’s a big if. He was ejected from a game against Merrimack at the Riv. League and suspended for one game following an altercation. Word is he’s had more behavioral problems and there’s a chance he won’t play at all this season. Stay tuned…
Winnacunnet - Harry Knowles and Kyle Ratcliffe...Knowles, a 6’3” wing, and Ratcliffe, a 6’6” center, are two of the state’s most talented players…when they play. But their off-court problems have been well documented, including getting suspended for the rest of the season the day before the Class L Tournament began last season. When I asked Coach McKenna whether the “Talented but Troublesome Twosome” would be let back on the team this year, he said we would know in December. Well, it’s now December. If both Knowles and Ratcliffe play, alongside fellow seniors Ryan Dunn and Jesse Gould, Winnacunnet will be as good as anyone in the state. Will they be in the lineup to start the season? And if so, can they behave off the court and stay in the lineup for the whole year?
The above players are all up in the air. They might play and they might not. Below are a few players there is less certainty about. These players should all definitely be in the lineup in their team's scrimmages, and to start the season. But they are still worth keeping an eye on.
Manchester Memorial - Cormac Fitzpatrick...Cormac sat out the Riv. League playoffs with a sore knee. He played at the B.S.T. Preseason Advanced Academy, though. He appeared to be running ok, but wore an elaborate knee brace, and sat out some drills when his knee was bothering him. He should be fine, but Crusader fans should be a little concerned. It's probably not an injury that will cause him to miss a lot of games, but will he be 100% to start the year? And, will he be able to go the whole season without having to sit out any games? The answers to both of those questions is likely no.
Nashua North - Kevin Rosenberg...Scary moment for Titan fans over the summer, when Rosenberg suffered a spine injury. The initial timetable was that he would miss the entire football season and possibly the whole basketball season as well. But he returned to the gridiron towards the end of the season. He played the rest of the football season with no further injuries, and should be in the lineup for North at the beginning of the hoops campaign. Still, he hasn't played basketball since the middle of the summer so he's worth keeping an eye on.
Oyster River - Adam Goodwin...Goodwin, a 6'4" forward, was the Bobcat's top player off the bench last year as a sophomore. But he suffered a knee injury right before the team's first playoff game, and needed surgery. He finally returned to the lineup in the playoffs of the RAC Fall League. His speed isn't all the way back though, and Coach Mitchell will likely ease him into the lineup, possibly bringing him off the bench initially. He'll make Oyster River a much better team once he is 100% once again.
Pembroke - Colton Neely...A lot has been discussed about Neely now going to Pembroke after playing with Merrimack Valley all summer. As a result, many folks will be watching him and his Spartan teammates, especially early on in the season. He will have to adjust back to playing with Pembroke after playing with MV all summer. How will he gel with Coach Matt Alosa's team? We don't know that yet, but we'll get a good idea over the next couple of weeks.
Salem - Analdo Vasquez...Vasquez sat out last season due to being academically ineligible. He is a very talented guard though, and will really help Salem this year if he's healthy. He's lightning quick, and a lock down defender. He played with the team all summer and fall, but suffered a knee injury late in the Riv. League season. The early word was that it wasn't anything serious. But he did sit out the team's game the following week, and that was the Blue Devil's last game of the fall. He should be 100%, by the time the season starts, but still worth keeping an eye on.
Trinity - Andrew Lauderdale...Lauderdale, a 6'6" center, had a very good season last year as a freshman for the Trinity JV team. He injured his leg though, was left in crutches, and was forced to sit out all of Trinity's games over the summer. He is also a member of the Pioneer football team, and he returned to the gridiron late in the season. He is now back to 100%, but still hasn't seen any basketball game action since last winter. He did however, play at the B.S.T. Preseason Advanced Academy as he starts to get back into basketball shape. As a result of the injury, he will likely see most of his playing time on JV this year, especially early on. But as long as he doesn't re-injure his leg, don't be surprised to see him crack the varsity rotation as the season goes on. When healthy, he has a good combination of size and skill.