(Last updated 4/1/10)
It's never too early to look at which teams will be contenders next season.
Early Favorites - Too many question marks to tell this early. The main Does David Madol return to Trinity or go prep? Does Connor Green return to BG or go prep? And are Richard Valentin and Greg Asselin granted an extra year of eligibility by the NHIAA? If the answers to these questions are all yes, then the question of who will be the favorites next year in Class L is an easy one...Trinity, Guertin and West.
Trinity...If Madol returns the Pioneers will certainly be one of the favorites as they also return guys like Zach Stevens, Hunter Viscarello, Andrew Lauderdale, Sylvere Aluko, Travis Descoteaux, Jake Hamel and Dylan Lafond. Without Madol this will still be a solid team. But with him back they could definitely be the preseason favorite. Either way their biggest challenge will be replacing Phil Hayden at point guard. And also how long will it take Stevens to fully recover from the torn ACL injury?
BG...If Green returns, these guys will also be up there. Regardless of what happens with Madol or Valentin, if Green returns the Cardinals will have the best 1-2 punch in Class L with Green and Sean McClung. Two other key returners are Nick Pyzocha and Steve Cuipa. Guertin also had one of the better JV players I saw this past season in 6'4" sophomore Joe McCarthy and they also return Mike Kelly. Dimitri Floras is staying at Merrimack and not transferring to BG. But there are also 2 players who more than likely will be transferring to Guertin next season. Both players are sending in their paperwork, and as long as they get accepted they'll be wearing green and gold next season. As soon as these transfers become official I will reveal their names, but not until then.
West...Last season the Blue Knights had a solid 6 player rotation. When those 6 guys were available at Coach Carey's disposal they were as good as anybody in the state. If Valentin and Asselin both return next season, West will have ALL 6 of them back. Samy Abadalla, Jose Gonzalez and Aaron Martin will all be back for sure. Then there's Quintin Hunter, who should be back on the team after getting suspended towards the end of this past season. This past season they also lacked depth, but next year look for Ivan Ilic and Stephen Gomez to come up from JV and help out in that department. It's a big if, but if all 6 of the top guys are back, I would not be surprised to see this team cut down the nets next March.
(Valentin is only a junior academically, and he also missed half the season in 2008-2009 due to health/injury problems. Asselin is only a sophomore academically after he moved to Manchester from down south)
Oh, and in case you're wondering, here's the NHIAA's eligibility policy: http://www.nhiaa.org/PDFs/1135/protectingyourhighschooleligibility.pdf
After these 3 teams it is wide open. Manchester Central will be dangerous, though.
Best of the Rest...
Yes, Williams and Gauthier are two of the best sophomores in the state. But North loses Pratt, Nadeau and Rancourt to graduation, 3 key losses. Plus Brodeur and McHugh are also graduating, a pair of solid role players. It will all be on the shoulders of Williams and Gauthier, with O'Connor and Marinchik also helping out.
North will be a solid team. But if Green, Madol, Valentin and Asselin are all back for their respective teams I can't see anyone touching Trinity, BG and West. Those will be the top 3 teams in Division I next year, no question about it.
But that is far from a sure thing that all 4 of those guys return to their teams. If none of them do, the league will be much more wide open. And you will see other teams in the mix. Central would possibly become the favorite with Wickey, LaCount, Brown, Ferge, Melendez, Stisser and Majong all back. Central will basically have the exact same team back next year from this past season. If Stisser can stay healthy, they will be VERY good. Oh, and it also wouldn't hurt if the Little Green's chances if they could keep their players from transferring to Trinity! But Central is definitely the 4th team to really keep your eye on.
After that it's wide open with teams like: North (Williams and Gauthier), Dover (Faustino and Al-Darraji), Salem (Gallant, Cannone and Lorenz) and South (Joseph, Muccioli and Basora) and Alvirne (Donnelly, Moyen, Beaulieu, Tomaswick and Baldwin).
Also, Pinkerton won't be too bad with Park, Patrikis, Colbert, Light and Williams all back and Piechowiak and Sandburg coming up from JV.
And you can NEVER underestimate Winnacunnet. Even though the Warriors have a VERY good senior class graduating, they'll bring back Cronan, Munson and Dolan. Then a couple kids who didn't get as much playing time last year but who have plenty of size are Rahn and Oweifie.
Unfortunately, I don't see things getting much better for Keene, Timberlane, Spaulding, Concord or Goffstown (who might be moving down to Division II). The best player on any of those teams is Keene's Theo Speas. Don't be surprised if he transfers somewhere.
And apparently, the only team I haven't mentioned yet is Memorial, Exeter, Merrimack and Londonderry. They'll be decent, but they definitely lose a lot of their team to graduation. Next year it will be Shomari Morgan's team, and he'll be supported by Hervens Desire and Rodney Martinez who are the only other 2 players returning who got regular playing time last season. Look for Joel Mayola to come up from JV and get some minutes. On paper the Crusaders look like a 6 or 7 win team. But it's still very early, and with Fitzpatrick coaching I wouldn't underestimate them either.
As for Exeter, it will be a tough year for them next season. They relied HEAVILY on seniors this past season. They had 4 solid players who weren't seniors (Holler, LaRoche, Conner and Tiernan) but there are questions about whether any of them will be back next season.
Edit: And let's not forget about Merrimack. Like I reported earlier, Goodridge will be back as coach, and Dimitri Floras will be back to run the show on on the floor. Look for a big year from Tyler Gendron who will be a junior. Tyler Amigo will have a bigger role on the team as a senior. And the Tomahawks will have a couple of solid players coming up from JV, in Jeff Gianneli and Brandon Malloch. Merrimack won't be as good as good as they were this past season, but they will be bigger. Their starting lineup will likely be Floras at the one (6'0"), Malloch at thetwo (6'2"), Gendron at the three (6'4"), Amigo at the four (6'1") and Gianneli at the five (6'5"). Merrimack will be a solid team, and will be somewhere among those other teams in the middle of the pack.
It will also be a tough year for Londonderry next season. Mike Colby returns and should have a strong senior season, but Flanders, Sanborn, Bintz and Finnegan all graduate.
Early Favorites -
Milford...In order to figure out the early favorites in Class L there a bunch of question marks. In Class I there are none. Milford is the favorite. Hands down. No questions asked. If they were in Class L they would be the favorite in there, too. There are so many variables that can affect what happens between now over the course of next season. There's injuries, players might get complacent, or just have an off game, they might have a fluke shot beat them, etc. So I hate to predict an undefeated season. But next year Milford will have a VERY good chance at accomplishing this feat. The "Big 3" will be back. Kyle Nelson will be back. So will Scott McCallum, Dan Desmarais and Jovi Philbrick.
Pelham...Steve Spirou and Michael Lombard will combine to form one of the best senior duos in the state. They also return point guard Derek DeFranzo and Dean Joyce. Look for Brett Bailey and Kevin Cheam to come up from JV and contribute.
Souhegan...The Sabers return their top 4 players, and 5 of their top 6 off this past year's squad. Devin Gilligan, Seth Cordts, Ryan Redmond, Jack Nelson and Nick Hession. These guys all got big minutes this past season. They also had the top JV team in Class I. This could possibly be next year's runner-up.
Pembroke...Valentin and Asselin aren't the only players who are likely to petition the NHIAA for an extra year. Coleton Neely may also do the same. Neely missed his entire junior season due to health reasons. No matter what, Pembroke will have probably the 2 best sophomores in Class I in Rene Maher and Matt Persons. And these guys also have some solid incoming freshmen. If Neely is back, they'll have a heck of a backcourt.
Bedford...The main question here is Jared Fahmy. Fahmy reclassified to Brewster Academy this past winter, but is now back at Bedford High. If he plays for the Bulldogs next season, they will have a lethal inside duo with him and Joey Maher. Jared's brother Trevor is also a 6'5" kid who will see more playing time. Then there's the 6'5" Will McInerny who comes up from JV. Other varsity returners will be Richard O'Brien, Trevor Glassman and Nate Larrivee. Bedford needs to find a new coach, as Joe Kegler is moving to Portugal. But if Jared Fahmy comes back to Bedford next season and if the young big men develop, this could be the second best team in Class I.
Edit: After that group of teams it is wide open. Teams that will be in the mix for a top 8 and possibly top 4 seed are John Stark (LeBlond and Johnstone), Portsmouth (DiCesare, Lane and McCarthy), Oyster River (Goodwin, Walker and Hennessy), Kingswood (Jozokos and Meyers) and Coe-Brown (Mitchell and Lang). Look for St. Thomas to be more respectable, led by Kahr and Hasser as juniors. Lebanon will definitely struggle compared to this year. They graduate their whole starting lineup, and Hampton is the only returner who got big minutes last year. Cowles comes up from JV to help out, but this team might not make the tournament next year.
Top Incoming Freshmen (all classes)
Here is an early look at 5 freshmen to watch out for next season.
(In alphabetical order)
-Patrick Keefe (Trinity coach Dave Keefe's son)
Dickson, Giampetruzzi and Keefe will all likely be going to Trinity. The Pioneers will be so deep that they will all play JV next season, but all 3 are guards and will be a very good backcourt down the road. The other two could possibly play varsity. Larrivee will be going to Bedford. He might be good enough to get some varsity minutes, but with the depth Bedford has in the post he might play JV. Judson is the one of the 5 players who seems like he'll get varsity minutes, as he is a Timberlane kid. But there is also a chance he'll be going to Central Catholic.