When I released my updated rankings for boys Division I (Class L) a couple weeks ago, one of the first comments someone left was, "When are you posting rankings for Class I?". Well, wait no longer. Readers like rankings, they like to debate them and see how all of the other teams in their division are looking going into the season. And Lord knows I like to make them.
So here we go. Just like with the other divisions I will update them once more right before the season officially starts after I get a chance to see some fall league games and scrimmages. But as of RIGHT NOW, this is how I see it in D-II (Class I).
Before I get to the Rankings, this division has had some turnover since last year. First off it is now called Division II, NOT Class I. Also, the division has added 3 new teams, and dropped 2. Moving into the division are Goffstown (moving down from Class L), Sanborn (moving up from Class M) and Windham (first year varsity program). Moving down to D-III are Bow and Monadnock. Now for the rankings!
This team has been well documented. They won Class I last year, going 21-1 in the process. And that was with virtually all juniors. Now those juniors are seniors, and while all of the other teams in the division lost a lot of their better players to graduation Milford is even better than last year. A year from now their entire starting 5 (O'Loughlin, Holder, Mitchell, Nelson and McCallum) will all likely be playing college basketball somewhere. They were already going to be pretty big favorites. But now with O'Brien leaving Bedford, Lombard leaving Pelham and Nelson leaving Souhegan it will now be a complete shock if anyone even comes within 5 points of them all year. Nuff said.
(Teams 2-9 are all VERY close. They could end up finishing in any order, and any game involving 2 of these teams will be VERY fun to watch).
So how is it that their starting point guard transfers to Brewster Academy and they still get the #2 spot? Well part of it is because like I said teams 2-9 are all very close. But the main reason is quite simply...size. Bedford has not 1, not 2, but 6 players on the roster who are 6'4" or bigger. That is the most size any one team in NH has had in recent memory. I expect them to start Jared Fahmy (6'6") at the 3, Joey Maher (6'4") at the 4 and Trevor Fahmy (6'7") at the 5. The 6th man should be Will Mcinerny (6'6"). Then you also have a pair of freshmen who will likely see more of their minutes on JV due to the frontcourt depth, but don't be surprised if they make an impact off the bench for the varsity as well in Collin McManus (6'8") and Roger Larrivee (6'5"). The Fahmy brothers are both playing some good ball right now, and Mcinerny has also improved a lot over the summer. These guys are going to give teams fits all season long with their size. No one in the division will be able to match up with them. Guard play wasn't going to to be this team's strong point anyways, so losing O'Brien does hurt. Look for senior Matt Beaulieu to take over at the point and for wing Trevor Glassman to play the 2. Those two will have to play A LOT of minutes, because while there's a ton of depth in the frontcourt there isn't very much at all in the backcourt.
Souhegan's "Big 3" this year will be Seth Cordts, Devin Gilligan and Ryan Redmond. The core of this Souhegan team has been playing together for a LONG time, and with a strong senior class with Cordts, Redmond, Nick Hession and possibly Brendan McKenna this year is the Sabers best shot at making it to Durham. Last year they had some inconsistency, some lack of discipline. But they were young. Many of them were first time varsity players. They took their lumps last year. Now this year they're ready to win some ballgames. Of course they would be even better if guard Jack Nelson didn't move to Chicago this summer. They're already returning their top 3 players from last year, but with Nelson it would have been their top 4. With Nelson gone, it gives some younger guys a chance to get minutes. Most notably a pair of sophomores in 5'6" Brandon Len and 6'2" Zach Simmonds. Those two, along with Jake Kennedy, Sean McGrath and Sean McKenna give Souhegan a strong sophomore class. Hession is also a very good defender. This team definitively has plenty of talent. But last year they often had trouble playing as a team. You would think since they've all bee playing together for so long it wouldn't be a problem. Only time will tell how they do this year though.
Steve Spirou and Mike Lombard have been playing basketball together pretty much since they were in diapers. Every AAU team either of them have ever played on the other was also on the same team. They've probably talked about what it would be like to play together senior year in high school dozens of times. So when Lombard decided to transfer out of Pelham High and into Proctor Academy this summer, while it was a great opportunity for him athletically and academically it was also bittersweet as he wouldn't be able to play his senior season alongside Spirou. With Lombard in the lineup, this Pythons team is as good as anyone in the division outside Milford. Without him they will still be a good team with a shot at Durham, but just not as good...and not nearly as big. Now Spirou is the closest thing Pelham has to a center, and he is much more comfortable facing up away from the basket where he can knock down shots and slash to the rim. What they lack in size they make up for in speed. Pelham will be a VERY fast team, that will get up and down the floor in a hurry and press their opponents full court A LOT. Junior point guard Derek Defranzo and sophomore guard Kevin Cheam are perfect for this style of play. Add in a pair of deadly outside shooters in Brett Bailey and Dean Joyce, plus a pair of hard nosed role players who will do a little of everything in Erik Nystrom and Anthony Spirou (Steve's little brother) and you have a squad that will give a lot of team's problems this year. Steve Spirou is arguably the best player in the division and he's playing some very good ball right now. First year Head Coach Matt Regan definitely has some talent to work with.
This is the youngest team I've seen in quite some time. Their two best players are sophomores, their third and fourth best players are freshmen, their 5th and 6th best players are juniors and their seventh best player is another freshman. Talk about a youth movement! Amazing how Pembroke can return just 1 starter and still be ranked this high. But remember folks, last year they only had 1 returning starter and they made it to the championship game. That's what happens when you have good incoming freshmen and one of the state's best coaches. The Spartans had 2 super freshmen last year in point guard Rene Maher and wing Matt Persons. Both are sophs now and both are primed for BIG years. Don't be surprised if Maher makes first team all-state for D-II. Persons should make either second team or honorable mention. They had two of the top freshmen last year and they have 2 of the top freshmen this year as well with 5'10" guard Pat Welch and 6'2" forward Jordan Williams. These guys do NOT play like freshmen at all. The juniors are 6'2" Kent Noyes, an athletic player with a good amount of potential and 6'4" Tyler Morrison who saw limited varsity minutes last year but now is expected to start. The wild card with this team is Coleton Neely. Neely was one of the top players in Class I last year, and one of the best shooters in the entire state. He was a senior, but he missed his entire junior season due to health problems. He has petitioned the NHIAA for an extra year of eligibility and is awaiting the NHIAA's decision. If his wish is granted you can move this team up to the #2 spot in Division II.
Watch out for junior wing Kyle DiCesare. Outside of Milford's "Big 3" and Spirou he is probably the best player in Division II. Portsmouth played Milford twice last year. DiCesare dropped 25 on them both games. The kid is a gamer. The bigger the game, the better he plays. The Clippers also return 2 other projected starters in guard Bill Lane and forward Riley McCarthy. The wild card here is Lane - word is, he might not play hoops this year and do track instead. Portsmouth also has 6'2" junior Charlie Duprey, 6'4" senior Quinn Hegarty and 5'10" junior Greg Tsougranis. All 3 of them saw valuable minutes off the bench for last year's Portsmouth team that made it to Durham where they came THIS close to beating eventual champion Milford. In case you're counting, that's SIX key players who are back from last year's team. They will miss Mike Barton, Mike Montville and Nate Jones who all graduated. But this will be a pretty good team once again. They have a very good coach in Jim Mulvey, and one of the divisions best players in DiCesare. But if lane doesn't play you can move them down to the #9 spot. I know it might seem like a big jump considering Lane didn't exactly have a big year last season. But that's how close these teams are in this 2-9 tier of teams. Also, someone has to run the point for this team and get the ball to DiCesare and McCarthy in positions to score. They need Lane to be that guy.
That's right, folks. After last season when they were only the #15 seed in Class I, I have them ranked #7 right now. But this is this best team they've had in awhile, and it will likely be the best team they will have in awhile. The Bears return 3 starters, 6 key players off last year's team plus a much improved sophomore who comes up from JV. They'll be led by the inside-outside duo of 6'3" junior forward Skyler Mitchell (son of Oyster River coach Stuart Mitchell) and 6'0" senior guard Dan Lang. Mitchell is a fundamentally sound player who plays the game hard and plays it the right way. He has good post moves and now is extending his game to the perimeter where he can now knock down the mid-range jump shot. Lang is one of the state's best shooters and has excellent range. The third best player is probably sophomore guard Damon Doyle. He played JV last year as a freshman, but the kid has worked his tail off over the spring and summer and is now playing some good ball. In addition to Mitchell, Coe-Brown gets even more size from 6'5" senior Krystian Lucey who started last year. He's a solid defender and rebounder. Also look for Tommy Darling, Alex Johnstone and Harrison Vina to play key roles on this team as well. All three saw varsity time last year and they're all tough kids. This team could definitely surprise some people this year.
8) John Stark
Seniors Greg LeBlond and Steve Johnstone give the Generals one of the top backcourts in the division. Both players are excellent shooters and defenders. 6'2" forward david Morgan gives Stark 3 returning starters, and all are seniors. Morgan is a solid role player, and above average defender and rebounder. The two players who could complete the starting 5 are a pair of sophomores in 6'7" Zach Grattan and 5'6" Nick Lloyd. Both kids played varsity last year as freshmen but saw most of their court time on JV where they were among the top players I saw last year in a Class I JV game. Look for this to once again be a fast paced team that likes to get out and run and take quick shots. Also look for LeBlond to be either a first or second team all-state player in D-II.
9) Oyster River
I have them 9th right now, but don't be surprised if they finish higher. Like I said teams 2-9 could all finish in any order. The Bobcats return 3 players played vital roles on last year's squad that made it to the semi-finals in Durham. They're all seniors too - 6'5" Adam Goodwin, 5'11" Chris Walker, 6'3" Alex Hennessy are all good players and they all know Coach Mitchell's system very well. One question I have is who handles the basketball for this team. Walker is much better at the 2 where he can spot up for 3's and take people off the dribble from the wing. For the last 2 years the point guard has been Tommy McDonnell but he is now doing a post-grad year over at Bridgton Academy. Look for another senior, Dylan Kelly to also start and be a solid role player for this team. He saw some valuable minutes off the bench last year. Goodwin is this team;s best player though. Look for these guys to feed the ball down to him in the post early and often.
Don't Sleep on These Teams Either
In my article a couple weeks ago where I updated the Division I boys basketball rankings I said how one of the reasons I had Dover ranked where I did was because not only did they play summer league ball together, but they also had their own AAU program so they played as a team during the spring as well. The more you play together as a team the more familiarity the players get with one another, roles are able to be defined, players get more practice with the plays and sets, etc. Well, Lebanon also had their own AAU program. They needed the practice too. Not because they were bad last year, in fact they were a top 5 or 6 Class I team all year. But because the Raiders graduated their ENTIRE starting lineup, including the Class I Player of the Year Jake Woodward. They mainly had a 6 player rotation and only 1 of those 6 is back on the squad this season. That would be sophomore David Hampton, a 5'10" sharpshooter. Fellow sophomore Matt Cowles played JV last year but Coach Matte said after the season that he could have probably played varsity. Then you also have seniors Marlin Hueil and Blake Whaley who got some decent minutes ff the bench but will now be asked to take on bigger roles. Forward mark davidson and guard Kyle Farr are also solid players who will contribute to this year's Lebanon team which seems to always finish in the top 10, even when they graduate a lot of talent.
5'9" senior guard Sam Carney is one of the state's best 2 sport athletes. He looks to have a big senior season for Hanover, and his sidekick on the football field and on the basketball court is junior Daniel Gorman. Both players can score the basketball and are tough kids. They'll need help though. Last year this team lacked depth and they were also a half court team that struggled when their opponents were able to speed up the pace of the game. This was evident in the first round of the tournament when the run-and-gun John Stark team blew them out of their own gym. That being said, Carney and Gorman are both very good players. If they can get some help I wouldn't be surprised if this team finished a couple spots higher.
They weren't very deep last year, and they graduated their best player Cam Heffron. But they do return 3 of their top 4 players from a year ago in junior Jake Broom, and seniors Doug Gregory and Brett Bascom. They're a very tough, hard nosed, well coached team that gets the most out of the talent they have. Two key players who return are seniors Brett Bascom and Doug Gregory. Head Coach Nate Camp is a very good coach, and he'll have this team competitive all year. Don't be surprised if they finish higher than this.
Goffstown moves down into D-II and is the biggest school in the division, along with Portsmouth and Bedford. However that won't necessarily translate into wins. A lack of depth and a lack of size will hurt this team. They have a solid backcourt with seniors Brandon Shea and Ryan Lange. Two tough kids who played hard every minute out there. They play both ends of the floor hard, and while they're not the best outside shooters they take it hard to the rim and also have good mid-range games. The Grizzlies won't be a top 10 team, but their two senior guards will keep them competitive.
The Rest of the Pack
14) St. Thomas
Junior guard Andrew Kahr is a very underrated player. He'll need some help though, because last year he had a couple of 20 point games and then defenses really started to key on him and double team hima nd he had a tough time. If the saints can get someone else to take the scoring pressure off Kahr he could really take his game to the next level.
They had a pretty good team last year. But they were all about just 4 players - Kevin Smithwood, Dylan Lovering, Tate Jozokos and Kohl Meyers. The top 3 players are gone, and only Meyers remains. Smithwood and Lovering graduated and Jozokos went prep. Tough loss for Kingswood, as Jozokos and Meyers would have given them one of the division's best backcourts and they would have possibly been the best backcourt when they were seniors in 2011-2012. But instead it is now Myers' team.
No senior class at Windham, but they have some tough kids and some very good athletes. I'm not expecting big things, but they could surprise a few people.
17) Bishop Brady
Not the most talented group, but they do have some decent size, and the transfer of 6'1" Steven Desmairas from Concord will also help.
Coach Soucy did a nice job with this team last year, and I look for more of the same this year. Freshman point guard Jordan Lates is a player to watch out for.
They were down near the bottom of the standings last year, and most of their top players (including Colin Hay and Kyle McAuliffe) all graduated. They still have Taylor Newberry though, who should have a solid senior year in the paint.
Another rebuilding year.
23) Merrimack Valley
MV graduates all-stater Kevin Cressy, it could be a tough year for them.
I have all of the Division II teams ranked on here except for Sanborn (conflict of interest).