Thursday, August 25, 2011
Team Power Rankings Update - Boys Basketball
Before we dive head first into football coverage, we look back at the summer basketball season and update the team power rankings. Of course what really matters is what happens in March, but here's how the teams stack up as of right now.
This article not only has updated team rankings for all 4 divisions, but also has some of my opinionated thoughts on the state of high school basketball in NH.
First off, I decided to rank the teams by division instead of statewide rankings, because I figured what's the point of that if we never get to see teams from different divisions play each other in any meaningful games? All winter long and into the playoffs they compete within their divisions, so that's how I'll rank them.
Despite Prep School Losses, Division I is Still a VERY Deep League
Ok, so Division I vs. Division II. Some people say that D-II is just as good, just as competitive as D-I. Especially last year when the D-II champion Milford beat the D-I champ Bishop Guertin by 25+ points in a preseason scrimmage, and they also beat them on multiple other occasions during summer/fall league play. If the two teams squared off a couple days after the D-I and D-II title games would Milford still be victorious? Maybe, we'll never know. One thing is certain - the Spartans had a VERY impressive 2 year run, going 43-1 and winning 2 titles.
Over the summer we got a glimpse of how the top D-II teams would do against their D-I counterparts at the Exeter Team Weekend. In the semi-finals Portsmouth went up against Trinity. Portsmouth ended up losing 51-43, but the Clippers were right in the game the entire way, despite the fact that they were playing without returning starters Kyle DiCesare, Gregg Tsougranis and Charlie Duprey. With a full roster it is easy to see Portsmouth beating Trinity.
Most years the 2 leagues are comparable at the top, but it's the number of quality basketball teams where D-I has the edge. Is there always 16 tournament worthy teams in D-I? Goffstown made the tourney 2 years ago with a 4-14 record, while Concord did the same thing this past season. Then again, you see that in all 4 divisions. Typically you have 4 or 5 teams at the top who battle it out all year, 7 or 8 teams a notch below them who are good teams but just not quite title contenders, and then you see a drop off.
Should the NHIAA cut down on the number of teams that make the tournament? Maybe. There usually isn't 16 good teams in each division, but there usually is at least 13 of them and if you cut the number of tournament teams down it would have to be to 12 or 8, which would leave at least 1 or 2 good teams out of it.
Instead, the NHIAA is going in the opposite direction. Instead of decreasing the number of tournament teams, they're increasing it. Case in point, last year they allowed every team in all of Division III to make it. Now I can see the merit in doing such a thing - more teams and more kids get a chance to experience that 'tournament atmosphere.' But let me ask you this - how much atmosphere is there at a game between a 2-16 team going to play a 4-14 team? And how much atmosphere are you going to get when the team that wins that game then has to travel 2 hours to play the top seeded team who went 17-1 during the season and lose by 40 points? Doesn't make sense to me.
Back to the whole D-I vs. D-II thing. What I will say is this - while there is more good teams and good players in D-I, Division II has the best player. Portsmouth's Kamahl Walker (pictured above) is the best player in the NHIAA as of right now. Nobody knew about him before last season after he moved to Portsmouth from Worcester. Then as the season went on he got quite a bit of press. But he's even better now. I saw Walker play in a showcase put on by BST Basketball early in the summer - he was the best player there. Just last week I saw him play in the Integrity Hoops Showcase - he was the best NHIAA player there as well, with Berwick Academy's Harry Rafferty being the only player there on his level (the 2 players were on opposite teams, and both dropped 30+ points, which one was better is debatable). Walker was really playing with a purpose at that event, played at a faster pace than anyone there, scored at will and in a variety of ways and also played excellent defense, stealing the ball 7 times in one game. If he keeps working hard he is going to have a BIG year this winter for Portsmouth and will not only be the best D-II player but the best player in the state regardless of division.
However, there is no debating that there are more good teams in D-I this year. Earlier I mentioned how the last couple years there has been at least one team who got into the D-I tourney with a 4-14 record. But this year I see it being a little different. As of right now at least, I see 17 good teams in D-I. Hard to believe that one of these 17 teams won't make the tourney. There is also 13 teams who I could see getting a home playoff game this year - again, it's hard to believe that 5 of my current top 13 teams won't get one. Here's my current D-I rankings, broken up into 3 tiers.
Top Title Contenders
1. Manchester Central...Easy pick here for the top spot. Nobody was playing as well as these guys when the summer basketball season concluded a couple weeks ago. Central won the BST League's 'Tournament of Champions, beating both North and BG by 15+ points - in the same day. This is a very fast and a very deep basketball team, led by Gabe LaCount, Junior Brown, Troy Pelletier and a bunch of transfers. Coach Wheeler has a talented squad. Although March is a long ways away, as of right now they're the best team in the state.
2. Trinity...Trinity avenged a 20 point loss to BG in the Exeter team Weekend (they played that game without Andrew Lauderdale and Carmen Giampetruzzi) by beating BG twice in one day at the Rivier Tournament a couple weeks later, including a 20 point win of their own. Trinity lost in the semi-finals of the BST Central Division Playoffs to D-III school Prospect Mountain, but they were playing that game without their 'Tri-Towers' Lauderdale, Silvere Aluko and Mabor Gabriel. Bottom line, even without Wol Majong (who was ruled ineligible to play this season) when Trinity has a full roster they can play with anybody.
3. Bishop Guertin...BG had a good summer and is once again playing like a top 3 team. They won the Exeter Team Weekend and made it to the title game of the Rivier Tournament and the BST's 'Tournament of Champions. Are they as good as last year's squad that won the D-I title? Maybe, but probably not. After all, that team ended the season by winning 16 consecutive games, and they were undefeated with Connor Green in the lineup. Still, this year's team is loaded with talent, led by a strong starting 5 of Logan Kesty, Brad Holler, Joe McCarthy, Cooper Paul and Nate Chartrand (all seniors).
4. Nashua North...North has as much talent, as much speed, as much depth and as much skill as any team in the state. The question is do they have the discipline, the maturity and can they play as a team well enough to get it done. I've seen these guys run some teams out of the gym, winning some games this summer by 40+ points. They also beat BG in a thriller just a couple months ago. I've also seen them self destruct, and fall apart when met with adversity. The talent is there though - with Ryan Gauthier, Javon Williams, Anthony Farmer, Dezron Wilson, Mike O'Connor, Jake Mellin, Justin Carter, Liam Burke and Aaron Cordova (all 9 of them are seniors) and with a new coach in Steve Lane this squad has the potential to make a serious run.
5. Nashua South...Some people might be surprised to see me list South this high in the rankings. Don't be. I saw these guys play at the Exeter Team Weekend, and I saw them play in the playoffs of the Hoops for Hope Summer League. They're playing with a chip on their shoulder. If you underestimate this team, you're going to get beat - it's that simple. When I tell people, "Watch out for South" usually their response is, "Really? I thought all they had was Anthony." Well folks, yes they do have Anthony Muccioli. He's their best player, he's definitely gotten better since last year and I think he'll be a first team all-state player in D-I this year. But by no means is that all South has. I saw them win by 25 points in a summer league game and they were playing without Muccioli that game. You have the Preston brothers (Jack and Tim), the Dunham brothers (David and Michael), plus Kevin Morrissey, Yordy Tavarez and Cody Wyatt. The Purple Panthers have 9 guys back from last year's team. They're fast, they play tough defense and they play hard. Everyone has a role and they all play well together. Muccioli and Tim Preston will form one of the state's best guard duos, with Tavarez and Wyatt providing depth in the back court. Up front Jack Preston, the Dunham brothers (all 3 of which can battle inside and also step outside and hit the three) and Morrissey all bring size to the front court. Watch out for this team.
This Next Group is all Good Teams Who Will All Contend for a Home Playoff Game
6. Merrimack...They may be losing their star player Dimitri Floras to prep school, but Merrimack will still be a tough team for anybody to beat. Sophomore guard Eric Gendron suffered a wrist injury over the summer, but as long as he can get back to 100% Merrimack could definitely be looking at a home playoff game for the 3rd straight season. Look for Gendron to team up with his older brother Tyler to form a 1-2 punch, with both players being long, athletic players who can run the floor and make plays. Add in returning starters Jared Peabody and Kyle Richardson, who are both strong defenders, rebounders and role players plus Bryan Courtemanche and Brandon Malloch who can both provide instant offense and you have a team with size, quickness, skill and toughness to burn.
7. Spaulding...A fundamentally sound team that is disciplined and runs good sets on offense and is also tough and scrappy on defense. That's how I would describe the Red Raiders. You had to be impressed by their showing at the Exeter Team Weekend, when they beat everyone they played except for Trinity, including a win over Alvirne and a 30 point win over Pelham. Junior forward Dominic Paradis had a big weekend, especially in the Pelham game when he really caught fire. Luke Roberts and Nick MacGregor are also poised to take on bigger roles on the team this season.
8. Pinkerton...This will be a veteran team, with 9 seniors, including 3 returning starters and 4 of their top 6 players off last year's team. This will be a faster, more athletic team than other recent Astro squads. When I saw them play in the Hoops for Hope Summer League they were constantly looking to push the ball ahead on the break, forcing tempo, hitting the outlet man and filling lanes in transition literally EVERY time they got a defensive rebound or steal, even looking to break off made baskets. They're a fun team to watch, and one that is definitely not lacking in experience or toughness. Chris Light is in for a big year, point guard Kevin Colbert keeps on getting better as well, Alex Patrikis is a strong inside player and Mark Piechowiak is a versatile player who can play inside or out. All 4 of them are seniors. Add in a bunch of other seniors and some strong younger players and you have a team that is definitely capable of making some noise in D-I.
9. Alvirne...The fact that Alvirne is currently ranked #9 shows just how deep this league is. This is a good Alvirne team. They barely lost to Spaulding at the Exeter Team Weekend, and that was without one of their top players in Sean Dunn. Then they took Nashua North to overtime before falling in the BST Southern Division Semi-Finals. When all their key guys are there the Broncos can play with anybody. They're tough defensively and they have good athleticism. They have four main guys to carry the team (Dunn, Tony Beaulieu, Jim Tomaswick and Tyler Livingston) plus a slew of strong role players to chip in when needed. Seth Garon did a great job with this team last year in his first year as head coach. Last year during summer and fall league action they often times looked like a team that would be lucky to make the playoffs. Well that team ended up making the Final Four, and this year's team is MUCH further along than last year's team was at this time.
10. Salem...Salem may have graduated 4 of their 5 starters and 5 of their 6 rotation players off last year's team, but make no mistake they are once again a strong team. Head coach Rob McLaughlin continues to do a great job of getting the most out of his team. The Blue Devils might no be the biggest team, the fastest team, the deepest team and they might not have shooters all over the place. But they're disciplined, they fundamentally sound, TEAM basketball, they play hard, they play the game the right way. Oh yeah, and they play defense. That's right, just like in years past you can once again expect Salem to be one of the best defensive basketball teams in the NHIAA. Last year I went on record saying Jonny Klecan was the best defender in NH high school basketball. Well, he's a senior now, and guess what folks - he's still the best defensive player in NH high school basketball. Danny Salvo is ready for a breakout senior season at point guard (you might not have heard his name much in the last 3 years but trust me you'll hear it plenty this winter), Andrew Ruffen can still hit the long range shots and he's now added muscle and the ability to finish inside as well. And down low Joe Dube and Jack Hartman are both very active on the boards, this duo might not be as tall or or offensively skilled as the other bigs around but they will be outworked by NOBODY.
11. Manchester Memorial...Memorial could definitely end up finishing higher than this, but at the same time they graduated 6 seniors who were arguably their 6 best players last year (David Madol, Shomari Morgan, Nick Wheaton, Hervens Desire, Timi Laniyan and Rodney Martinez). One thing's for sure, this will be a young basketball team. There's a pretty good chance that they will have 4 freshmen who not only make varsity but get significant minutes on varsity in Kabongo Ngalakulondi, Oumaru Kante, Wenyin Gabriel and Wade Gop. And it would have been a "Fab 5" freshmen instead of a "Fab 4", but the 5th member of the group Jourdain Bell will instead be attending Bishop Brady. And yes, all 5 of them were teammates on the Bishop Elite's state champion 14U AAU team. As far as returning varsity players for Memorial, you have Majak Wenyin, Zoubel Iradakunda, Tong Akot and Joel Mayola. All 4 of them are juniors, all 4 of them have athleticism to burn, and yes all 4 of them play for the Bishop Elite 16U team which also won states and went to nationals Bishop Elite director Sudi Lett is the Memorial JV coach for those who didn't know). One senior who returns after seeing valuable minutes last year is wing player Mike Torres. This will be a fast team, that can really get up and down the floor in a hurry and make plays. But they'll also be very young, and even their juniors are still raw, both physically and skill-wise, so there might be some growing pains. Fortunately they have an excellent coach in Mike Fitzpatrick to help with their development. This will be a fun team to watch.
12. Dover...We go from the fast-breaking Memorial team to the blue collar Dover Green Wave. Two completely different teams as far as style of play, but one thing they have in common is a lack of seniors. There's a good chance that this year's Dover team will have ZERO seniors. However I do remember 2 years ago (the year they went to the Final Four) Dover having one of the best JV teams in the state, and were led by sophomores Jarell Mejia, Josh Howard, Dean Towle, Paul Flanagan and Joe McKee. All 5 of those guys are seniors this year, but none of them are playing basketball for Dover High any longer - they've all quit the team since then. As a result, Dover will likely have no seniors on the team this winter. What they do have however, is a strong junior class who will be looked upon to carry the team. The junior class includes Mike LeBlanc, Grant Faustino, Mike Wons, Colin Shaughnessy, Phil Boyatsis, Billy Carroll, Kam Towle and Carter Moore (without question the deepest junior class of any team in the NHIAA). They might be a middle of the pack team this year, but in the 2012-2013 season they will be a team that returns its top 8 players which would definitely make them a title contender.
13. Manchester West...Another team that is fast and athletic and can play the game at a very fast pace. With their speed and skill level they will have some games where they simply run their opponent out of the gym. However they're a similar team talent-wise to the one they had last year, and that team only went 6-12 so we'll have to see what happens. One thing we know is that the trio of Aaron Martin, Travis Descoteaux (transfer from Trinity) and Carl Jacques have plenty of speed and scoring ability to win some games. And Ivan Ilic, Breno Pena and Caleb Dolman also played well over the summer.
Don't Sleep on These Teams Either - Hard to Believe One of them Will Miss Tournament
14. Concord...It's no secret that Concord has really struggled to win basketball games over the last few years. But there is hope, as Concord was able to compete on the same level with some of the top D-I teams all summer long in the BST League. They have some young talent coming up that could return the program to respectability. Leading the way is the junior duo of Christian Iozza and Kaleb Marquis, 2 players you can expect to hear about quite a bit over the next couple years. The Crimson took a hit late in the summer when Brett Hanson (an incoming freshman who had been Concord's starting point guard all summer long) decided instead to attend Manchester Central. Hanson (from Deerfield, NH) would have teamed up with Sam Marquis (Kaleb's younger brother) and Zack Jones to give Concord a very talented trio of freshmen.
15. Winnacunnet...Young but talented team. Took their lumps last year, missing the tournament for the first time in years. 3 freshmen were key players last year in Chris Doyle, Rich Ruffin and Sam Knollmeyer. Now those guys are sophomores and have a year under their belts. They also had a bunch of other players getting key minutes last year who had very little varsity experience, including 6'6" forward Christian Oweifie. They also welcome the addition of junior wing player Malcolm Woodliff-Bulloch, who transfers to Winnacunnet from Portsmouth. They should be better than last year, but how much better is the question. Coach McKenna was encouraged when his team put up over 70 points against a good Lebanon team at the Exeter Team Weekend, and that was without Oweifee playing too.
16. Exeter...Exeter was really put in a tough spot last winter. They graduated their entire starting lineup. Their 2 best returning players were going to be Brad Holler and Tim LaRoche, but Holler transferred to Bishop Guertin and LaRoche tore his ACL and missed the season. Then one of their better JV players, Quentin Bullen transferred to St. John's Prep in Danvers, MA. When you consider all of that it's understandable that the Blue Hawks went 6-12, as basically the whole team was seeing their first varsity action. Improvement is definitely expected this season though, as Exeter only graduated 3 players off last year's team and the rest of the squad is expected back. Look for junior guard Matt Barr to carry them offensively, and for him to get help from Tyler Russ, Chase Poutre, Eliot Cross, Alex Ingalls and Max Medley.
17. Londonderry...The Lancers have made it to the quarterfinals each of the last 2 years. However they have suffered some heavy graduation losses each of the last 2 years. They graduate their entire starting lineup from this past season (Mike Colby, Troy Mansfield, Ian McMullen, Nick Martinez and Tyler Ball) and the year before that they graduated Matt Sanborn, Jake Finnegan, CJ Flanders and Jeff Bintz. Basically they have graduated a lot of talent last couple years. Son who's left? Well the top 2 reserves from last year's team are - JR Winn and Andre Simmond both came on strong late in the year, playing vital roles off the bench. They will both have to take on much bigger roles this year though, as will sharpshooter Ben Flanders and forward Ryan McClure. I will say this, don't underestimate Londonderry. At the Exeter Team Weekend I saw them play Dover and they only lost by 2 that game, and they were playing without both Winn and Simmond. What I saw in that game from Londonderry was a well coached squad that played as a team and left it all out on the floor.
Top Heavy Division II
As of right now at least, it looks like you have 5 teams at the top of D-II that are a notch above the rest. The loss of Devin Gilligan to prep school really hurts Souhegan, as they would have been right there in this group if he was still there. Nonetheless, these 5 teams all had good summers and will be teams to watch this winter.
1. Portsmouth...Like mentioned in the beginning of the article, Portsmouth sent a message to the rest of D-II when they made it to the semi-finals at the Exeter Team Weekend where they went toe-to-toe with Trinity, despite playing without 3 of their 4 top returning players. The Clippers have 4 returning starters, including my preseason Mr. Basketball Kamahl Walker, plus Tsougranis, DiCesare and Duprey. Alex Rigazio and Jake Lehoux bring size and depth up front and they're both returning varsity players. Then you also have a pair of new guards who are ready to join the squad and make some noise. Senior Bill Lane ran track last year instead of playing basketball, but he's back on the team. Then you also have junior Jack Mackey (one of the toughest kids in the state) coming up from the JV team, while Jeremy Eiholzer is another returning varsity player in the back court and junior wing player Travis MacDonald is another solid player who comes up from JV. Watch out for Portsmouth - they have size, speed, they have shooters, they have defenders, and they have a coach in Jim Mulvey who knows just how to get all of those pieces fit together.
2. Pembroke...Pembroke once again has a team that is going to win a lot of games. For the last few years they have been good for at least 14 or 15 wins per year and this year is no different. Last year they went 16-2, with a rotation of 6 players. Guess what folks, all 6 of those guys are back. The "Big 3" of Rene Maher, Patrick Welch and Matt Persons are all back, and they're all capable of scoring 20 points on any given night. Up front you have 6'4" senior Tyler Morrison, 6'2" senior Kent Noyes and 6'2" sophomore Jordan Williams. This isn't the deepest team out there (they're definitely not as deep as Portsmouth) and they are a jump shooting team, so if the shots aren't falling they can be beat. But the fact remains, they're extremely quick and they have a group of guards who an handle the basketball and shoot the lights out. Their "Big 3" also play on the same AAU team together (GS Raiders) so they have very good chemistry with each other on the court.
3. Pelham...I liked what I saw from Pelham this summer. The 3 best words to describe them - tough, physical, fast. You better bring your chinstrap when you come to play against Pelham, because while they might not have any size they're a bunch of scrappy, fearless, blue collar players who aren't afraid to mix it up and get their nose dirty. Derek Defranzo is primed for a first team all-state season, and is now a player who can make plays and put points on the board on offense and is also one of the top 3 defenders in the entire state. Brett Bailey can also score the basketball, inside or out. Bailey and Defranzo are 2 of the most physical guards in the state. Anthony Spirou is a good spot up shooter, Erik Nystrom is a solid rebounder and other returning varsity players include Jake Vaiknoras, Brian Finney and David Bronson. They don't have anybody over 6'1", but it doesn't matter. These guys are quick, they're tough and they're going to win their share of games in D-II.
4. Bedford...We go from a team with nobody over 6'1" in Pelham to a Bedford squad with a 6'1" point guard and 4 players 6'6" or taller. While Bedford had plenty of size last year, their big guys were still developing, and they're guards didn't have much varsity experience either. The Bulldogs were still able to go 12-6 on the season, though. With most of the team back this year they are ready to really win some games. They could go with a starting front line of 6'6" sophomore Roger Larrivee, 6'7" senior Trevor Fahmy and 6'9" sophomore Collin McManus. Trevor Glassman leads the back court, coming off a strong AAU season with the Bishop Elite 16U team. Bedford won the Goffstown Summer League championship, and they look to carry that momentum into their D-II season.
5. Lebanon...Year in and year out Lebanon has a strong team in D-II and this year will be no different. David Hampton is primed for a first team all-state season as a junior. He can flat out shoot the basketball, he has a quick release and good rage on his shot and if you play up on him too much he'll go right by you off the dribble. Last year's biggest win of the season came on the road against Pembroke and in that game senior forward Zander Morrill had a monster game with 15+ points and 20+ rebounds. Then you also have forwards Matt Cowles and Mark Davidson who are back and both were solid players for the Raiders last winter. Cowles can score inside or out, while Davidson showed at the Exeter Team Weekend that he is one of the more improved players around.
Berlin = The Favorite in Top Heavy D-III
Just like in D-II, you have a group of 5 or 6 teams that look like they're ahead of the rest in D-III and then a drop-off.
1. Berlin...Kamahl Walker might be the NHIAA's best player this season, but there's a good chance that Berlin's Curtis Arsenault will be the second best player. Arsenault is a fierce competitor who leaves it all out on the floor every time he plays, and last year he improved his ball handling and outside shooting to go with an already strong inside game. Then you also have guards Sam Aldrich and Jake Drouin back, giving Berlin a "Big 3" of their own. Forward Zach Bacon and guard Dimitri Giannos (a very underrated defender) provide depth. Berlin will be pretty heavy favorites to win the title.
2. Prospect Mountain...Big summer for new head coach Tom Bourdeau and his Timberwolves squad. They were playing most of the summer without 3 of their better players, yet they still made an impressive run to the BST's Tournament of Champions with wins over Trinity and Memorial in the process. Zack Drouin had a big summer, emerging as a likely first team all-state player in D-III, and Prospect Mt. also got strong play from Pat Cassidy, Jay Mousseau and Austin Perrin. These guys just kept getting better and better as the summer went on. They really seem like playing for Coach Bourdeau. Some might be surprised by me ranking them this high, but I got to see them play plenty over the summer and when they have their whole team playing together and everyone's healthy these guys are as god as anyone outside of Berlin.
3. Conant...Here's something that's definitely not a surprise - Conant being a top 5 team. This year's team definitely lacks size, but that's ok because with guys like Ezra Hodgson, Conner Torrey, Mike Auger and Josh Faber all no longer playing in the division there really aren't many teams at all who do have size (except Campbell). Look for Conant to be led by a trio of talented guards in Devin Springfield, Jake Carlson and Dan Sirois, who all played key roles on last year's quarterfinal team. Then you also have defensive ace Keegan O'Hern and Hodgson's little brother Steven Hodgson who comes up from JV. They might not have much size, but Conant will be a very fast team that will be able to handle the basketball, shoot it and really get out and pressure teams defensively.
4. Mascoma...Like Conant, Mascoma is another team that is annually one of the top 3 or 4 teams in D-III. And they also return some solid talent off last year's team. While Torrey won the NHBCO D-III Player of the Year award last year, it was actually junior wing player Jonathan Fitzgerald who was at times the team's best player. Fitzgerald is an explosive player who attacks the rim and can hit the mid-range jumper. Look for him to have a BIG senior year, and get help from returning varsity players Ethan Dickinson (good shooter), Riley Green (solid role player) and Kevin Kosiorek (physical presence in the paint). Like Conant, Mascoma also had a strong JV team last year, so you can bet the Royals will have at last a couple of those guys coming up this year and making an impact.
5. Raymond...Last year Raymond was definitely one of the biggest stories in the state, going from a team that didn't even make the tournament in 2010 to one that finished as the #7 team in 2011. The Rams have a decent amount of players back from that team, including the all-state back court of Jordon Richard and Joe Morin, along with speedy guard Eric Desilets, Ben Sytulek and Mark Wysocki. Other solid returning players are Tyler Peer and Tom Daigle.
6. Campbell...Last year was definitely a little bit of a down year for Campbell compared to what they had done in the previous couple years. Part of that though is strength of schedule, as Campbell played a much tough schedule than teams that finished ahead of them in the standings like Stevens, Hopkinton, Mascenic and Prospect Mountain. Also hurting the Cougars chances was the fact that other than Josh Morgan they didn't have much varsity experience. Well, that won't be the case this year, as Max Gouveia, Jesiah Wade, Jacob Morgan, Chuck Neild and Kyle Mun all gained valuable experience last year. John Houston returns from an injury which cost him the entire basketball season last winter. And the biggest news with Campbell is the arrival of 6'7" junior center Caleb McKearin at the school. McKearin is a Litchfield resident, but had previously been attending Mt. Zion Christian Academy, who no longer has a basketball program at their school. In a division where many teams are really lacking size, McKearin could be in for a BIG year in the low post. The core of Gouveia, Morgan, Wade and McKearin will be fun to watch develop over the next 2 years, as all 4 of them are only sophomores or juniors.
Moultonborough and Newmarket With Strong Summers in D-IV
Just like in D-III, there seems to be a group of 6 teams who are slightly above the rest in D-IV. While you also have to be careful for Derryfield and Lisbon, these 6 teams are a little further ahead right now.
1. Moultonborough...I liked what I saw from them at the Exeter Team Weekend. They went out there and challenged some of the bioggest D-I schools in the state and more than held their own against them. These guys have plenty of size and plenty of talent is back from last year's Final Four Team. They'll be led by 6'7" forward Marcus Swedberg, who is my early pick for D-IV Player of the Year. He is a versatile big man who can take it to the hole off the dribble, hit the three ball and also battle inside for points and rebounds. His little brother Drew Swedberg is a scrappy point guard who defends well and can also shoot it. Other key players who return are 6'4" forward Nick Sindorf and tough wing player Travis Baier.
2. Newmarket...Strong summer in the BST Summer League for the Mules. They will have a dynamic back court duo with the "2 Chritians", Christian Hawkins and Christian Filion. Both of these guys are capable of scoring 15-20 points on a given night, they're both quick players who can handle and shoot the basketball well. And they also have a solid inside duo with Josh Eisfeller and Peter Carlson, both of whom play hard and have good size. Robert McGloughlin and Kevin Clougherty bring toughness and leadership to a team that is once again poised to make a run in D-IV.
3. Littleton...Littleton has been a very strong team in recent years. They return all but one player off last year's team, including POY candidate Sam Brammer.
4. Profile...Profile flew under the radar last season, ending up with a respectable 10-8 record. I liked what I saw from their senior forward Allen Komisarek at the 2011 North vs. South Clash event, as he is a blue collar player who rebounds well and plays unselfishly. The Patriots also return the majority of their team.
5. Sunapee...Sunapee is another team that returns most of its roster after having a strong team a year ago. Look for 6'1" senior guard Brian Brewster to have a big year for Lakers to lead the way.
6. Pittsfield...Another guy who I was really impressed with at the North vs. South Clash was Pittsfield forward Donoven Emerson, a 6'3" senior who has been an all-state selection each of the last 2 years. The Panthers might have lost 6'9" center Ben Hill to graduation, but in addition to Emerson they also return starters Ryan Perras and Dominic Brooks.