Last Saturday afternoon 2 of the best players to play in the NHIAA over the last few years squared off on the prep school circuit. Kaleb Joseph (Nashua, NH) and his teammates from Cushing Academy went on the road to take on Connor Green (Bedford, NH) and Phillips Exeter Academy in a NEPSAC showdown.
Both Joseph and Green showed why they will be impact players at the college level, as they both had solid games and exhibited varied skill sets. Green started off slow but scored 13 of his 16 points in the 2nd half, while Joseph got hot early on with 10 of his 15 points coming in the 1st half.
Cushing lead this game virtually the entire way, but Phillips Exeter kept it close throughout. Green came off a screen and buried a three to cut the Cushing lead to 47-45 with 7:50 left in the 2nd half. But then from there Cushing made a run to push their lead to double digits, and ended up winning it 69-58.
"We came out and executed real well" said Joseph, who played his freshman year at Nashua South before transferring to Cushing and reclassifying to the Class of 2014. "In the 2nd half we started getting out of control, and it's my job as the point guard to not let that happen."
Both of these teams have lots of size and talent. Cushing starts 3 kids who are between 6'6" - 6'8", including Andrew Chrabascz who is the #7 ranked player in New England according to NERR. Chrabascz is an absolute beat in the paint and can also step out and hit the 18 footer. With him being a junior and Joseph only being a sophomore it is scary to think how good this Cushing team will be next year!
Phillips Exeter meanwhile has 3 or 4 kids who are about 6'6" who they rotate in and out. Plus they have the 6'4" Green and the 6'3" Chris Braley on the wings and a point guard who is 6'1". Braley is also just a junior and is getting Division I looks. Him and Green attacking the basket from the wings is a dangerous combination for opponents to deal with, and both players definitely had the moments to shine in this game. Green is doing a post-grad year at Exeter after leading Bishop Guertin to a Division I state title in the NHIAA last winter as a senior.
All 10 starters in this game were at least 6'1", and there were at least 7 kids who played in the contest who were at least 6'6". All of these kids can hit shots and defend the basketball. In other words it was more like a college game than a high school one.
As for the pace of the game, most of the 1st half had a really nice flow to it, with plenty of up-and-down action and good ball movement. However as the game went on there was a lot of fouls and timeouts being called which really disrupted the flow. At a couple points it seemed like every time down the floor there was a whistle which really slowed down the action.
Here's how Green and Joseph looked in this game.
Connor Green, 6'4" wing, Phillips Exeter Academy, Class of 2012
Like I said, Green started off slow but had a big 2nd half. One the one bucket he did have in the 1st half Green made a back door cut, caught the ball in traffic and slammed down a thunderous one-handed dunk. His outside shot was a little off but he did hit one three on the game. However Green was most effective when slashing to the basket. One one drive in the 2nd half he went baseline to get by his defender, was then met at the baseline by a help side defender so he made a nifty step-through move to cut it back in towards the middle of the floor and laid it in on the other side of the basket. And no, the step-through move (when done right) is NOT a travel! And when Green got to the rim but wasn't able to finish he did a nice job of staying with the play and following up his shot, battling on the boards and converting on a couple put-backs. Green was able to get to the rim and make some nice and-1 finishes as well, before ending the game with a two-handed reverse dunk as time expired.
Kaleb Joseph, 6'2" point guard, Cushing Academy, Class of 2014
Joseph already looks like a Division I player, which is scary because he's only a sophomore! He is a complete, all-around point guard and knew just when to set his teammates up for looks and when to take it himself and score. He's long, athletic and is in great shape. Plus at 6'2" he has good size to play the point because he can see over the top of the defense, see the whole floor and pick apart the defense. Joseph hit the outside shot and was also explosive off the dribble. He was also an impact player on defense, making a couple of nice steals in the 1st half and getting up high to block 2 shots in the 2nd. The most impressive part of Joseph's afternoon though was a pair of plays he made in the 1st half while leading the break. On the first one he grabbed a steal in the back court, got all the way to the rim, then faked a behind-the-back pass to lose the defender before laying it in to the basket. Then just a few minutes later he made another steal and again led the 2-on-1 break. Again he pushed the ball quickly up the floor and got to the rim. This time he got the defender to commit to him, then made a great dish to a teammate for the layup.
"As a leader on the team I try to make a statement out there and set the tone for my team on defense" said Joseph, who has already been offered a scholarship by Boston College, Providence, Maryland and TCU. "Since leaving Nashua South I've really worked on my ball handling as well as seeing the whole floor and to read the play before it happens."