Friday, October 12, 2012

Phillips Exeter Open Gym - Event Recap

The Phillips Exeter Academy boys basketball team went 15-9 in 2011-2012 and they are even better this season. They have some talented newcomers to the squad to go with a strong nucleus of returning players. They compete in the NEPSAC Class A, and this could be head coach Jay Tilton's best squad in years.

The Big Red have been having open gyms throughout the fall to prepare for the upcoming season. On Thursday night they had another open run, and the NH Notebook was there to cover it. It was a good hour and a half of full court scrimmaging.

Games were played at a fast pace and at a high level, with exceptional ball movement and floor spacing. Teams spread the floor and went 4 out 1 in on offense and played tough, hard nosed man-to-man defense. They solid drive-and-kick, inside-outside basketball and the unselfishness was fun to watch.

Here's what else we thought of the team, and specifically of the five NH kids - Harry Rafferty, Duncan Robinson, Curtis Arsenault, Max Kirsch and Tony Karalekas.

There's no question this is a team loaded with talent. They have 2 future Division I college players in Jordan Hill and Chris Braley. Hill is a 6-foot-3 combo guard from Pasadena, CA who has committed to play in the Big-10 for Wisconsin, while Braley is a 6-foot-4 wing player from Maine who is one of the region's top recruits still available for 2013.

Then you have Duncan Robinson and Harry Rafferty, who are both scholarship level prospects and have been playing basketball together since the sixth grade. They played this past AAU season on the Middlesex Magic along with Braley. Robinson is a long, athletic wing player who just committed to Williams College 2 weeks ago. Rafferty is a combo-guard who, like Braley, is another one of Nnew England's top rated recruits for 2013 who is still on the board.

With Hill, Braley, Robinson and Rafferty you have four kids who are all capable of taking a game over at any time and dropping 25. So watch out NEPSAC, because this team is going to score A LOT of points.

As good as their 'Big Four' is, Exeter's strength had 10 kids at their open run who are all legit players. Depth could end up being their biggest strength, as their bench could probably beat many team's starting five.

Providing size on the low block are Kendrick Morris (a 6-foot-8 kid from Texas) and Max Eaton (a 6-foot-7 kid from Florida). Like Robinson, you also have Tony Karalekas and Curtis Arsenault who can play inside or outside. Arsenault is doing a PG year at Exeter after graduating from Berlin. He's a 3-sport athlete who is not only getting a great education at Exeter but he is playing 3 sports for the Big Red. He's also playing soccer and baseball, but says basketball is what he hopes to play in college. Playing for this team will help take his game to new heights and also gain more exposure.

Karalekas played for the Granite State Raiders this past AAU season along with guys like Pat Welch, Rene Maher, Matt Persons, David Hampton and Jordan Williams. Him and his family have recently moved up to Laconia, NH from Florida. Davis Reid is an explosive 6-foot-2 guard from Kansas who is doing a PG year and figures to get plenty of playing time in the back court. Then you also have Max Kirsch and Keon Burns who add depth out on the perimeter. Kirsch is a transfer from Timberlane High, while Burns is from Oregon.

This team has talent, size, depth and shooters. They move the ball well on offense and really gt after it on defense. They'll be fun to watch, that's for sure. Now here's a closer look at the NH kids.

Harry Rafferty, 6'0" combo-guard, 2013 (Durham, NH) - you're not going to find a soul who has a bad word to say about Rafferty. He's a leader, a winner, he works hard, plays the game the right way and is a good teammate. Rafferty has the handle, passing ability, quickness and feel for the game to play the point. And he has the shooting stroke and natural scoring ability to play the 2. Rafferty hit game ending shots twice on the night, with both coming on the break - one was a pull-up three and the other was a tough drive and finish on a bigger defender where he did a nice job of changing direction and speed. He showed great range by drilling one three from 6 feet behind the line. Rafferty controlled the tempo and got teammates involved as well as looking for own shot. He's in great shape and always seems in control with the ball in his hands.

Duncan Robinson, 6'7" wing, 2013 (New Castle, NH) - Williams College is getting a good one, no question about it. Robinson just has a really nice inside-outside game. 2 of the best words to describe his game are smooth and versatile. He hit shots from the outside off the catch or the dribble, and he also attacked the basket with a variety of dribble-drive moves. Being a 6-foot-7 wing player he is typically at least a couple inches taller than his defender, and he took advantage of that by taking his man off the dribble and hitting a few turnaround jumpers, leaners and baby hooks. The height of a big man but the coordination and athleticism of a guard. Smart player who looked for shot but didn't force anything and played solid team basketball. If he can put a little weight on and improve on defense he could really take game to the next level.

Tony Karalekas, 6'4" wing, 2014 (Laconia, NH) - tough, physical kid who plays hard and does a lot of things well. He went inside and banged around, battled on the boards and got some garbage points. Then he also stepped outside and handled the basketball and drilled perimeter jumpers. Karalekas has a strong, rugged frame, plays fearless and can definitely play with the big boys. Hit three-pointers off catch and in rhythm and moved well without the basketball. Definitely an intriguing player for 2014 and will only get better as he gets quicker and improves handle.

Curtis Arsenault, 6'2" wing, 2013 (Berlin, NH) - in scrimmage action he focused on defense and rebounding, doing both at a very high level. He's 6-foot-2 but plays much bigger than that due to toughness and leaping ability. Arsenault is simply a warrior - few kids in New England play the game harder and with more heart. Intangibles like that you just can't teach. He attacked the rim hard and followed up his misses by crashing boards and going back up strong. He finished strong inside against bigger defenders and also made some nice dishes to cutters. Arsenault will continue to get better the more he plays with this high level team and refines perimeter skills.

Max Kirsch, 6'3" wing, 2016 (Atkinson, NH) - Kirsch was the young kid in the gym but he was not at all overwhelmed. He more than held his own out there among some of the region's best talent. Kirsch is a long, athletic wing player who has good quickness and a very high basketball I.Q. He moved well without the ball and picked his spots for when to look for his own offense. Usually that was on the break, as he really filled his lane and ran hard in transition to beat his defender down the floor. Kirsch played good, hard defense and will only get better as he fills his frame out and works on all around skill set.

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