Today we take a look at what to expect this season in D-III boys basketball. It seems that the division is pretty top heavy, with a clear cut top 4 or 5 teams and then a drop-off after that. Conant, Campbell, Somersworth, Prospect Mountain are the favorites, with Hopkinton also being in the conversation.
Conant won 5 straight titles from 2006-2010, and this could be the year where they get back to that level. The Orioles have a very good coach in Eric Saucier, they have the preseason POY in Devin Springfield. And while it might be a stretch, you could make the argument that they have the 5 best players in the division all on the same team.
Here's a closer look at Conant and the other teams to watch this season in Division III boys basketball.
The favorite is...
1. Conant - They might be in Division III, but they could definitely play with the big boys. Conant doesn't have a ton of size, but what they have is a very dangerous starting 5. All 5 kids can shoot, handle the basketball and run the floor. 6-foot-3 senior guard Devin Springfield is your preseason D-III Player of the Year. He's entering his third year as a starter, and is joined in the starting lineup by guards Jake Carlson, Robert O'Brien and Kyle Carland and forward Eli Hodgson. These 5 guys have been playing together for a long time, and they will be simply too fast and too skilled for most D-III teams to keep up with. Springfield and Carlson is a very talented duo and both are good senior leaders. O'Brien is one of the most improved players in the state. This fall O'Brien played for the Prodigy AAU basketball program, where he starts for a team that includes Jacquil Taylor (numerous high-major offers) and Maurice Taylor (committed to D-I North Carolina A & T). Hodgson is now bigger at 6-foot-4 and will enable this team to be tougher on the boards, which was their only weakness a year ago. With Springfield, Carlson, O'Brien, Hodgson and Carland Conant has arguably the 5 best players in the division. Their starting 5 could play with anyone in the state. Look for Nick Panagiotes to provide depth off the bench.
The other contenders are...
2. Campbell - the Cougars are once again a contender in D-III. They have a strong core group of returning players, including senior point guard Max Gouveia, senior wing Jacob Morgan and junior guard Jesiah Wade. All three of them are potential all-state players this season. Look for them to really be tough to beat this season as they continue to gel and develop chemistry. Gouveia is a quick point guard with a solid pull-up jumper. Wade is an explosive athlete who really pushes the tempo and can make plays, Morgan is a strong defender who can also score inside and out.
They will however, have to adjust to a new coach and new system. John Langlois is the new coach, taking over for long time coach Pat Roye. Langlois won a championship at Somersworth and got Bedford to the title game last season.
So you have a new coach who has won a lot of games. You have four all-state caliber players. Not only that, but you also also have a bunch of other guys coming back who got valuable minutes last season. They include Jackson Musco, Nick Freson and Jason Rodonis who should provide solid depth.
This team has a lot of experience, they have kids who can run and kids who can score. What they don't have is size, as a result of 6-foot-8 center Caleb McKearin transferring to Genesis Academy.
3. Somersworth - The Hilloppers are once again a contender in D-III. hey're just 2 years removed from a state title, they have a very good coach in Lorne Lucas who always gets the most out of his team and they return 11 kids from last season.
Leading the way is guards Drew Francoeur and Ryan Seavey, wing Jon Cronshaw and forwards Tyler Kretschmar and Darren Glore. All 5 of these guys were either starters are key reserves last season, and Francoeur was a key player on the Somersworth 2011 championship team. With Glore, Cronshaw and Kretschmar they will have good size on the front line, Seavey gives them a shooter and Francoeur is a tough slasher. Their strength as a team though (as usual) will be on the defensive end of the floor where they pressure all over the floor and force turnovers.
Also look for Newmarket transfer Kevin Clougherty and Josh Ream to provide depth as tough players coming off a successful season with the Hilltoppers football team.
What this year's team has most in common with the 2011 championship team is senior leadership. That team had 8 seniors, including all seniors in the starting lineup. All 7 of the players I just mentioned are also seniors on this year's squad.
4. Prospect Mountain - Last year they upset Campbell in the quarterfinals, then they upset Conant in the semis. They nearly pulled off another upset in the title game as they had the lead for most of the game before Berlin took over in the 2nd half to capture the championship.
That team had a very talented back court with Zach Drouin and Pat Cassidy, plus a big front line with 6'3" Austin Perrin, 6'4" Jay Mousseau and 6'5" Logan Roberts. The 3 bigs dominated the boards vs. Conant and that's how they won. The good news is all 3 of the bigs are back this year as seniors, the bad news is Drouin and Cassidy have graduated.
"Last year, in 5 of our 6 losses, we had the lead in the 4th quarter and couldn't hold on to the lead" said Prospect Mt. head coach Tom Bourdeau. "My plan is to give all my starters a few more breaks this year to try to keep them fresh. Ethan Henderson and Logan LaRoche will be my starting guards, trying to replace my 2 leading scores from last year, Drouin & Cassidy. I don't need to replace all the point production from last year's guards as my big men should step up. I'm just looking for some good steady play from my new guards."
With Mousseau, Perrin and Roberts this team will have the best front court in D-III. If LaRoche and Henderson can step up this team could be a serious title threat.
Another dangerous team...
5. Hopkinton - it would not be a wise move to sleep on this team. They graduate three very good players in Frankie Beane, Jay White and Jake Nelson, but the good news is that last season they played a lot of kids. They were very deep last year, so even though they will miss those three guys there are still plenty of kids coming back who got a lot of playing time on last year's Final Four squad.
Leading the way is senior guard Steven Auger, who is a potential first team all-state player. He is a good slasher and has a solid mid-range jumper as well. Also look for senior forward Harry Legier and junior Collin Paraskeva to step up and really emerge as strong players this season, as well as junior Liam McNicholas.
"Pat Roye is now working at Hopkinton, as is Dave Shorey and Vince Judd" said one D-III coach. "it seems as though Dave Chase has stockpiled former D-III coaches at Hopkinton. Dave was always well prepared and did a lot of scouting, and now he has several basketball minds at his school. I am curious to see how they blend
and what the product will be on the floor."
Other teams to watch out for...
Bow - they struggled last year but were very young. Now they have a lot of kids back and a new coach in Lucas Croteau who is young but hungry to win some games.
Kearsarge - moving down from D-II, with a very good coach in Nate Camp. Another team that struggled to win games last year but has most of the team coming back.
Berlin - graduated four starters include POY Curtis Arsenault. But they return senior point guard Dimitri Giannos and Brad Frenette who saw valuable minutes last year off the bench. They had a very good JV team last year, so the Mounties should once again be a strong team. Still, it will be interesting to see how they do now that the 'Arsenault Era' is over.
Mascoma - this team is always tough up north, but they graduate their two best players from last year in Jon Fitzgerald and Ethan Dickinson.
Raymond - they have senior point guard Jordan Richard who is one of the top 5 individual players in the division. The question is does Richard have enough of a supporting cast for this team to be a factor?
Newport - this team could be one on the rise, and they have one of the division's top players in 6-foot-4 sophomore wing Andrew Houde. Houde transferred to Newport from Pembroke Academy.
Preseason All-State Team
First team - Devin Springfield (Conant), Max Gouveia (Campbell), Jay Mousseau (Prospect Mountain), Steven Auger (Hopkinton), Jordan Richard (Raymond), Drew Francoeur (Somersworth)
second team - Jake Carlson (Conant), Austin Perrin (Prospect Mountain), Jesiah Wade (Campbell), Andrew Houde (Newport), Dimitri Giannos (Berlin), Robert O'Brien (Conant)