Monday, March 23, 2015

This & That

Here's a few things I jotted down in my NH Notebook these past couple weeks.

As we have already reported, the D-I state title for the Londonderry High boys basketball team is their first in program history. It comes during head coach Nate Stanton's year at the helm. In coach Stanton's first year as head coach at Londonderry he won D-I Coach of the Year. So a COY in year 1 and in year 2 he has an undefeated state title. Not a bad start for Coach Stanton.

Other coaches who have had very impressive 2 year starts in recent years:
Sean Young - a D-IV state title in year 1 and in year 2 his Epping boys team are D-IV runners-up
Jeremy Faulkner - In first 2 years at Souhegan he won back-to-back titles, including an undefeated season in 2010-2011
Scott Hazelton - Won girls D-I title at Bishop Guertin in 2012, and in his 2nd year in 2013 they were D-I runners-up
Rob McLaughlin - D-I Coach of the year in each of his first 2 years at Salem
Tim LaTorra - back-to-back Final Four appearances in his first 2 years at helm for Sunapee girls, then this year won undefeated state title

Londonderry is the basketball capital of NH this year. Their boys and girls basketball teams this winter season had a combined record of 42-2 and both won D-I titles. It was the first time since Nashua High in 1986 that a school won both D-I boys and girls titles in the same year. Both of the Lancers'girls teams' losses came on buzzer-beaters, and in the loss to Bedford the Lancers played without 2 injured starters (Brittany Roche and Noelle Lambert). They avenged that loss later in the season, beating Bedford 46-28. It was truly a dominant year for Londonderry basketball. What's even more impressive is that both the boys and girls teams won titles this year despite the fact that they graduated multiple players off last year's teams who went on to play college ball this year. On the boys side they graduated Drew Coveney (UNE) and Max Coleman (Plymouth State), while the girls graduated Gatorade Player of the Year Aliza Simpson (UNH) and Elisabeth Caron (Plymouth State). Londonderry not only graduated those players, but they also had key returning players leave for prep school. Caleb Green (holds an offer from Stony Brook) transferred to Proctor Academy for his sophomore year, while on the girls side their best returning player Casey Evans left for St. Andrews School.

Stanton wins a title in his second year, and on the girls side Nick Theos wins a title in just his first year. Not only that, but first year head football coach Jimmy Lauzon led the Lancers to an undefeated season against teams not named Pinkerton. I'd say A.D. Howard Sobolov has done a good job selecting coaches lately.

I know it's still just year 1 for new NHIAA executive director Jeff Collins, but here are a few things which should be on his agenda.
-Get a shot clock. I know this has been beaten to death, but for the love of God it's time NH basketball has a shot clock.
-System of seeding teams that accounts for strength of schedule. In Divisions II, III and IV you have unbalanced scheduling. 2 teams can both go 9-9 but one gets seeded higher despite playing a much weaker schedule. This needs to be fixed. Even in D-I it's an issue, because on the girls side everyone has 1 team they play twice. If you play Keene twice and you're tied in the standings with someone who played Londonderry twice that can have an impact. A few years ago the NHIAA used the 'Heal Points System' which is similar to what Maine does. This system overall worked well. If they just tweak it a little it would be a lot better than what we have today.
-Get rid of hand checking. Also, refs this season had a quick trigger on blowing the whistle for jump balls. You don't need to blow your whistle the second you see players from both teams with their hands on the ball, let them battle for the loose ball a little first. There's nothing worse than watching a game and having fouls/jump balls get called every darn time down the floor, ruining the flow of the game.

A couple more suggestions, but these aren't under the NHIAA's control. First off, it's no secret that once we get to the Final Four and the games are on the college floor players get nervous and make mistakes they wouldn't typically make. How do we fix this? Well, one way is to go back to the way it used to be, when the quarterfinal games were also played at a neutral site - on the college court (I'm in favor of this either way). Another solution is to get these kids more experience playing on the bigger college floor. Colleges are off for winter break and so are their basketball teams - why not have select high school Christmas tournaments take place on college courts. Right now the only colleges that host a Christmas Tournament is Keene Statel and NHTI. Why not have the QCIBT at SNHU? Why not have the Oyster River Holiday Tournament at UNH? In order to increase fan interest and fill the stands more, why not have the games count in the standings? Maybe invite some top teams from out of state to play? Maybe on the final day of the Christmas tournament, why not have an alumni game, where you have the tourney all-star team for that year vs. a group of alumni who are all former all-stars from that same tourney who have since graduated? Maybe have a prep game, like New Hampton vs. Tilton as part of it? The more games these kids play on the college court and in front of big crowds the better.

Lastly, and I've also mentioned this in the past so I'll be brief - the all-state teams should be voted on after the season has concluded. I'm okay with the coaches submitting their nominations for the players on their own teams for consideration at the end of the regular season. But the actual all-state, Player of the Year and Coach of the Year award voting should wait until after the last tournament game has been played. Often times the POY voting is a tight race between 3 or 4 guys. At the end of the regular season it's anyone's guess - any of those 3 or 4 kids could be deserving. But typically the state tournament is when 1 of them emerges as the correct choice (like Mayson Kimball in D-II girls last year, Zach Mathieu in D-I boys in 2010, etc.).

That's all for now. Check out New England Recruiting Report in the next few days for my NHIAA season review article. We'll also be releasing Class of 2017 prospect rankings for girls and boys basketball and Class of 2016 prospect rankings for football. Also, thanks to Ross Laorenza, Tuesday & Friday and DC for their hard work covering games this season.

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