Around this time every year I like to catch up on two months worth of topics & changes, plus there is usually something that is annoying me.
Hence a May edition of the Thursday Thoughts.
Look for information next week on our 2nd Annual NHsportspage Golf Tournament at the Derryfield Country Club in Manchester on Friday, June 28th.
‘The Franchise’ Jennifer Chick-Ruth will again film the event, two foursomes will win Red Sox tickets and at least four innocent golfers will be accosted by Justin McIsaac in his Hulk Hogan wrestling voice (2018 victims: Matt Regan, Danny Bryson, A smiling ear to ear Nate Camp and Mike Larson)
If you’d like to get a foursome in email me at email@example.com
Today's column is sponsored by Concord Orthopaedics!
Concord Orthopaedics, with locations in Concord, Derry, New London & Windham, has been serving New Hampshire and beyond in specialized orthopaedic and arthritis care.
Concord Orthopaedics is the sponsor of the coverage of Concord area high schools Bow, John Stark, Concord, Bishop Brady, Pembroke Academy, Kearsarge, and Merrimack Valley.
On to the weekly thoughts………
Caged Heat is the new face of our Girls Basketball Coverage……….
Our own Lance Legere, last seen navigating the ‘Undefeated Dance’ with the Bishop Guertin girls’ basketball team, will be taking our girls basketball coverage to the next level in 2019-20.
Lance, nicknamed ‘Caged Heat’ during his playing days at Gorham high school, will be writing a weekly Thursday Thoughts column all season long and will have pre-season previews with Top 10 predictions and all-state picks for all four divisions as well.
This continues on our promise to provide the girls with the same level of coverage we have given the boys for 11 seasons.
‘The Franchise’ Jennifer Chick-Ruth is the head of our videography team (currently consisting of Austin ‘Have I mentioned I know Jack Edwards?’ Grass and current Great Bay C.C student/mayor Nichole Marrero.
Any videographers looking to work with us next season can reach out to Jen & I through my email address at firstname.lastname@example.org
Star Wars might not be the biggest event coming in December……
In 2017 Jennifer Chick-Ruth produced our first ever original program with our ‘ Four Greatest Games’ special which looked back on the four best games we had covered on NHsportspage. Justin McIsaac, Pete Tarrier, Jen & I commented on the games and the basketball special was followed by a ‘Four Greatest Games’ football special the following year.
This summer we are going to start shooting and producing the ‘Four Greatest Games Volume II’ only this time we are going to have players & coaches from those games looking back on the games along with Justin, Pete, Jen & I.
The special will air in December and right now we have two or three games we are fairly certain are going to make the cut.
If you have a game you think should be included (a game we covered on video…former Central point guard Dawson Dickson once sent me a message telling me we didn’t include a game we should have….a game that we didn’t even cover on video in the first place..) let us know here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.
The BABC games were a big success…..
The March 30th games between BABC (one of the top AAU programs in the country out of Boston) and our senior & underclassman teams was a big success in Year 1. To the point where we can now officially say this will be an annual event.
The underclassman, with only one practice and a 30-minute walk through under head coach Eric Saucier (Conant), were thought to be about 30 point underdogs going in. The BABC underclassman team (featuring Josh Morissette of Exeter and Shy Odom, currently ranked 5th in the country in his class) had beaten Maine by 45 points the night before and had been playing together for a month.
Instead, though Saucier found a hole in the BABC press and shooting by Brendan Choate (Nashua North) early and Joey DeSilva (Bishop Guertin) throughout kept the underclassman in the game for all 40-minutes before falling 90-77.
Players were coming & going in the days leading up to the game (Nate Kane & Curtis Harris of Nashua North had to bow out late while Kyle Dube of Merrimack Valley came onboard) yet the kids played extremely hard and produced a terrific performance.
Choate was the best player in the lone underclassman practice at The Rim in Hampton, showing you why Nashua North will be in the mix for pre-season #1 in Division I with Harris & Kane returning.
Derek Crowley of Pelham made plays all over the floor while Justin O’Neil of Bedford, Eli Swanson of Inter-Lakes & Matt McCool of Souhegan all held their own against a huge BABC frontcourt.
The senior team, coached by Rob McLaughlin of Salem, was always more of a known quantity. Most of the players had played AAU together and they had faced BABC the past two summers. They came in with excellent chemistry, knew each other well and just as importantly, what they were in for.
In the two practices at The Rim Evan Gray of Somersworth and Noah Cummings of Pembroke might have been the best players on the team, and each started against BABC. Gray, able to play with more players of his ability, was able to use his physicality more than he could in Division III where on most nights opposing teams were ready to dive on the floor at the first hint of contact (trust me we are covering flopping in this column…sit tight).
Cummings though was the player that ‘popped’ the most over the three weeks during the BABC practices/game and the Seacoast Tournament.
McLaughlin watched him for only about 25 minutes of the first practice before he decided to make him the primary ball-handler (with Winnacunnet's Ben Allen also able to handle the ball and play on the wing).
The Division II player of the year gave Leo Papile’s team fits and was approached by several college coaches after the game. It was the performance against BABC that led Springfield College to heavily pursue the 6’1 playmaker and that is where Cummings will take his game in the fall.
The other player who found himself a lot of new suitors after the game was Berlin all-state forward Seth Balderrama. The 6’4 forward was terrific against BABC, scoring 15 points and sharing team-high honors with future Plymouth State teammate Alex Tavares of Portsmouth.
Balderrama had always seemed like a perfect fit for Plymouth State. The team is ready to contend for the Little East title behind former Manchester Central star and 1,000 point scorer Jaylen LeRoy and it’s in close proximity to his hometown of Berlin (and not many places on this planet are in close proximity to Berlin…) but the BABC game gave him more options before ultimately deciding to attend PSU in the fall.
All in all, it was a big success. Leo Papile, the founder of BABC, immediately told me he wanted this to be an annual game and Paul Hogan and his entire team at NHTI were absolutely terrific hosts.
Next season the games will take place one week after Championship Saturday and will again take place at NHTI in Concord. Rosters for both teams will be named in February.
Londonderry Head Coach Nate Stanton, who assisted Rob McLaughlin this year, will be the senior team Head Coach in 2020 while Oyster River Head Coach Lorne Lucas will lead the underclassman team.
Division I Player of the Year Arie Breakfield announced this week that he will play next season at Emmanuel College………..Ty Vitko of Dover will be playing alongside Keith Brown at Endicott College next season (players like Vitko who drop a sport always seem to greatly improve at the next level, think Troy Pelletier of Central who stopped playing basketball and became an All-American receiver at Lehigh)………Ben Allen will join former Winnacunnet teammate Zach Waterhouse at Emerson College……..Evan Gray of Somersworth will be playing at Assumption College in Worcester next season………….Jack Schaake of Winnacunnet will play at Wentworth.........Kevin Henry of Exeter will join Tavares & Balderrama at Plymouth State…….Zack Caraballo of Salem, Scott Lampron of Concord & Kyle Landrigan of Oyster River will play for Colby Sawyer……..Ethan May of Londonderry and Hunter Bullock of Epping will play for Alex Burt at Great Bay Community College………….Jake Drew of Conant will be playing next season at Southern Maine Community College.....Tyler Bruns of Concord will play at Bard College.....Josh Morissette will play next season as a sophomore at Phillips Exeter Academy, Morissette is a very good bet to be the next Division I player from New Hampshire……….Eli Swanson is headed to Holderness Prep in the fall and will repeat his junior season…..Drew Brown will be returning to Pelham next season to play for Mike Larson after a year at prep school…….Tate Matte of Keene will also head to prep school and play for Proctor Academy, that’s a big loss for a Blackbirds team ready to contend next season………………The WWE is still not returning Justin McIsaac’s phone calls.
Chip Veazey is done at Gilford after 35 years as basketball coach and other coaching news…
After 35 years Gilford athletic director Rick Acquilano decided it was time for a change as Chip Veazey was relieved of his coaching duties. Veazey, who was my coach for four years in high school, led the Golden Eagles to over 10 Final Fours, championship game appearances in 1989, 1996, 1999, 2007 and a Class M (Division III) title over Pelham in 2004.
Chip was never a self-promoter (we have had lunch together many times over the years but he would never come on my radio show and I’m fairly certain he once fell asleep during a Coaches Roundtable Show hosted by our friend Keith Murray). Maybe that’s why his accomplishments aren’t as noted as other longtime coaches, but he was a terrific basketball coach for a very long time.
Veazey is the all-time leading scorer at Laconia high school and played for Division I Richmond. When you played for Chip you knew three things 1) you were going to play man to man defense 100% of the time 2) you were running the motion offense (we used to watch Bobby Knight’s Indiana practice videos in high school) and 3) he was going to hammer both of the those styles home.
He coached some great players; Kirk Crecco, Pat O’Connor, Eric Dean, Bryan O’Leary and my teammate Jason Van Bennekum among them and was a play or two away from winning four championships in his time at Gilford.
Chip is the kind of guy who opposing coaches would tell me would always rather talk about anything but basketball in their pre-game conversations and has always had a very quick and underrated sense of humor.
I think it’s safe to say no player butted heads more with Chip in my four years than I did. I could score and defense was more of a hobby to me than an actual job description. At 6’3 chasing around 5’9 guards from Belmont & Inter-Lakes was sometimes more than I was willing to do…but we have always shared a great relationship and I really enjoy the once or twice a year I stop into his work to talk hoops with him.
Whoever takes over will have very big shoes to fill. Chip would be the last person to say it so I will, he was a terrific coach for a very long time and the list of coaches who respected and admired him from down the sidelines is a long one.
I enjoyed playing for Chip, covering him, and look forward to our discussions on basketball still to come.
In other news former Berlin head coach Dave Morissette, who led the Mountaineers to a pair of Final Four berths in 4 seasons, will take over at Gorham next season……Scott Currier stepped down at Lin-Wood to take the principal job at Inter-Lakes……..Mike Donnell stepped down at Franklin after 3 seasons……….Kieth Matte is back as head coach at Lebanon after taking one season off……….Jim Barry also stepped down at Mascoma, who should be naming their new head coach soon.
McIsaac in wrestling tights, flopping & baseball…………
I thought Sean McDonald, Chris Shepard and the entire crew at New Hampshire Chronicle did a really good job of capturing what we do, why we do it and what we are all about.
Each of us has heard from people all over that either watched our 7-minute segment that night or have seen it on our website since. To everyone who watched it, thank you very much. If you haven’t seen it you can right here with this Rotten Tomatoes review from my sister Nikki:
“I thought it was really, really good….I would have gone with more Jen and less McIsaac in his wrestling tights but I’ll admit that part was pretty funny...”
On to flopping……during our call of the Division II semifinal game between Kearsarge and Merrimack Valley I commented that players looked like they were tip-toeing into the paint every time they tried to drive to the basket. This wasn’t because they were afraid of contact or having their shot blocked; it was because they were scared of fouling out.
More & more we see kids trying to draw charges and more officials getting the four-step head start to half-court followed by the always dramatic behind the head charging call.
This isn’t bad coaching or necessarily bad officiating but it most certainly is bad basketball. If you lament kids today settling for too many jumpers, the abundance of charging calls is a big part of the problem.
About a month ago a friend of mine who happens to be a very good New Hampshire high school basketball official talked about changing the rules to where all flops would be called as a blocking foul. He told me about a game at UNH a few years ago where he warned one of the coaches that if their star player continued to flop he was going to call it a block, and that ended any dives by the defender.
I’d love to see this become a part of officials calls.
If you don’t think it’s a real problem now I promise you it’s getting there quickly. It’s starting to affect the flow of the game and too many times you see key players sent to the bench early because of a charge call. Salem’s all-state forward Kyle Poulin picked up 2 fouls in the first 37 seconds of the Division I championship game against Exeter and was forced to sit, taking the Blue Devils leading scorer off the floor.
I understand charging calls are a part of the game and often the correct call, but when players are falling to the floor like bowling pins and players are forced to stay out of the paint because of it, we’ve gone off the rails.
Finally baseball coverage……….we are going to begin covering games on video again soon (we need to get my buddy Adrian Siravo on video and teams like Belmont, Portsmouth, Exeter, Keene and White Mountains).
And yes we waited until it got warmer…
So keep an eye out on our Twitter page for games we’ll be covering soon, we’ll be back to post-game interviews very soon..