You can coach for 30 years and never again have to go through what coaches will have to in the upcoming 2021 season.
Days of being worried if players can execute your press-breaker or zone out of bounds plays have been replaced by disinfecting locker rooms and getting on your shooting guard because his mask isn’t covering his nose.
Take Oyster River for example:
When new head coach Lewis Atkins’ team opens their season this week against Sanborn ‘The Big Smooth’ (that’s what he prefers to be referred to), will not have coached them in a game in a summer league, fall league, a scrimmage against another team or even alumni, who aren’t allowed in the gym.
He’s been the coach since July, by the way.
With the schedules becoming regionalized, you’ll have anomalies like Conant playing eight games against Hinsdale and Wilton-Lyndeborough. (If you don’t follow the lower divisions…well, we are telling you this isn’t good for Hinsdale and Wilton Lyndeborough) and Coe-Brown playing Bishop Brady four times.
Lebanon and Hanover will only face each other in Division II; the rest of their games are against Division III teams or Keene.
John Stark, Con Val, Kingswood, and Souhegan are currently not practicing, Manchester West has seven players right now, and Pelham somehow someway has five kids named Jake on their team.
“ I also have a player on the JV team named Jake,” said head coach Mike Larson.
What I’m telling you is it’s all going to be a little nuts. Lance Legere & I are adding Power Rankings for each division to our weekly Thursday Thoughts columns, and I’m counting down the minutes until the first ‘Hey, we beat Wilton-Lyndeborough by 36 last week, how are we still 8th!!??’ email from a parent.
You know what, though? The kids are playing, and after being involved in the coverage of 37 games this fall, we know how much these kids need & appreciate the opportunity to have an everyday life again for at least a few hours a day.
Division II has no clear favorite, and in fact, this might be the year a team comes out of nowhere to be the last one standing.
Today in our 6th pre-season preview, we look at Division II, where no team was crowned in 2020, and no clear-cut favorite likely emerges until March.
Our preview today is brought to you by NHTI in Concord!
Click on their banner ad on their video above or any of the NHTI banner ads on our website!
Division II Pre-Season Top 10
Lurking outside the Top 10: Manchester West, Oyster River, Coe-Brown, Sanborn and Kennett
*- as of this preview Kingswood was not approved to play but if/when they return they are projected here.
Here is a free scouting report/tip for when you face Pelham this season. If you can get someone in the crowd to yell ‘Jake….Jake!’ there is a strong chance you’re going to throw off the Pythons because, and I couldn’t believe this when Mike Larson told me, there will be times this season when all five players on the floor will be named Jake.
In 13 years I can honestly tell you no team has ever put five kids with the same name out on the floor.
Ladies & Gentleman, your 2021 Pelham Pythons.
The Pythons were playing as well as anyone last March when the tournament was suspended. Mike Larson’s lost a pair of all-state guards and 35 points per game when Derek Crowley & Drew Brown graduated but with a strong group of underclassmen and just a really good vibe in the gym, he doesn’t sound too concerned.
“ I’m never going to make any predictions for how many games we will win, all I know is I have been pleasantly surprised by this group in the pre-season,” said Larson. “The attitude at our practices and the intensity level has been awesome.”
Shooting guard Jake Dumont is a knockdown shooter on the perimeter and will get more looks this season. His coach believes he is ready to have a big year for the Pythons. “Jake is a great shooter so that’s going to help us a lot with our spacing,” said Larson. “His attitude has been terrific and I have a lot of confidence in Jake.”
Jake Travis, fresh off of quarterbacking the football team to an undefeated Division III title, will step up and play big minutes at the forward spot. “I’ve seen a definite carry over in a lot of guys from the football season,” said Larson. “There has been something different about Jake this season. He’s going to really help us this season.”
The breakout player may be junior point guard Jake McGlinchey who will not only run the offense but should be a double-digit scorer as well. “Very skilled and he is a basketball only athlete,” said Larson. “He loves the game. He’s going to surprise a lot of people this season.”
Zach Jones (we needed a break from the Jake’s, don’t worry we’ll get back to them) gives Pelham size down low and one of the best athletes in the division as well. “Zach is a winner,” said Larson. “He’s been working very hard and you see the carryover from an undefeated football season in his play.”
6’2 Jake Cothren (we’re back) is one of the team’s better defensive players and he along with football player of the year Jake Herrling will provide defense and athleticism to the rotation. “(Herrling) is such a smart player and a very good defender as well. We like the depth we have with this group.”
Freshman Dominic Herrling is a future star and will get an opportunity to earn minutes for what should again be one of the best teams in Division II.
“With no summer league and the shortened pre-season I didn’t know what to expect because we lost some really good players to graduation,” said Larson who will be assisted by former head coach Matt Regan this season. “What I have seen has me excited. We’re very happy to have the opportunity to play.”
The Lebanon Raiders return four players who played major minutes a year ago, giving them a nucleus strong enough to contend once again in Division II. The question is going to be whether the underclassman develop around them?
Head coach Kieth Matte is confident they will.
“ We have a really good group of seniors who are providing a lot of leadership and really setting the tone for us in practice,” said Matte. “ They understand that we are going to need the younger guys to come along and they are doing a lot right now to help make that happen.”
The Raiders will have one of the best frontcourts in the division with 6’4 Calvin Bates and Jack Stone. Bates can attack the rim with his ability to step out and make jumpers while Stone helps you in a lot of different ways.
“ Jack is one of the best athletes in our division, as he showed during football season,” said Matte. “ Calvin is very skilled and certainly ready to step into a bigger role.”
Karsten Hansen, coming off an injury from last season, will also start right away along with point guard Braeden Falzarano. “ I’m excited for Braeden because he has dealt with injuries that have slowed him up.”
Falzarano gives Lebanon a floor general that has been running their motion offense since middle school. A year ago Lebanon often played 5-out with Jon Willeman and Wade Rainey on the perimeter but a bigger lineup this season will change the look of the offense.
CJ Childs, also coming off of a very good football season, will step into the rotation after being a swing player a year ago. “ CJ has impressed me,” said Matte. “ He’s such a competitor and he’s playing very well right now.”
Cole Fabree and Nyeoti Punni are part of a group of players the Raiders need and expect to step into bigger roles. Sophomore Jared Proten has the look of the next Lebanon all-state performer and will jump right into the rotation.
“ We know what we have with our top seven players but will other players fight their way into the rotation?” said Matte. “ I have a lot of confidence they will. We aren’t going to see teams like Hollis-Brookline, Coe-Brown, and Milford that we usually play. So it’s going to be harder to gauge where we are at.”
“The key for every team will be to stay healthy and be ready for the tournament in March.”
Tim Lee takes over at Bow after a 17-1 season under Frank Moreno (now the head coach at Bedford) a year ago.
A lot of size and production graduated from that team but what returned in September moved the Falcons from the rebuilding category to the re-loading category.
After intending to move on to prep school, 6’4 all-state guard Matt Lamy returns and that keeps the team right in the thick of the Division II race. “ I couldn’t be more excited about coaching this group, and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” said Lee, who served as an assistant coach at Southern New Hampshire University the past two seasons. “ Frank set a great foundation here, and the community has been terrific. We have depth, we have size, and we have talent. Now it’s about seeing what we can become together.”
In Lamy, the Falcons have someone who will be in the player of the year conversation all season long.
At 6’4, Lamy can handle the ball or play off it on the perimeter with equal success. “When he told me he wanted to learn more about playing off the ball, I said, ‘That’s fantastic,’” said the former 4-year starter at SNHU.
“ Matt has filled a leadership role left by a really good senior class from last season. He’s very positive with his teammates, and it makes an impact when they see how hard he is working.”
6’2 forward Shaun Lover returns for what feels like his 6th year with the program. Lover gives the Falcons rebounding, defense, and toughness. “ He was battling some pretty big guys in practice all of last season, so he isn’t going to get pushed around anytime soon,” joked Lee.
Matt Cardarelli is a current member of our all-glue guy team and, in 2021, will get a chance for more production at the forward/guard spot. “ Matt is an energy magnet. He’s another player who is very physical and a terrific athlete.”
6’2 Owen Petretta and 6’1 Cooper Larabee are a pair of standout football players who will also contribute right away. “ We have a lot of two and three-sport athletes, and that’s a huge advantage for us,” said Lee. “These are kids who understand what needs to be accomplished in practice, and they come from cultures of winning.”
Alex Boisvert, the quarterback on the football team, will run the Bow offense. Boisvert gives the team a smart floor general who has the speed to disrupt opponents at both ends of the floor.
Lee said he expects 13 players to play when the Falcons begin their schedule this week.
“One, we have the depth to do it, and two, I’m not sure anyone is conditioned enough to go a full quarter at the speed and intensity we are going to play at, so it will help us compete. There was a big lapse between fall and winter sports, so as everyone gets in the best condition, we are going to have a lot of different players contributing for us.”
“ It’s a great group of kids,” said Lee. “ We are just really excited to compete.”:
The most significant factor in the dramatic turnaround of the Con Val basketball program has been the time players & coaches have spent in the gym together. The day Leo Gershgorin took over as the Cougars head coach four years ago, he decided to build the program from the youth level up.
What has followed was a Final Four berth in 2018, followed up by a top seed heading into the Division II tournament a year ago.
With the program on hold, those kids are in limbo, waiting for a school board decision that did not go their way in the fall.
Con Val was one of the very few schools that decided not to participate in fall sports—leaving their defending champion boys soccer team to watch Division II complete its season and tournament without them.
While the players wait for a decision, the potential for another final four run remains. "It's eating at me not to be in the gym with these kids," said Gershgorin. "I love this group and what we have the potential to accomplish this season."
The Cougars graduated three all-state players and 35 points per game when Mather Kipka, Connor Buffum, and Del Bonsu-Anane finished their careers last March.
What the Cougars will be in 2021 is a guard-heavy group with depth. "We are going to play to our strengths, and this is a group that can be very effective pressuring the ball full court for 32 minutes," said Gershgorin. "We need time early in the season to build that depth."
Isaiah Michaels steps up into a more prominent role and is ready for a breakout season at shooting guard. "He might be the best pure scorer I have had here at Con Val. At the end of last season, we didn't have Mather and Isaiah carried us offensively against Souhegan in a game we needed to win. That's when we saw everything he is capable of," said Gershgorin.
Wyatt Davis also returns and will take over at point guard. "Wyatt has a very high basketball IQ, which you always want from your point guard," said Gershgorin. "He gives us a little bit of everything at both ends of the floor."
Speedy guard Austin Knight has been in the rotation the past two seasons and gives the Cougars a player who can both defend and score in bunches. "His per-minute rebounding numbers were on par with any guard on the team," Gershgorin said of his 5'6 perimeter player. "He battles for us."
Malachi Page, Alex Heck, and Tristan Hutchison will all get an opportunity to earn time in the rotation. "We have a good group of young players coming up. I was excited about how our JV team competed at the end of last season," said Gershgorin.
"We are behind on conditioning and obviously what we are trying to get done on the floor. We are just hoping and asking for the opportunity to compete because these kids are texting every day about getting back on the floor together."
Gold Level Coaches/Programs as of 1/9:
David Smith of Coe-Brown
Leo Gershgorin of Con Val
Lewis Atkins of Oyster River
Mike Larson of Pelham
Cole Etten of Hollis-Brookline
John Langlois of Manchester West
Steve McDonough of Laconia
Rich Otis of Pembroke Academy
Kieth Matte of Lebanon
Mike Sullivan of Plymouth
The team with the longest winning streak when the tournament rolled around was Hollis-Brookline. Cole Etten’s team had won 14 straight, including a late-season road win over Lebanon, when the season was suspended.
Ten months later the Cavaliers have to replace player of the year Grant Snyder and second-leading scorer Max Staplefeld but a group of six players who played major minutes a year ago should have them in the mix once again.
“ We have a good foundation,” said Etten. “ We have a good group and it’s a fun team to come to work with every day. Right now it’s about putting the pieces together and seeing who fits where. That will take some time with the shortened pre-season.”
The Cavaliers have an experienced backcourt as Matt Dias, Adam Razzaboni, and Ethan Smith all will contribute right away. “ They understand what we’re trying to do and they have provided good leadership for the new players.”
Rob Haytayan will step up into a bigger scoring role after the graduation of Snyder.
His head coach has been impressed with what he’s seen. “ He’s done a good job for us on the boards, he has good hands for a big man,” said Etten. “ He’s going to have more opportunities to score this season and we’re going to need that production.”
Kaleb Popham, and Brian Szewczyk will join the rotation while the team immediately gets more athletic with the addition of all-state wide receiver Blake Bergerson.
“ We have had a pretty good history of two and three-sport athletes joining the team and helping us so I’m excited about Blake,” said Etten. “ I had to talk the Wimmer brothers (the football all-state duo of Sander & Quinten) into playing and they were great for us.”
Like a lot of teams, it will take time for Hollis-Brookline to round into peak form but Etten likes what he sees so far. “ Just a really good group of kids and they’re working to get better. Our goal is the same as everyone else’s this season. We just want to be playing up to our potential in March.”
While today there is no clear cut #1 team in the division that wasn’t the case in May.
Hanover was set to be the team to beat in the pre-season, with three of their top six players returning after a 15-3 season. The all-state duo of Jai White & Henry Pikus decided to go to prep school, and that left Tim Winslow’s team with all five starters from a year ago moved on.
You’d expect that would have left a huge void and a rebuilding season ahead, but that’s not necessarily the case. “ It’s a nearly complete overhaul in who was on the floor for us a year ago and the players coming in, but I really like the group we have,” said Winslow.
Max Gailbraith was a dependable guard/glue-guy a year ago and now steps into a much more significant role as a junior. “ Max got a little overlooked last season with both Charlie (Adams) and Nolan (Gantrish) producing the way they did. He’s more than capable of being our lead guard, and I think he’s set to have a very good season for us,” said Winslow.
The Marauders will be one of the biggest teams in the division, if not the entire state.
They will be led in the frontcourt by 6’5 center Kevin Pillsbury and 6’9 freshman standout Jordan McConnell. “ Kevin has been working really hard and coming along nicely,” said Winslow. “ What he and Jordan give us is the ability to defend the paint, and that will allow us to do some different things defensively out on the perimeter.”
The freshman McConnell is a name you’re going to be hearing for the years to come. Talented and very agile for a 6’9 15-year old, the sky is the limit for the newcomer. “He’s special. There’s no question about it,” said Winslow. “ He’s going to help us win games this season. He’s going to step in and be a huge contributor right away.”
Brett Simmons made his way into the rotation a year ago and will play a more significant role this season. “ Every game for us against the best teams in our division is going to be close. We’re not going to be dominant at times like we were a year ago, so it’s about playing great defense and seeing what we can become as a team.”
The 2019-20 Merrimack Valley basketball team didn't have to wait for COVID to arrive to have their season ruined.
What was thought to be a Top 5 team in the division, one that competed in our Coaches for a Cause Jamboree against Manchester Central, had a permanent black cloud placed over their heads when first-team all-state forward Kyle Dube suffered a season-ending knee injury during soccer season.
The Pride predictably struggled after back to back final four appearances, finishing 2-15.
That dark cloud has moved away, and led by an senior all-state guard in the backcourt Tim Mucher's team is headed back in the right direction.
"We have a lot of underclassmen who are going to help us. Players, we're excited about," said Mucher. "What that has led to is very competitive practices where kids are battling for playing time. That's something we didn't have a year ago."
Griffin Wheeler returns as a 3-year starter, and his experience, which includes a game on the big stage at UNH, will be essential for the new players in the rotation. "Griffin is a better kid than he is a player, and he's a heck of a player," said Mucher. "He's put the work in over the summer with the goal of playing at the next level, and he's developed his game to where we will be able to play him both off the ball and running the point."
6'2 Elie Gould is set for a breakout year at forward and will, along with Wheeler, provide scoring for the Pride. "I expect big things from Elie this season," said Mucher. "We have four different players who I could see handling the ball for us up top, and Elie will be a big part of our offensive focus."
Aaric Adams is the kind of glue-guy teams win with, while Patrick Starks & Ben Rose should contribute right away. "We have better chemistry than we did a year ago, and I see us having about an eight to nine-player rotation," said Mucher. "Time will tell."
Three rising underclassmen to watch are freshman Trevor Summers and Luke Doherty, along with sophomore guard Gavin Wheeler, Griffin's younger brother.
"We couldn't play inside this summer so the kids went to the park and got workouts in," said Mucher. "We have three seniors on the roster mixed in with a lot of good young players who want to earn playing time. It's created a really fun atmosphere every day at practice."
With ten seniors on the roster, no one will need to explain the importance of playing your best basketball in March to the Laconia Sachems.
Steve McDonough’s team snuck in the playoffs a year ago and proceeded to give 4th seeded Hollis-Brookline everything they could handle before dropping a 61-55 decision in the overtime.
While the conversations with coaches these days usually start in the backcourt Steve McDonough’s Sachems go through the low post. “We’re a little old school in that we will be running our offense through Demarco in the post. We’d be crazy not to.”
Demarco McKissic is the Sachems all-state center…yes there are still centers in the world.
McKissic is going to be a match-up problem for opponents on most nights and he is part of a group that wants to lead Laconia past the first round in 2021.
“The chemistry with this group is terrific,” said McDonough. “Our juniors came on strong at the end of last year and I can see the carryover from going to the wire in our playoff game against a really good Hollis-Brookline team. We want to continue that momentum.”
McKissic could average a double-double for the season (“His energy in practice is infectious and he’s become a real leader for us,” said McDonough) while 6’2 Karter Greenwood will join him in the frontcourt. “Karter is a team-first player. He’s that glue guy who you win games with and he’s come out in the pre-season and played very well.”
Logan Dee will run the Sachems offense at the point and does a very good job of protecting the basketball and defending opposing ones. “He’s a floor general and such a smart player,” said McDonough.
Logan Paronto, Caden Perry, who is back after an injury, and Kayden Roberts will all contribute right away in the Sachems backcourt. “I think you’ll see us be nine or ten players deep and we’ll have flexibility with the groups we can have out on the floor,” said McDonough. “You may see a lineup of players all 6’2 and over or a line-up with no one over 6’0.”
6’3 freshman Keaton Beck, McKissic’s younger brother, will step in and play right away along with 6’4 forward Dylan Dickey.
“We will be playing a regional schedule just like everyone else but with Gilford and Belmont both being Top 5 teams in Division III we don’t see that hurting as far as preparing for March,” said McDonough. “We have a group of seniors who want to win and are very appreciative of the opportunity to compete. We’re excited to get started.”
There had to be times a year ago when Pembroke Academy all-state forward Shea Shackford was prone to in-game flashbacks as he looked for teammates that were no longer there.
Coming off a championship in 2018, Shackford was the lone returning starter as his all-state point guard Noah Cummings was navigating the Springfield College offense as their starting floor general, and his all-state shooting guard Sean Menard was likewise starting up the road for 2019 National Champions NHTI (the proud sponsor of this preview!).
What Shackford had around him last season was a very young team of mostly freshman & sophomores, and predictably, the Spartans struggled in their title defense.
A year later, Shackford is off playing at Keene State College, and when head coach Rich Otis looks around, he sees sophomores and juniors instead of kids who just left middle school. "We are still extremely young, and we, like a lot of teams, would have really benefited from a full summer together, but I've certainly seen a lot of improvement."
"We took our lumps last year, but we got better as the season went along, and these players got a lot of game experience that should help us moving forward."
Junior guard Mike Pittman was good enough as a freshman to be in the rotation of that title-winning team. Last season the offense often looked like the 'Shackford/Pittman Show,' but now Otis envisions his all-state guard leading a more balanced attack.
"We as a group didn't trust each other out on the floor, and sometimes, when the ball should have been reversed, it wasn't," said Otis. "There is good cohesiveness with this group."
Pittman should be set up for a big year. He can handle the ball, shoot it on the perimeter or put the ball on the deck (I owe Jay Bilas a quarter). "No question, he can score for us," said Otis. "I have all the confidence in the world in him there, but we need him to be a facilitator for us as well."
Pembroke goes from a drive and kick team to one that will look to get the ball in the post more often (freshman and sophomores tend to grow). 6'4 Cooper Gilman, 6'4 Shaundell Hadley, and 6'4 sophomore Adam Heldman will all contribute for the Spartans.
Alex Francouer, Matt Magnew, Mike stroxy, and Preston Wallace all will get an opportunity for significant minutes in a team that now needs to take the next step in 2021.
"We are going to continue to pressure the ball and mix up our looks," said Otis. "We have the capability of being a pretty effective team down low, and I'm excited to get an opportunity to work with this group again this season."
John Langlois's travels through New Hampshire basketball read like something from a coaching journal you'd find in a gymnasium.
Four decades on the sidelines has seen him go from Newmarket (15 years and a Class M/Division III title) to 11 years at Somersworth (and another Class M/Division III title) to a stint at Bedford that included a 2012 Division II championship game appearance to three consecutive final fours at Campbell and finally a stop at Mascenic. Where a team he began the season with ended up as co-champions.
John has seen just about all of it by now.
"We only have seven players on the team right now," said Langlois.
But even 2021 has curveballs he hasn't seen yet.
"There have been some challenges early on. We got off to a late start, and then we had some players coming and going," said the new Manchester West head coach. "But I'll tell you, I love my team, and it's because of the potential we have."
Langlois takes over a West program that has struggled mightily since Danny Bryson left to take over at his alma mater Manchester Memorial. What he sees is a team that wants to work and a group with the athleticism to surprise some people in March.
"Five of our players are seniors, so they understand you only get one more go around. My plan coming in was to use our speed and come right at team's full-court but keeping everyone fresh and healthy is a priority."
Rawshaw Prescott is a combo guard who gives the Knights a scorer they can rely on. "He is skilled and very smart. He's going to be able to attack you offensively in a few different ways."
Sophomore Aiden Scott will get his chance right away along with Jacob Plamondon, one of the team's best defenders. "Jacob has a great work ethic," said Langlios. "He's someone I've been very impressed with."
Adam Podsadkowski and Tarik Krestalica will also be a part of a short bench that should come together nicely over the first month of the season. "We will win with our chemistry," said Langlios. "That is something we have going for us that a lot of teams won't. We are going to be a tight unit."
Note: Both Mike Smith of John Stark and Matt Lemieux (who takes over on an interim basis this year for Peter Pierce at Souhegan) let me know their teams have not practiced at all. That’s why they are not in the preview.
‘The Big Smooth’ Lewis Atkins takes over for Lorne Lucas at Oyster River and if you want to talk about the challenges of coaching in the 2020-21 school year you can feel free to start here.
When the Bobcats take the floor for their opener against Sanborn Atkins, who previously led Portsmouth Christian to the 2016 Division IV title game and assisted John Mulvey at Portsmouth the last two seasons, will have never coached his team in a summer league game or even a scrimmage.
“That’s going to be a challenge,” said Atkins.
He’s underplaying it.
Atkins will watch his team compete against someone they don't already go to class with for the first time but he likes the group he and sees improvements day to day. “We’re going to play man-to-man defense so that’s been a challenge early on,” said Smooth. “It’s just a different than they have played in the past and, naturally, it’s going to take some time to adjust.”
Ben Mattioni looks poised for a breakout year at small forward. Last year he was one of the team’s best outside shooters. That hasn’t changed, but Mattioni can now beat you in several different ways. “His game has really grown over the off-season and he’s developed into a player who can take the ball to the rim,” said Smooth.
Big man Doug McGown is the team’s vocal leader and although currently working hard to come back from an injury, will be a big contributor for the Bobcats. “Doug is going to have to control the boards for us and I believe he will,” said Smooth. “He’s capable of being a double-double guy for us.”
Hayden Marshall should step into the second scoring role behind Mattioni. The graduation of all-state guard Joe Morrell, now playing college basketball in South Carolina, and Kyle Miller took 32 points per game along with them but Atkins doesn’t think scoring will be an issue. “Hayden is a very good athlete and there are a lot of guys capable of stepping up who want their opportunity,” said Smooth.
Aidan Kelley will run the offense from the point guard spot (“He is a very good on the ball defender and if he makes open shots we are going to be very tough to guard.”) while guards Connor Shea and Sam Haskell will step into the rotation.
“When I studied film after I got the job what I saw was a lot of standing around and watching when Joe had the ball,” said Smooth. “With this group, you’re going to see four or five guys who can lead us in scoring on any given night, and that lends itself to a more balanced offense.”
“I can see the pieces are there, we just haven’t had the time yet to get in sync but we will.”
‘The Franchise’ Jennifer Chick-Ruth’s alma mater the Coe-Brown Bears missed the playoffs a year ago but with their leading scorer back and a promising group of underclassmen, they’ll be back in then mix again this season.
“ We have quite a few players on this team who you could classify as ‘Gym Rats’ so it’s been tough not being able to be in the gym more often,” said Hall of Fame head coach David Smith. “ They are a really fun group to work with and day by day they are getting better.”
All-state forward Keegan Paradis returns after averaging 17 points a game last season. “He’s developed his game to where he has become a more consistent shooter,” said Smith. “ He can get to the rim and we are going to need him to help us on the boards.”
A pair of seniors will start in the backcourt as Cole Smith will run the Bears offense from the point guard spot and Shane Corey will play alongside him at shooting guard. “Both players have been in the system so we have a lot of confidence in what they can do,” said Smith. “ They complement each other very well.”
If there is a breakout player for Coe-Brown it might be talented 6’2 sophomore Tommy Flanagan. As a freshman Flanagan saw minutes, a rarity for Smith’s usually upperclassman dominated teams. As a sophomore, he will play a vital role. “ He has a chance to be a very good player for us,” said Smith. “ He will contribute right away for us.”
Tommy Tremble & Tyler Bistany will also play right away along with Jack Lano & Sam Lapiejko and senior Carter Ford.
“ Like a lot of teams, it will take some time for us to come together,” said Smith. “Not having the pre-season is going to hurt the level of play early on but this is a group that really enjoys playing together. If we can defend better this season I think we have a real chance to compete this year.”
Coming off back-to-back quarterfinal appearances, the Kennett Eagles will need to replace a high scoring backcourt, but the system head coach Jack Loynd has in place should have the program in the mix for years to come.
“ We have been able to build a pipeline of players who have played AAU locally and on travel teams together,” said Loynd. “ That allows the players to compete and play together over the off-season, and over these past few seasons, we have seen it have a big effect on the program.”
Kennett has key players returning as shooting guard Evan Dascoulias will step into a more prominent role after the graduation of all-state guard Wyatt Arriaga. “Evan has been playing very well, and he gives us the ability to stretch the floor.”
6’4 Matt Nordwick and fellow forward Kyle Perry will give the Eagles production in the frontcourt as well. “ Matt gives us some size down low, and with Kyle, we have seen what he brings to the table. He is a good defender who will be a good rebounder for us as well.”
Evan Koroski, last seen barreling through the defense and into the endzone during the football season, has a chance to make an impact this season. “ He’s a terrific athlete. We just need to get him to defend like a basketball player and not a football player,” joked Loynd.
“ He’s physical out on the floor, and he plays very hard. When he gets in the lane, guys start bouncing off of him. I think he can really help us this year.”
A pair of underclassman Ben Dougherty and Alex Clark, should step in and play right away as well. “ I love my team,” said Loynd.
“ I’m looking forward to seeing us come together. We haven’t been in the gym as much as we’d like, so that’s an adjustment for, I’m sure most teams. We have a lot of underclassmen who have played together for years, and now it’s about bringing that together at the varsity level. The kids are excited to be playing, and we’re ready to get going.”
Without a senior on the roster the Plymouth Bobcats went 1-17 in 2020 (really do any of us feel like we won in 2020?) but with that entire roster back comes some momentum for Mike Sullivan’s program.
“ Last year was rough but I do think there were a lot of positives that came out of that experience and I’m seeing it in practices,” said Sullivan.
“ This is a group that has been playing together for a long time and unlike most teams I’ve had in the past, it’s made up of mostly basketball players. Kids that play the game year-round.”
Colby Cross and Griffin Charland both return to the starting lineup and both are expected to up their production. “ They are very athletic and as a group, this team has matured. The biggest leap you’re going to see in a player’s development usually comes between their sophomore and junior years.”
Point guard Jake Crowley is one of the team’s most improved players and will give the Bobcats scoring in addition to running the offense.
Both Will Fogarty and Zach Puoga will run the point as well as Sullivan feels like he has the depth to have an even rotation. “ I don’t see a drop-off when we go to the bench and that hasn’t always been the case.”
Parker Keeney and Tyler Stackowski (“ He’s emerged for us in the pre-season,” said Sullivan) will contribute right away as Plymouth will have lower division teams like Gilford in their new regional schedule.
“ We know how good the Lakes Region teams are and we have a great rivalry with Laconia. Our JV team had some success last season and I thought that did a lot to teach us to win games late,” said Sullivan. “ Now it’s really about getting better and taking it to the next level. We are focused on becoming a very good defensive team in the half-court and controlling pace.”
“It’s a really fun group to come coach every day and we are happy to have the opportunity to compete again.”
Pre-Season First Team All-State
Matt Lamy of Bow
Brogan Shannon of Kingswood
Isaiah Michaels of Con Val
Demarco McKissic of Laconia
Calvin Bates of Lebanon
Second Team All-State
Jake McGlinchey of Pelham
Griffin Wheeler of Merrimack Valley
Dylan Khalid of Sanborn
Mike Pittman of Pembroke Academy
Jake Dumont of Pelham
Other players to watch: Ethan Arnold of Kingswood, Jordan McConnell & Max Gailbraith of Hanover, Ben Mattioni of Oyster River, Robbie Haytayan of Hollis-Brookline, Zach Jones of Pelham, Eli Gove of Merrimack Valley, Rashaw Prescott of Manchester West, Keegan Paradis of Coe-Brown and Evan Dascoulias of Kennett
Coming Thursday: Division I