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Basketball Friday: Centercourt previews 2009-2010

Today is not Black Friday. Today is Basketball Friday.

Frequent blog contributor Centercourt is one of the elite members of Prep Talk Nation for his passion for high school sports (basketball obviously at the top of that list) and the excellent way he relates his insights and comports himself here on the blog.

He decided to write something as he took a look at the upcoming season. When he finished writing, it was nine pages long.

He emailed it to me and I decided to put it up here as a separate blog entry.

Enjoy -- I certainly did. 

---Keith McShea

* * *

Well the wait is just about over and it’s time to get the ball bouncing on what I think will be a season for the ages in Western New York.

The 2009-10 boys basketball season boasts a major crop of talented players returning, including nine of the 20 players selected for All-Western New York by The News last season, the reigning Player of the Year, state championship caliber teams, a defending state champion, a Federation caliber team, a Falls/Nichols rematch, an independent schedule, some intriguing classification changes, a couple notable transfers and the Far West Regionals back at Buffalo State.

What more could we hoops fans ask for?

Maybe those two games back and some programs by the start of the B-2 semis … anyway ...

THE PLAYERS

I’m not sure there has ever been a season in WNY that has returned 45 percent of the four All-WNY teams.

Two of them earned first team honors in 2008-09, including the most polished player this area has had since Jonny Flynn.

Entering a year loaded with players who have already made a significant impact on the local hoops scene, Will Regan returns for his senior year at Nichols as the most prominent of the bunch. Coming off a POY performance and already committed to continue his game at Virginia, Regan looks to repeat as the areas most dominant player and regain the Manhattan Cup he helped lead the Vikings to as a freshman.

Chris Secky enters his senior season having already helped Maple Grove advance to Glens Falls twice, once winning the Class C State Championship and being named the Class C State POY. The highly decorated athlete and pride of Bemus Point will take his skills to play at Le Moyne next year, following one last run as a Red Dragon.

Also back are: 08-09 Second Team: Domonique Jackson (East), Marc Coppola (Williamsville South), and Keron Briggs (Sweet Home). 08-09 Third Team: Ron Canestro (Nichols), Davon Marshall (Niagara Falls), and Blair Helton (Canisius). 08-09 Fourth Team: Carlos Rivera (Jamestown). 08-09 Honorable Mention: Jonas Stalyga (Grand Island), Justin Stokes (Middle College), Aaron Davis (North Tonawanda), Ethan Baker (Wilson), Levi Pace (Medina), Vince Kazmierczak (St. Mary’s), Isiah Jefferson (Riverside), Joe Palumbo (Olean), Ryan Carney (Olean), Alex Moore (Olean), Kenny Stokes (Niagara Falls), Trevor Short (Akron), Marcus Aiello (Allegany-Limestone), Christian Barczykowski (Alden), Darale Young (Middle College), Phil Stasiak (Williamsville South), Michael Bova (Westfield), Chris Holland (Grover), and Stan Wier (Nichols).

LEAGUE-BY-LEAGUE

Monsignor Martin Athletic Association

For three straight years, the Manhattan Cup finals have produced an upset. Three years ago, it was a young Nichols squad led by a pair of freshman that pulled it off. Two years ago, a St. Joe’s team that many had written off before the season started stunned the Vikings in the final. Last season, it was Canisius who avenged a pair of regular season losses to take the Cup from Nichols in the championship game.

Nichols has four starters back: Regan, Canestro, Andrew MacKinnon running the point and Conner Vandegriff. The fifth spot in the lineup will be filled by East Aurora transfer Stan Wier. Only a sophomore, Wier was an All-WNY HM last year, and brings an inside/outside game to the Vikings that will take pressure off both Regan and Canestro.

With the combination of talent and experience on this Nichols squad, there is no reason for them to set their sights on anything less than a Federation state championship as the team’s ultimate goal this season. But in order to get there, they will first have to survive at the Koessler Center.

Standing in their way is a trio of tenacious teams, capable of beating anyone on any given night.

St. Mary’s returns most of a state championship team and a second-year coaching staff that gained instant notoriety last season. Led by Kazmierczak and Joe Barnhardt, the Lancers will rely heavily on contributions Joe Cellino, Chad Griffin and Peter Notaro.

The defending Manhattan Cup Champs graduated a pair of captains and some big bodies inside, but Canisius returns nine players, including Helton and junior floor general Aaron Nevins. Max Baire, Taylor Baach, Brian Graham, and Max Milholland all saw minutes last year and 6’6” junior CJ Coatsworth transfers in from East Aurora.

The Marauders of St. Joe’s are back with all but three players from deep squad that continued to improve and impress as last season went on. Kyle Wojciechowski will likely assume the role of leadership following a terrific junior campain, while Matt Dyrek, Tom Escott, Connor Rehbaum and Jake Spitler all look to take another big step forward. Senior Brian Killeen hopes to rebound after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. According to its Web site, St. Joe's has only one sophomore on the roster - Chad Kelly (No. 12), 6-3, 190 pounds.

St. Francis – Kyle Clifford and Matthew Reger, Timon – Dut Dour, Mike and David Scarcello and Kyle Kobis, Cardinal O’Hara – Brendan Brady and Amir Thomas, and Niagara Catholic - Lorenzo Joseph and Stephen Beck are other notable returning players in the MMAA.

Yale Cup

The past two seasons have yielded a team with an unblemished mark in league play, only to see a team it had previously beaten go on to a more successful postseason.

The East High Panthers were the city champs a year ago before falling in the quarterfinal round to Cheektowaga in what was easily the greatest upset of sectional playoffs. East will once again look to have its named engraved on the cherished Yale Cup Trophy. They will be led by Jackson, one of the areas top two-way players, with Jamal Webb-type range. Deon Robinson is savvy guard in the backcourt, who along with Jason Oden, and inside presence Tremmell Fisher, should keep at the top of the league.

After finishing in the “middle” of the pack in its inaugural season, Middle College appears ready to challenge for the Yale Cup. Stokes and Young are two of the most athletic and talented players in the city. Combine those two with the return of Davon “Ding” Alexander and Keante Jones, add St. Joe’s transfer Sean Mulhern, and it’s easy to see why so many are predicting them to finish first.

Despite his Prep Talk plea for a big man, head coach Earl Schunk’s Grover Cleveland Presidents look like they will again be right in the mix behind the guard play of Chris Holland, Ricky Alejandro and Kenny Pringle.

McKinley graduated several top contributors from last season’s FWR qualifier, but thanks to a DEEP rotation, bring back some as well. Tamar Redden, James Harris, Shaquille Holman, and Aaron Martin all logged minutes during the season and the run through the sectionals.

Seneca has four solid players back from last season in Eric Hall, Aaron Fraiser, Andre Frasier, and Dominic Pitts.

Other notable players returning in the city league: South Park – Roderick Hough; City Honors – Clark Tritto; Burgard – Keon Paris; Hutch Tech – Maurice Miles; Buffalo Arts – Trezz Bailey; Emerson – Tishir Allen and Demetrius Stokes; and Lafayette – Darius West, Deandre Green and Davone Ferguson.

ECIC I

The Red Raiders of Jamestown split their regular season meetings with Williamsville North and Orchard Park last year, which cost them a share of the league title. This season, Jamestown could dominate league play similar to what Niagara Falls attains each year.

The Red Raiders are the only team in the league who enjoyed both postseason success and brought back a significant amount of talent. Rivera, Fletcher Larson, Darin Butts, Joey Campion, and Jaysean Paige highlight head coach Ben Drake’s team that has high aspirations of winning Class AA this year.

Clarence returns Nick Mahoney, David Hill, and Tyler Funk, Frontier has Darius Edwards and Nick Patronik, Orchard Park will be led by Troy Nowak, and JJ Harrington is back for Lancaster.

ECIC II

Sweet Home versus Williamsville South was sure to be a pair of epic battles last season before a very scary moment forced Coppola out during the first tilt and caused him to miss the second. That changed the complexion of matchup between two great teams with two great point guards.

The Panthers would take both contests en route to going unbeaten in the league. Only three graduated from that team and Sweet Home looks to repeat last year’s results. Briggs, DJ Nettles, Denzel Kirkland, Jordan Reeves, Alex David, Reggie Burke, Amie Mukendi, and Jordan Johnson are all back.

If anyone is going to blemish the league record of the Panthers, it will be Williamsville South. What the Billies lack in size, they more than make up for everywhere else. They have the most exciting playmaker from WNY in Coppola, to set up the always fast-breaking Stasiak and lethal 3-point shooter Joey Licata. Aaron Adams and Kevin O’Connell will also see plenty of action for Will South.

Lake Shore will suit up a pair of top players from the season before in Erik Marx and Sean Bellomo. Iroquois returns guard Calvin Sluberski, Williamsville East has Kelse Lee back, returning for Starpoint is Jon Corbi, and at West Seneca East, Jordan Kumro is back for his senior season.

ECIC III

Four teams from this league reached the semifinals at Buffalo State (Depew, Maryvale, Cheektowaga, and East Aurora). Despite being the only small school of the four, it was East Aurora who ended up taking the league title.

Depew lost a good amount of talent from the team that won its first sectional title in 42 years. A key ingredient from that team, floor general Jake Maryniewski returns, as well as Ricky Coburn, Matt Kowalski, Matt Kozlowski, and Nathan Goodson.

Buffalo State annual Maryvale returns Bryce Shepard, Blair Estarfaa, Tysean Rogers, Ty Buczkowski, and the Wendling brothers, Alex and Matt. East Aurora was hit hard in the off-season by graduation and transfers, but they do have Ryan Sweet and Matt Dotterwich back following strong performances last year.

After shocking WNY hoop fans by beating East, the Warriors from Cheektowaga are back with a new coach and are led by Aswad Jones.

ECIC IV

It was a two-horse race last year between Lackawanna and Alden. The league should be much more competitive this season, as most teams were very young in 2008-09.

The Steelers will be back with their usual blend of size and athleticism. Led by junior point guard Dondre Alexander who enters his fourth varsity season, Lackawanna also has Rashaan Reed, Julio Alvarado, Orlando Santiago, Gary Green, Damoni Hall, and Christian Cheatom.

Alden will control games in the paint with polished big man Christian Barczykowski. Anthony Gilbert, Tyler Cole, Drew Fortin and Matt Weber also return from last year’s bunch that finished just short of reaching the semifinals.

The rest of the teams in this league all return multiple players who received an All-League HM or better: Holland – Tom Makin, Jordan Farrant, and Buddy Lee; Tonawanda – Chris Hartkell, Kyle Schroeder, and Jesse Lalka; Cleveland Hill – Aaron Sanders, Andrew Gilliam, Kevin Brown, and Jacob Zielinski; JFK – Sean Fox and Brandon Kacala; Eden – Josh Smith and Brandon Dix.

Niagara Frontier League

There’s always the sub-plot of when Niagara Falls will lose a league for the first time. I’m guessing it won’t be this season. The Wolverines retained enough talent for their reign of league supremacy to continue.

Marshall, Stokes, CJ Cox, Mike Carson, Maurice Respress, Jordan Street, Gelajiade “Putter” Brown and DeQuincey Saunders all return from the AA State runner-up.

Kenmore West has the well-rounded game of Wade Josiah, complimented by Nate O’Donnell, Zach Bouley, and Dan Hannon. Grand Island has the 6-6 Stalyga, who can play anywhere on the court, along with Kolby Banker, Bobby Ross and Chris Gibney.

Lockport returns the ultra-athletic Shannon Haynes, Lew-Port brings back Marc Morreale, and NT hopes Aaron Davis recovers soon from his football injury.

Niagara-Orleans League

In a banner year for this league, three teams (Akron, Medina, Wilson) reached the semifinals and Akron ended a 29-year sectional title drought the league had been stuck in, winning Class B-2.

The Short brothers, Trevor and Alec, along with Evan Falkowski and Jaime Salcedo are back from the Tigers championship rotation. If big man Dylan Greiner returns to the team to fill the void left by JC Tretter, Akron will have a great chance at repeating last year’s success.

Medina split the regular season series with Akron in 2008-09. The 6-6 Pace returns along with shooter Adam Hellwig, guard Travis Bloom and Demetrius Thompson.

After a strong start, Wilson was swept by both Medina and Akron last year. The Lakemen have a highly skilled tandem in Baker and junior point guard Moxham. This is the final season the pair will play together, so the time is now for Wilson. The league's deepest team graduated just two players and also returns starters John Vincent and Colin Okiniewski.

Capable of beating any of these three is Newfane, who has a talented young squad (no seniors in the rotation) that may be a year away from something special.

Maple Grove

The Red Dragons are playing an intense independent schedule that is sure to have them prepared for a third straight trip to Glens Falls.

Besides the obvious talent and leadership of Secky, the Grove has size inside with Kevin McElrath and Matt Fox. It also returns Brian Julian, Will Nelson, and Connor Meekins. A pair of sophomores, Alex Grace and Sklar Liddell, made the trip to states last season after getting the call up from junior varsity.

CCAA I

Only three seniors graduated from the Olean team that was a missed three-pointer away from defeating eventual Class B state champion Bishop Kearney in the FWR. The Huskies come into this season with three All-WNY HM selections in Palumbo, Moore, and Carney.

Allegany-Limestone also returns all but three players from a year ago, including Aiello, Ben Giardini and Brandon Brandt. Southwestern will have a few well-known gridiron names back in Zach Sopak, Levi Bursch and Jasen Carlson.

CCAA II

Section champ Randolph returns Mike Maycock, Brady Morrison, Nick Milliman, and Matt Hettenbaugh. Cassadaga Valley has a pair of All-Leaguers back in B.J. Monacelli and Barry Mason, Salamanca brings back Christian Reiller and Matt DeBoy, and junior big man Bova returns to Westfield.

CCAA III

Sherman has a deep squad back led by senior Mike Reed, while Hinsdale returns both Pat Folland and Brian MacNeal.

Classification changes

Sweet Home & Hamburg move from A-1 up to AA; Riverside moves from A-1 down to A-2; Grover & Depew move from A-2 down to B-1; Emerson moves from C up to B-2; Middle College moves from A-2 down to C; Seneca & Oracle Charter move from D up to C.

Preseason large school poll

1. Nichols; 2. NFHS; 3. Jamestown; 4. Sweet Home; 5. Williamsville South; 6. East; 7. St. Joe’s; 8. Canisius; 9. McKinley; 10. Maryvale.

Preseason small school poll

1. Olean; 2. Middle College; 3. St. Mary’s; 4. Grover; 5. Depew; 6. Akron; 7. Allegany-Limestone; 8. Maple Grove; 9. Medina; 10. Wilson.

The small schools are very deep this year and it will take a few games to start sorting things out. Teams like Lackawanna, Randolph, Seneca, Alden, Cassadaga Valley, East Aurora, Niagara Catholic, Burgard, City Honors, Cleveland Hill, Cardinal O’Hara, etc. are all teams to watch for.

Predictions

League Champs: MMAA – Nichols, Yale Cup – East, ECIC I – Jamestown, ECIC II – Williamsville South, ECIC III – Maryvale, ECIC IV – Lackawanna, NFL – Niagara Falls, N-O – Wilson, CCAA I – Olean, CCAA II East – Randolph, CCAA II West – Cassadaga Valley, CCAA III East – Hinsdale, CCAA III West – Brocton.

Sectional Champs: AA – Niagara Falls, A1 – Williamsville South, A2 – East, B1 – Olean, B2 – Wilson, C – Middle College, D – Maple Grove

Manhattan Cup Playoff Seeds: 1. Nichols; 2. St. Joe’s; 3. Canisius; 4. St. Mary’s; 5. Timon; 6. St. Francis; 7. Cardinal O’Hara; 8. Niagara Catholic.

More predictions

** Nichols will play in the Class A Federation championship game.

** Middle College won’t win its own league, but will still win a state title in Class C.

** Three other schools, St. Mary’s, Olean and Maple Grove, will win state titles, meaning Olean and St. Mary’s will meet in the Class B Federation Championship.

** Regan will repeat as News POY.

** Justin Stokes will be named NYS Class C POY.

** Chris Secky will be named NYS Class D POY.

** This season, the All-WNY selection process will be more grueling than ever.

** I will watch over 100 games and love every minute of it.

So now it’s time for the Prep Talk regulars to chime in.

Let’s get the hoops discussion going …

hoopster, StateChamps2003, jackherlan, McShea is God, Chaut_Co, TML1000, delavan’s finest, Coach Earl Schunk, WNYHoops, hoopsboy, Andrew Webster, freethrow, Keith McShea and the rest of the high school hoop fans ….I want to hear from you!

--centercourt

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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

@KeithMcSheaBN | kmcshea@buffnews.com

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