Just as he did last year, Prep Talk blog first-ballot Hall of Famer centercourt has previewed the 2010-11 boys basketball season. His email to me is certainly worthy of its own post. Enjoy.
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The 2009-2010 season lived up to its billing and was truly one for the ages. Western New York boasted two public school state champs, two Catholic state champs, a Federation champ, and in three out of five classes, the state player of the year.
But this is a preview, not a review. It’s time to look ahead to another season and see what new storylines unfold.
Centercourt on the players
A pair of standout talents from the Yale Cup who each earned third team All-WNY honors last season carry the torch from last year’s senior laden All-WNY class.
Chris Holland has emerged from a solid freshman point guard, into the most well-rounded player in the area and the unquestioned leader of his Presidents of Grover Cleveland. Holland excelled at every position on the court last season from both ends of the court. At times he would bring the ball up offensively and guard the opposition’s biggest player defensively. Whether he’s blocking shots, dishing no-look passes, lobbing alley-oops, or burying three-pointers, Holland is always making his presence known on the court.
After being the perfect compliment to a state championship team loaded with talent, Davon Alexander will now be tasked with carrying the load for the OTC Middle College Kats. The MVP from the state tournament can shoot the three, but thrives inside with aggressive rebounding and always goes up strong to finish. The best word I could use to describe Alexander is relentless. He is always in attack mode, plays through injury, and gets after it defensively.
Also back are the following All-WNY Honorable Mention selections from a year ago: Darin Butts (Jamestown), Jaysean Paige (Jamestown), Phil Stasiak (Williamsville South), Joe Licata (Williamsville South), David Hill (Clarence), Tyler Funk (Clarence), Aaron Nevins (Canisius), Maurice Miles (Hutch-Tech), Dondre Alexander (Lackawanna), Michael Bova (Westfield), Brennan Moxham (Wilson), Jordan Farrant (Holland).
Centercourt goes league-by-league
Centercourt on the Monsignor Martin Association
St. Joe’s brings back a group that has gained plenty of valuable experience over the past couple of seasons. Connor Rehbaum, Jake Spitler, Chad Kelly, Steve Moser, and Tom Escott all played varsity basketball as sophomores. Escott is currently out with an injury, but the Marauders are hopeful he can return before season’s end. Expectations are even higher after Reggie Agbeko, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound transfer from Ghana, joined the team. Agbeko is said to be very athletic and able to play both inside and out.
The Lancers of St. Mary’s could be headed toward a three-peat after collecting a pair of state titles. Peter Notaro looks primed for a big season and returns with Nathan Meyers, Chad Griffin, and Jake Denz from the team that triumphed over Salesian. Former McKinley Mack, Devin Redden came over to Lancaster last January and is joined this year by former teammate Erik Simmons, who was a Yale Cup honorable mention.
The Crusaders will look to Aaron Nevins for even more offense following the graduation of a trio of starters. Nevins enters his third season as the starting point guard at Canisius. They also return the always hardworking Gordon Lyons, along with C.J. Coatsworth and Ring Henry.
Bishop Timon St. Jude will continue to shoot well with Dave Scarcello and Kyle Kobis prowling the perimeter. Jordan Williams flashed his potential and is also back, along with Sean Fay.
Joseph Cauley, Mark Cassidy, Michael Wagner, Tyler Wagner, and Brett Cawthorn return for St. Francis.
Cardinal O’Hara has Xavier Evans, Deron Washington, Jerimiah Ward, and Kyree Carter.
Nichols returns Tom Noonan, William Cuthbert, and Osmond Sharif, while Eric Fields, Jeffrey Harem and Jordan Rhodes are joined by Niagara Falls transfer Joe Lowery at Niagara Catholic.
Centercourt on the Yale Cup
Grover Cleveland enters the year with high expectations, similar to OTC Middle College from a season ago. Chris Holland, Kenny Pringle, Jahnel Tobias, Maurice Cheatom, Dartwon Brooks, Kadeem Hillman, Lawrence Lomax, Kevin Hall, and Devonte Whittsett will try to first bring the Yale Cup back to 14th Street and then make some serious noise in Class C.
Looking to make more of the same noise is OTC Middle College. The defending champs have Davon Alexander, Keante Jones, Cordell Torres, Reggie Williams, and Xavier Wright back and are joined by talented CSAT transfer Desmond Lamar.
If you’re expecting a down year from East, it likely won’t be this year. The Panthers return Tremmell Fisher, Jasen Oden, Andre Jackson, Chris Boyd, and Rashaan Brown.
McKinley, Bennett, and Hutch Tech each made the Class A-1 semifinals last season and all three have a good chance to return this year.
The Macks of McKinley Antonio Avery, and also return John Black, Anthony Sanders, Damone Canty, Laron Waller, Jakan Freeman, Brian Cunningham, Dennis James, Dajuan Rutledge, and Devin Jackson. The Engineers of Hutch Tech have a great player back in Maurice Miles, along with Marcus Nelson, Denzell Washington, Tyshawn Walch, Chris Jenkins, Nelson Clark, and Robert Ferguson. Bennett brings back Deon Artis, Derrick Quarles, McKenzie Brown, Donald Brown, Derrick Turner, William Vanoy, Ronnie Parrett, Donald Clemons, and Forest Richardson from that squad.
The Riverside Frontiers will be right back in the mix behind the play of Justice Feggans, Willie Jefferson, Gilbert Herrera, and Lamont Little.
The rest of the teams in the Yale Cup each have a top player returning. Devin Ferguson is at Lafayette, Aaron Frazier from Seneca, Jamal Fizsell at Burgard, and City Honors has Jamaal Carter.
Centercourt on ECIC I
Despite finishing behind Orchard Park in their division, Jamestown was able to peak in the postseason and win a sectional crown in Class AA. This year, Jamestown will look to return to the top in league play. They return four-year varsity letterman Darin Butts, along with Jaysean Paige, Joey Campion, Chris Carlson, Ben Wrazen, and Tommy Campion.
After a breakthrough season that included a thrilling semifinal victory in Class AA, Clarence will once again be a top team behind a pair of top-notch seniors in Da-Da-Da-David Hill and Tyler Funk, along with Stephen Hughes and Stephen Eckert.
Entering just his freshman year, Sterling Taplin leads a Williamsville North team that looks contend for the ECIC I crown. Also back for the Spartans are Jonathan Safir, Edwin Young, Brandon Maranto, and Syed Hussain. JJ Harrington is back to lead Lancaster and Orchard Park has Matt McCormick back.
Frontier will look for a big season out of Darius Edwards, and also have Alex Warren, Matt Taylor, Tim Sweeney, Brian Antonik, Nick Gechell, Mitch Hatten, and Skyler Szymanski returning to a team that scored wins over the top two teams in ECIC I a year ago -- Orchard Park and Jamestown.
Centercourt on ECIC II
Although Williamsville South graduated its most dynamic playmaker, nearly the rest of the overall Class A and ECIC II championship team returns intact and looks to repeat on both feats. They return a pair of four-year starters in Phil Stasiak and Joey Licata, along with Erik Hansen, Kevin O’Connell, Aaron Adams, and Sam DiVita.
Sweet Home brings back Jordan Johnson, KJ Zinermon, and Mikal Coleman, while welcoming St. Joe’s transfer point guard Jayson Moore to the team.
Eric Stolzenburg and Trent Miller are back for the Flames at Williamsville East and Iroquois returns Conor Gallivan and Chris Evans.
Centercourt on ECIC III
Depew continues to reload each season, and this season’s version of the Wildcats will feature Jaden Cotton, Rick Anna, Sam Sallaj, Anthony Emmanuele, Aaron Ertel, and freshman Derek Sekuterski.
East Aurora will attempt to return to the top of the division behind Jameson Arnold, DJ Miller, Mike Rhoades, Steve Smith, and John Werbitsky. The Flyers of Maryvale get Blair Estarfaa back for one more year, along with Andrew Luckey. Cheektowaga brings back Aswad Jones and Brandon Nance.
Centercourt on ECIC IV
Lackawanna looks to continue its divisional dominance this season, lead by Dondre Alexander, along with Christian Cheatom, Shayne Daley, and Brandon Johnson.
Cleveland Hill will look to build off a strong finish to last season. The Golden Eagles bring back Daryl Spencer, Omar Ramadhan, Julian Glover, Jailyn Tompkins, and Dean Sullivan from the Class B-2 runner-up squad.
The Warriors of Tonawanda have enough talent back to be in the mix with Jesse Lalka, Kyle Schroeder, and Clayton Hess. JFK showed flashes at the end of the season and bring back Sean Fox and Ryan Kowal. Alden will compete once again and have two of its school's top athletes back in Tyler Stoldt and Dakota Peel. Holland may have the top player in the league in junior Jordan Farrant.
Centercourt on the Niagara Frontier League
Niagara Falls had nowhere to go but down, and that’s exactly where they fell. The Wolverines hope to begin their ascension back to a being a dominant program this year. They return Jordan Street, JJ Wilkes, Jermaine Crumpton, Taijay Williams, Quandray Gray, and Dave Pascucco.
Joe Montesanti, Jesse Puscheck, Matt Skinner, and Dan Montesanti are all back in action at North Tonawanda hoping to repeat as league champs.
Kenmore West will be lead by the duo of point guard Martin Bailey and Ryan Grandits.
Steve Vitello, Ben Tomkins, Liam Dodd, and Tom Dzielski will be relied upon this season at Grand Island.
Lockport will look for contributions from Prince Knight and Tyler Davis The Bulldogs of Kenmore East feature Dante Bono and PJ Blanch. Marc Morreale leads a cast of shooters at Lew-Port and Niagara Wheatfield returns the 6-6 Jake Hughes.
Centercourt on the Niagara-Orleans League
The Lakemen will look to repeat as league champs and make another run at their first ever sectional crown behind the leadership of Brennan Moxham. Tyler Truesdell, Joe Parrott, Patrick Walch, and Jordan Thilk all return to Wilson.
Newfane returns all five starters in Rohn Pierce, Sean Seefeldt, Dan Hambruch, Drew McCullough, and Steve Kneeland.
Willie Jakes is back at Medina along with East High transfer Lonnie Taylor. Barker has a rising star in Josh Haight, Akron brings back Jaime Salcedo, and Justin Black leads a CSAT team that only graduated one player.
Centercourt on Chautauqua-Cattaraugus
Olean hopes to continue its winning ways with Roger Wangelin, Maleke Fuentes, Alex Curtin, and Paul Pezzimenti.
Defending state champion Maple Grove moves forward with Alex Grace, Jordan Saxton, Connor Meekins, Gage Milliman, and Ryan Kibbe.
Brian Tobola and Andrew Caya lead a Portville team that returns eight players. Joe DeRose, Clayton Schuh, Brad Costa, and TJ Hulse are back for Allegany-Limestone. Michael Bova is primed for a huge season at Westfield, Fredonia returns Brian Ward, and Vincent Bomasuto is back at Dunkirk.
Class C finalist Cassadaga Valley returns Dalton Walsh, Robert Glover, Josh Richter, and Simeon Schauman. Frewsburg brings back Gage Bird, Ian McFarland, and Kyle Elderkin. Randolph welcomes Brady Morrison and Nick Milliman back to a Cardinals team that only graduated two players. Salamanca graduated just three, and brings back Jackson John, Jevon Battle, and Matt DeBoy. Forestville returns Sean Finch, Jake Reynolds, Nick Huyuk, and Jayson Zipp.
Silver Creek has both Zach Williams and Cody Hehir coming back. Nick Darcy and Anthony Sutton return to West Valley, Ellicotville returns Colin Lapi, and Cattaraugus Little Valley gets Chris Draudt back. Panama will be lead by Nick Lenart and Chris Enlow. Clymer returns Cliff Bailey, and Brendan Bentham and Jason Howard are back at Pine Valley.
Centercourt on the charter schools and the IAC
Daz Knight transferred from Cardinal O’Hara to Tapestry Charter to play at the new Thunderdome with last season’s leading scorer, Daryl Hollins. Jack Ranallo returns for Christian Central Academy, while Nathan Ritter is back at New Life.
Sal Constantino at Niagara Falls, Erik O’Bryan at Niagara Wheatfield, Ryan Mountain at North Tonawanda, Michael Meetze at Kenmore West, Scott Martin at Sweet Home, Nate Beutel at Grand Island, Matt Krotz at Pioneer, Eric Klumpp at Newfane, Sean Ryan at Grover Cleveland, and Earl Schunk at Tapestry Charter.
McKinley moves up from A-1 to AA; Sweet Home and Hamburg move down from AA to A-1; Lafayette moves up from A-2 to A-1; Olean, Depew, East Aurora, and Springville move up from B-1 to A-2; Burgard moves up from B-2 to A-2; Akron, JFK, Buffalo Arts, and Roy-Hart move up from B-2 to B-1; Fredonia moves down from B-1 to B-2; Cassadaga Valley and CSAT move up from C to B-2; Grover Cleveland moves down fro B-1 to C; Maple Grove and Franklinville move up from D to C.
Centercourt's preseason polls
Large schools: 1. St. Joe’s; 2. Williamsville South; 3. Jamestown; 4. Canisius; 5. Clarence; 6. Niagara Falls; 7. East; 8. Depew; 9. Williamsville North; 10. McKinley.
Small schools: 1. Grover Cleveland; 2. St. Mary’s; 3. OTC Middle College; 4. Lackawanna; 5. Wilson; 6. Newfane; 7. Cleveland Hill; 8. Westfield; 9. Maple Grove; 10. Portville.
Centercourt's team predictions
League champs: MMAA – St. Joe’s, Yale Cup – Grover Cleveland, ECIC I – Jamestown, ECIC II – Williamsville South, ECIC III – Depew, ECIC IV – Lackawanna, NFL – Niagara Falls, N-O – Wilson/Newfane split, CCAA I – Olean, CCAA II East – Portville, CCAA II West – Westfield, CCAA III East – Forestville, CCAA III West – Panama.
Postseason champs: Manhattan Cup Champs: St. Joe’s; Section VI Champs: AA – Jamestown, A-1 – Williamsville South, A-2 – Buffalo East, B-1 – Newfane, B-2 – Wilson, C – Grover Cleveland, D – Panama.
More Centercourt predictions:
** Chris Holland will be named Buffalo News and NYS Class C POY.
** Grover Cleveland will be the only team from Section VI to advance to Glens Falls.
** St. Mary’s will win a third straight Class B Catholic state title.
** Olean’s streak of four straight overall Class B titles will end.
** Despite retiring, Dave Thomas will continue to announce games at Buffalo State.
** During sectionals, concession stands at Buffalo State will be out of pizza at halftime of every game.
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The News' high school basketball previews will be published in our first two Scholastic Spotlight editions of the winter on Dec. 7 (boys) and 14 (girls).
There were some early tipoffs over the weekend but what I consider to be the unofficial start to the season occurs tonight at Daemen College as the week-long Pastor-Cooper Memorial Tournament gets started.