I touched on this a little bit in last week's column, but here are my thoughts and storylines heading into the 2021 high school boys basketball season. Of course, it will look largely different considering the circumstances. The regular season will be
I touched on this a little bit in last week’s column, but here are my thoughts and storylines heading into the 2021 high school boys basketball season.
Of course, it will look largely different considering the circumstances. The regular season will be about a month give or take, schedules will be shortened, and who the heck knows what the playoffs will look like or if there even will be a postseason.
However, basketball is basketball and our teams are at the goal line here. Here are the things I will be eyeing with the teams in our coverage area. Bishop Hendricken
Let me admit off the bat, that I made an error in a recent column. I said that I was excited to see Sebastian Thomas this year and how he was going to develop as last year’s breakout star. I learned since then that he transferred to a prep school which was pretty big news.
The one thing about Hendricken basketball is that it has always been phenomenal at managing roster turnover each season. This year will be tougher than usual, but that’s no excuse since every team is in the same boat.
That long-term stability and culture starts with coach Jamal Gomes, who I believe is the best in the state. If you were to ask him, he would pass all the credit along to the kids as any great coach would do. But he is special and the best tone setter that a team can have.
His teams are so consistent both in terms of on the court X’s and O’s as well as the mental side of things and he is the reason why. I have no doubt that it will be capable of overcoming the loss of its best player from last season.
It won’t be easy and I would not be surprised to see the group take a small step back, at least in the first few games. However, the Hawks still have guys like Jason Onye and Cam Hughes up front and have David Lynch in the back, who I think could have a big breakout year of his own.
I think the key really will be the guys up front. If they can force their will on teams in the paint and let the guys operate in the back, then Hendricken will be right back toward the top.
I also believe that the wildness of this pandemic may work to the team’s favor, considering Gomes’ program. If any club can work through it, it’s the Hawks. Pilgrim
Last year, the Pats had a ton of buzz considering they imported two Hendricken transfers in Peter Kay and Tyriek Weeks. Sure enough, the team took a step forward and got back into the playoffs. Although it was a short postseason run, Pilgrim should have a real chance to take another step forward this time around.
Weeks is, I’d say, one of the top three or four players in the state. Even at the Division III level, there is no denying that any division he would be a force. He’s back, and I expect his final season to be a big one.
Pilgrim also has guys like Kenny Rix, Jared Reminder and Kay returning, this starting core will certainly be an experienced and competitive bunch. But at the end of the day, I believe the two biggest questions with this team will be: 1) Will Weeks dominate to the extent that will be needed to put the team over the top? 2) Will the bench fill itself out in the back?
If each of those things happen, then this Pilgrim team can absolutely be a contender in Division III. Toll Gate
The question going into last season was how the Titans would rebound after losing their big three from the season before in Brandon Scott, Kavi Simpson and Aidan Areson, who led them all the way to the elite eight of the state tournament.
Although things were a bit shaky in the early going, Toll Gate got hot down the stretch and returned to the postseason and picked up a win against Central Falls in the opening round.
This year, the Titans will face another year of turnover, but I do believe this team could be flying under the radar a little bit in its division.
The biggest loss, in my opinion, is Austin Noon. He wasn’t the flashiest player, but he was a dirt dog that always seemed to be at the right place at the right time. He was key coming off the bench two years ago and was a glue guy in the starting five last year. A level of toughness will be lost with his departure.
However, the team has a solid 1-2 combo with Fransisco Lopez and Liam Hart at the guard positions. Lopez took over the role at the team’s No. 1 last year and Hart carved out a role as the season went on. Each should have big years for the Titans, so although there will be work to do in filling out the roster, these two should give them a chance to be successful. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the front court. Cranston East
The Bolts had perhaps the youngest roster in Division I last year and are looking to make progress this year. East took it’s lumps last season and failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in years, so it’ll be fun to see how far this group will progress in a season that will be so wonky.
The key to it all will be senior Jamari Bell, who will be leading the way in the front court. This team, believe it or not, is still on the younger side and unproven. However, Bell has shown that he can be a real problem for teams up front, so it will be up to the guys behind him to make an impact and solidify the roster. Cranston West
The Falcons had a very strong campaign last year, advancing all the way to the elite eight to take on Hendricken prior to the season being cut short. Jared Olson and Andrew Dionizio were one of the state’s best duos and the team actually had a pretty underrated bench behind them. West was deep, had character and two studs.
Now, many of those bench players will be asked to step up into starting roles and take on a bigger load. Of all of our teams, West may have undergone the greatest change in terms of roster.
The name to watch for this season will be Caleb Harris, who had a big game in the semifinals last year against Portsmouth when he came off the bench and led the team with 16 points scored. He’s back, and should pick up where he left off. From there though, it seems to be a bit unsettled. Johnston
The Panthers were one of the surprise teams last year, taking their senior-laden roster all the way to overtime of the Division III finals.
Although so much of the team’s roster went on to graduate, I was actually surprised to see how many key members will be returning this winter. Most notably, forward Thomas Zednik who was one of the best players in all of the division last season.
He will be a senior this year and should continue to be dominant underneath the basket. The team also returns Hunter Remington, who became a steady presence in the back court, as well as Derek Salvatore, who was an important piece off the bench.
The team will be under new leadership as coach Ed Bedrosian stepped away, but with this trio, it should still be a playoff hopeful.