In our first "Roundtable" of the 2012-13 high school basketball season, we're joined by Beantown Hoops' Rob Sarmiento and Hockomock Sports' Josh Perry as we take a look at the state's best shooters, and some of the sleepers to watch out for.
1. WHICH CURRENTLY UNRANKED TEAMS WILL BE THE BIGGEST SURPRISES?
Brendan Hall, ESPN Boston High Schools Editor
Needham will be an intriguing team to watch just based on its size alone, between juniors Trevor Dow (6-foot-8) and John Madsen (6-foot-6). All that considered, the Rockets are not totally polished in the frontcourt, but when they are clicking they do impressive things like Saturday night's 63-60 upset of Brighton. If senior shooting guard Connor McLeod plays like that the rest of the way, he should be in All-State consideration by season's end.
Also keep an eye on North Quincy, by far the biggest surprise in D1 South based on the first week of action. The Red Raiders fell to Brockton by one point in last Friday's season-opener, then last Wednesday went up double-digits on Wareham in the first half before holding on for a 61-58 win. The Raiders found success breaking Wareham's 1-3-1 zone with the marksmanship of twin brothers Pat and Dan Gould, and in general they space the floor well on offense.
In the North, keep an eye out for Malden, which got 44 points from sophomore Anthony Gilardi in Wednesday's season-opening win over Winthrop, and has two other dynamic scorers in seniors Rodney Morton and Terrence Maisonneuve. Waltham returns almost everyone from last year's surprise squad that upset Lynn English in D1 North, so they should be considered as well.
After last weekend's Randolph jamboree, we penciled in Worcester South as a dark horse in D1 Central, but we may have to add a few teams to that list. Shrewsbury upset Doherty in overtime on Tuesday night, then last night Wachusett dropped Worcester North 63-12.
Rob Sarmiento, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Beantown Hoops (beantownhoops.com)
We had Concord-Carlisle at both of our fall shootouts in September and I like their potential. Jamir Henderson is strong at the point, Zach Dowd is an underrated shooter from the perimeter and Alex Sugarman is getting plenty of D3 looks for his improvement the last two years. A team that could suprise in CMass is Wachusett. Good size, solid guard play, and very well coached.
Josh Perry, Managing Editor, Hockomock Sports (hockomocksports.com)
Needham is currently in the "Last 10 Out" in ESPNBoston.com's rankings, so it’s not a stunning upset, but the 63-60 win over no. 10 Brighton to open the season showed that the Rockets will be a team to be reckoned with in the Bay State Conference alongside Newton North and Weymouth. Also, don’t count out another strong season from Stoughton in the Hockomock. The Knights lost Aaron Calixte, but still have star guard Marcus Middleton in a pretty balanced Davenport division. Stoughton shouldn’t be overlooked by any opponent.
2. WHO ARE THE BEST SHOOTERS IN THE MIAA?
Hall: Safe to say Central Catholic junior guard Tyler Nelson is the no-brainer atop everyone's list here. When he gets going from deep, he gets going like few others around. That said, we should consider a few others in the conversation.
Daivon Edwards nailed 98 three-pointers in 26 games last season for Brighton, and looks to be primed for another impressive run. I got the chance to check him out during the preseason, and it looks like he's straightened -- and quickened -- his release. Andover's Sam Dowden is just as smooth as anyone else, and Newton North sophomore Tommy Mobley is simply automatic. In a few months' time, we might be adding Catholic Memorial sophomore Giulien Smith to this list if his performance against Franklin on Tuesday night is any indicator.
Sarmiento: Tyler Nelson of Central Catholic and Sam Dowden of Andover hands down. Nelson and Dowden have both shown the ability to knock down the three consistently but more importantly in pressure situations in big games. Sam Bohmiller of Franklin is right there too, but if I had to put money on it Nelson and Dowden are my guys.
3. WHO WILL LEAD THE STATE IN SCORING AVERAGE?
Hall: This is an interesting debate, because all of the natural candidates have sidekicks that can bail them out on a given night. My gut tells me to go with BC High's Jameilen Jones, even though to this point he hasn't been asked to shoulder the majority of the scoring load. However, he is one of the most difficult players to defend one-on-one, and with a marked improvement from point guard Charles Collins, I can see him going off for an even bigger campaign than his All-State season of 2011-12.
Sarmiento: A lot of good candidates, but I'm going to go with a suprise pick, Greg Bridges of New Mission. He can shoot, score at the rim, and more importanly to this question, plays for a team that will press and run -- which means a lot more scoring opportunities.
4. THERE DOESN'T APPEAR TO BE AN OVERWHELMING FAVORITE IN DIVISION 2 SOUTH. ARE THERE ANY FAVORITES? WHO COULD SURPRISE IN THAT DISTRICT?
Hall: The short and simple answer to the first question here is no. As for the second question...Well, that's where things get interesting.
We were spoiled in D2 South the last several years with a dynamic, Division 1-caliber player capable of taking the game over, such as King Philip's Jake Layman and Stoughton's Aaron Calixte. This season, it's a pretty even front, which is why I still like Dorchester in this region even after falling by double-digits to Cambridge on Monday night. The Bears will be a matchup problem with 6-foot-7 forwards D'Bryant Coraprez and Dakari Hannahwornum, and they can score in bunches in transition with guards Dean Lee and C.J. Agnew.
But right now, the Bears are no better than any of possibly a dozen other teams capable of taking the field. Falmouth has one of the region's best coaches in Paul Lundberg, and a feisty point guard in four-year starter Andrew McGill. Stoughton may have taken a hit with the loss of Calixte to prep school, and may take a beating in the Hockomock; but if they get into the tournament, I like my chances with Marcus Middleton and Joe Bunce-Grenon. Also keep an eye on Hopkinton, Medfield, Oliver Ames, Plymouth North, Sharon, Somerset-Berkley, Wellesley and Whitman-Hanson.
Sarmiento: Seems like a down year in D2 South with no apparent favorite, but I do like Falmouth early. They were the No. 1 seed last year before falling to Oliver Ames, and have a lot to prove this year.
Perry: I don’t think that anyone has pulled away to be a favorite in D2 South. While I don’t expect Stoughton to repeat as sectional champs, don’t count out the Knights making some noise. Sharon has very high expectations this season behind star guard Brian Mukasa and the Tri-Valley League could be a tough out again with both Medfield and Hopkinton threats to win it.
5. IN GIRLS' BASKETBALL, WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST LEAGUE IN THE STATE?
Hall: My vote is for the Dual County League. The Merrimack Valley Conference has accounted for the last four Division 1 state titles, while the Catholic Central has taken three of the last six in D3 and sandwiched in the D2 title in 2011. But they are more top-heavy than the DCL, which gets pretty even production from both tiers of its leagues.
In any given year, the top four teams in the DCL are among the state's best. This year it's looking like a race between Lincoln-Sudbury, Newton South and Westford Academy for the Large title, though Acton-Boxborough should be right in the mix as well. In the Small division things have shored up, with Bedford coming off a 19-win season and Weston expected to be improved.
Sarmiento: It's a toss up between the MVC and CCL, but I'm going to go with the MVC. Archbishop Williams, St. Mary's of Lynn, Arlington Catholic, and Cardinal Spellman have all been strong and ranked in the Top 25 the past three seasons, but the three headed monster of Andover, Central Catholic, and Billerica this year make the MVC the choice this season.
Perry: The Merrimack Valley Conference is loaded in girls’ basketball. Three teams in the top 10 including Central Catholic and, the three-time defending state champs, Andover means that the league is as deep as any in the state.