Before the 2013-14 season began, a handful of New Hampshire boys basketball coaches were asked to name the best players in Division I. None of them mentioned Nashua South point guard Yordy Tavarez.
Perhaps it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. How else to explain the oversight?
Tavarez, a 6-foot senior, was on South’s varsity roster during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he was academically ineligible last season, when South finished 19-5 overall (16-5 in Division I) and reached the Division I semifinals.
Tavarez has been a scoring machine so far this season. He opened the season with a 25-point performance during a victory over Spaulding (Rochester), and then tossed in 28 when South beat Pinkerton Academy (Derry).
Tavarez scored a career-high 32 points when South beat Alvirne (Hudson) 61-59 in the Chick-fil-A Holiday Tournament’s championship game last weekend. That victory raised the team’s record to 5-0. Tavarez is averaging 27 points in those five contests.
“We have other kids who are capable (scorers), but he’s so quick and so athletic,” Nashua South coach Nate Mazzerole said. “He’s doing it from inside and outside. He’s gets to the rim very well and he’s increased his range. He’s a very good 3-point shooter. He’s also a very good on-ball defender.
“He’s tough-nosed, talented and the hardest worker on the court -- everything you’d want as a coach,” Mazzerole continued. “He’s lacked some guidance in his life, so getting back into basketball is so good for him. He told me, ‘After one game everyone in the state is going to know who I am again.’ He’s a man of his word.”
South needed someone like Tavarez this season, since the Panthers lost four starters from their 2012-13 team. Point guard Tim Preston is among those who is no longer with the team. Preston transferred from South to Lawrence Academy following his junior year.
“Tim Preston would have arguably been one of the top five players in the state, but Yordy worked with us in the summer and we knew what he was capable of,” Mazzerole said. “We’re undersized, but I thought because of our athleticism we would be competitive every night.”
Trevor Knight, New Hampshire’s Gatorade Player of the Year for football, is among those who compliment Tavarez. Knight made a buzzer-beating layup in South’s victory over Alvirne.
“Trevor is an athlete,” Mazzerole said. “He’s a winner.”
The rest of the starting lineup features Vinny Ortolano, Cam Joyal and 6-foot-5 center Mike Osgood.
“He’s really more of a small forward who can shoot it,” Mazzerole said. “We’re really 12 guards and one 6-5 kid.”
Although several coaches wrote off Nashua South when Preston transferred, the Panthers have been one of the state’s bigger surprises thus far. Of course tougher tests await.
“We’re playing solid,” Mazzerole said. “We’re progressing the way we had hoped.
“Having Yordy back helps. He’s worked hard, so hopefully some college coaches will see what he’s capable of. He’s definitely someone who could use basketball to get a college education.”
Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and covers New Hampshire high school sports for ESPN Boston. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.