Notes and observations from around the state of MIAA basketball:
Pittsfield's Adopo on a tear: Last week in our midseason superlatives, we brought light to a number of players that have either been a big surprise or are simply flying under the radar, from Melrose’s Frantdzy Pierrot, to Wayland’s Jaleel Bell, to Dorchester’s Dakari Wornum and a slew of kids in between.
But this one might take the cake. Take note of Pittsfield’s Amancho Adopo, a junior guard transplanted to the Berkshires from Harlem, by way of Ivory Coast, who is blazing through the scene right now.
The 6-foot-1 Adopo is putting up video game numbers for the 8-4 Generals. On Jan. 11, he went for 24 points and 24 rebounds in a win over Hoosac Valley. Last Friday, in an overtime loss to intra-city rival Taconic, he finished with this voluminous stat line: 23 points, 20 rebounds, six assists, five steals and two blocks. On the season, he’s averaging 21.6 points, 19.8 rebounds and close to eight assists.
“I’ve never seen anyone go up, down and sideways as good as him for his size,” Generals coach Steve Ray said. “When he’s pulling down rebounds, he’s above the rim when he’s pulling them, and he’s consistently doing that first through fourth quarter.
“He’s in tremendous physical shape. He’s really the engine that drives the team, and I’d imagine any other team, just a tremendous player to watch. He doesn’t take plays off on defense, he’s as good an all-around player I’ve ever seen. Not often do you get a guy putting up 20 and 20 rebounds, and he’s doing it from a guard position.”
Adopo moved to Pittsfield two years ago from the Manhattan borough, and has been wowing folks ever since. Seemingly as fast sideways as he is forward, some of Adopo’s athletic feats are impressive, including jumping over players for rebounds in practice.
Ray compared his ballhandling to “street ball”, bred on the concrete courts of New York City summers. Adopo also plays his AAU ball with several New York-based squads during the summer.
“It’s like watching an And1 video, his euro-step is something,” Ray said. “He’s breaking ankles every day in practice. He brings that energy and that type of game from the city and not just the experience, but his athletic ability.”
Just how high is his ceiling? Ray made a comparison to the legendary Sedale Jones, a 1,900-point scorer who walked-on at UMass before ending up at Curry College, where he is currently a senior.
“We’ve had a lot of good athletes go through here at Pittsfield High, including Sedale Jones, and this kid is as good,” Ray said. “He may not be as good a shooter -- if this kid has to work on any part of his game, it’s his jump shot -- but certainly he’s as good as any player that’s been around here.”
He continued, “In terms of athletic ability, I’m 56 years old, I’ve been involved with basketball for over 20 years. I talk to everyone in the local basketball community, and I don’t remember when someone talked about a guy like this in a long time.”
Malcolm's back in the middle: We knew Malcolm Smith wouldn’t be out of work for long, after resigning as head coach at East Boston this past fall as part of his new duties as Dean of Students at Hyde Park’s New Mission High.
It took literally half a season before he got the itch again.
Smith insists he did not want to get back into coaching –- “That was the last thing I wanted,” he said. But after receiving a call from Cristo Rey athletic director Marcela Ochoa and listening to their story, “It broke my heart”.
The school, located in Dorchester’s Savin Hill neighborhood, was in a bind. Its coach, John Barbosa, had just resigned. The varsity was thin, down to six players –- not one of whom was over 6-foot, and three of whom had less than two years of formal experience in the sport.
“I went down there, and they were on the verge of maybe possibly have to cancel the season if they couldn’t find a coach,” Smith said. “Some of the kids in there, they done broke my heart. I was like, ‘Damn’. When she was like ‘We’re not gonna be able to finish the season if I can’t find anyone’, I just took it.”
Smith took the reigns last Friday alongside Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) and former Mission High product Eggie McRae, and the results have been solid thus far on such a short notice. With just two abbreviated practices under their belt, the Knights are 1-1 under Smith, going down swinging to Lowell Catholic on Saturday (70-66) then upsetting Division 4 powerhouse Boston Cathedral yesterday (58-55).
“The smiles they had on their faces at Cathedral yesterday were priceless, they were so elated,” Smith said. “It was genuine – genuine. These kids were so happy, our fans stormed the court. And mind you this is at Cathedral, you don’t get too many wins in that building.”
Smith has been a popular recurring guest on ESPNBoston.com’s high school basketball podcasts this winter, with insightful candor and colorful tales of the physical, sometimes comically MMA-esque practices over his seven-year tenure at Eastie. Smith’s first practice with the Knights “by accident turned more into wrestling than basketball”, but the results translated to the court over the weekend.
“Theyre playing dumb hard, extra hard,” Smith said. “I had a kid break two of his fingers going for a loose ball on the floor, so I’ve had to call up another JV player. But that effort, that’s all I ask for. I’m getting the fullest from them in terms of how hard they’re playing. They’re going very hard, very physical.”
The Knights, who compete in the Catholic Central Small and MIAA Division 4, are a still at work in progress at 5-7 -- and with just seven players on the varsity, their depth will be tested. So far, though, they're having a blast. Having McRae, himself a former college player at UTEP, riding side-saddle has made it all the much better.
McRae, who coached the BABC to 16-and-under AAU national titles each of the last two summers, does most of the playcalling.
“He’s one of the most underrated coaches, that’s no B.S. -– you can quote me on that,” Smith said. “One of most underrated running around at any level. He’s a big-time coach in the waiting.”
How long Cristo Rey’s fortunes last is anyone’s guess, but one player in particular to watch the next few years is sophomore Brandon Williams. The 5-foot-9 combo guard is a pugilist in the paint, using his strong upper body to muscle his way to baskets, leading the team in both scoring (13 points) and rebounding (12 boards).
One local coach who spoke to ESPNBoston.com called Robinson “a well-built guard, deep long-range and a pit-bull on defense”. The coach then cracked, “he reminds me of watching Vinnie Johnson at times”.
Smith echoed similar sentiments.
“He’s like a power guard,” Smith said. “He’s more an inside guy than an outside guy, like a 5-9 power forward. He does a lot of work on the inside, and he’s strong. Brandon’s got a chance, I dunno how many 5-9 power forwards there are, but he’s definitely got a chance.”
Miscellaneous: Boston Cathedral sophomore guard Jade Moore needs just 12 points to get her 1,000th, and could possibly get it tomorrow night against Pope John XXIII. The 5-foot-8 Moore ranks second in the state in scoring average (26.1 points), behind Barnstable's Molly Bent (28.0 points) ... It's been a breakout year for many a sophomore across the state of Massachusetts, from St. John's Prep's Ben Judson to Springfield Central's Chris Baldwin to Algonquin's A.J. Brodeur. Another one to stick on the radar should be Oliver Ames' Ryan Carney, who ranks second in the Hockomock League in scoring average (18.7), just one decimal below Attleboro junior Tim Walsh (18.8) ... Earlier this month, Central Catholic junior guard Tyler Nelson received his first Division 1 scholarship offer, from Dartmouth. Nelson was nearly a unanimous choice in last week's midseason roundtable on ESPNBoston.com as our Player of the Year.