Prep Countdown: No. 7 Worcester Academy

Ed Reilly will be smiling a lot more this season than in his first two years. All you have to do it check out the Worcester Academy coach's starting five to see why he's excited about this season.

It's taken Ed Reilly a couple of years, but now it appears as though he has the talent and depth to compete against just about anyone in New England.

Reilly, who is entering his third year after taking over for Mo Cassara (now at Clark University), had to put together a patchwork team his first season after getting the job late and although he fared much better than his rookie campaign a year ago, the Hilltoppers look primed to step it up a notch this year.

Reilly will have plenty of balance and won't be so reliant on one player as he was last year with Jim Baron Jr.

``For the first time, we'll have depth at every position," Reilly said. "We'll be able to change our style and do some different things, especially defensively."

The Hilltoppers will have 7-foot, 200-pound Chas McFarland, a skilled big man who is considering Marquette, BC and Wake Forest, in the middle. The Lovington, Ill., native backed up Greg Oden this past spring and summer with Spiece Indy Heat, but he'll get a chance to be a focus of the offense in the prep ranks.

Starting alongside McFarland will be one of the hidden gems that has entered the United States of late – ultra-athletic 6-foot-7, 210-pound senior forward Ben Eaves, who is headed to UConn next fall. The England native can score in a variety of ways – and just needs to get stronger.

Rounding out the frontcourt will be 6-foot-6, 210-pound combo forward Kyle Cannon, who played last season at Towson Catholic (Md.) and is continuing to make the transition from the power forward to playing on the wing.

``We have a high-quality frontcourt," Reilly said. "A very talented frontline. Anytime you can build a team, at any school, around a 7-footer, a 6-7 and a 6-6 guy, it's a good start."

The backcourt will be equally impressive with young and quick sophomore guard Quasim Pugh, a 5-foot-10 jitterbug from New York who likes to get his teammates involved and push the ball up the court.

Joining Pugh will be the team's "glue" guy, 6-foot-2, 210-pound Brandon Carter, who teamed with Tyreke Evans at American Christian (Pa.) last year. Carter is versatile enough to play either backcourt spot and does a good job getting to the basket.

``He's got excellent basketball instincts and is probably our strongest finisher going to the basket," Reilly said. "He just needs to get back in shape."

Reilly will also bring in some talent off the bench, including arguably the team's top perimeter shooter – 6-foot-4, 185-pound Chris Peyes out of Long Beach Poly (Calif.). A local kid out of St. John's, 6-foot-4, 210-pound swingman Ross Pentland, should receive plenty of playing time because of his good decision-making – and 6-foot-4 Texan Mark Rosenberg is also a more-than-capable outside shooter. Reilly also welcomed in Pierre Bendegue, a 6-foot-7 senior from Cameroon, and hopes to get some rebounding help from Bendegue this season.

Anthony Weeks, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, and Lloyd Kennedy, a 6-5 junior, will give the Hilltoppers added depth.

``We haven't been able to be as physical as I'd like in the last two years," Reilly said. "We're still not where I'd like to be, but I think we're getting a lot closer with this group."

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