NEPSAC Championship Sunday

March 6th marked the final date for NEPSAC games to be played. Luckily for Friar fans – and the PC coaching staff – the championships were held locally at Rhode Island College.

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At 3 p.m., Cushing Academy tipped off against Vermont Academy, and then at 5 p.m., Northfield Mount Herman took on St. Thomas More.

 

Cushing Academy is led by a trio of 2017 recruits. The Friars have shown a lot of interest in all three players, particularly in Makai Ashton-Langford, a consensus top 35 point guard on all rankings websites. Makai checks in at 6’2, is long, and is everything you want in your lead guard. Paired with him in the back court is Wabissa Bede, a 6’0 point guard who can do a little bit of everything. The final member of the trio is Jarrod Simmons, a bouncy 6’8 PF.

 

Vermont is led by a combo of Bruce Brown and Ty Jones who are both 2016 players headed to Miami and Xavier, respectively. The player from Vermont that the Friars have been involved with is 6’7 wing Christian David from the class of 2017.

 

Rhode Island College was a packed house for the 3 p.m. tilt, and the game itself did not disappoint. Friar fans who were in attendance to catch a glimpse of the Cushing trio may have been a tad disappointed as they did not see a dominating group. What they did see was Bruce Brown, the top 30 guard who is headed to Miami put on an absolute show. ESPN Top 10 dunks, huge 3’s, and a monster 35 point performance led VA to a 69-61 victory.

 

Makai, who is in the discussion for being the best player in the New England class of 2017 showed glimpses at times of why he is being talked about that way. Makai finished with 17 points, and a handful of assists. Makai showed flashes at certain points throughout the game that would absolutely have you believe he is the top PG in New England. VA multiple times throughout the game played a 2-2-1 press, which really forced Cushing to slow down. In doing so, it limited time on the shot clock, and did not allow Cushing to get into a lot of their stuff. Makai had moments of getting to the rim at will, flying past his defender and making acrobatic plays. He did struggle at times as well, trying to force things, it seemed, as Cushing played most of the game from behind.  I would say his biggest weakness – and I know Friar fans will not like to hear this – is his outside shooting.

 

A major factor in why Cushing played from behind was the void Simmons left in the first half. Simmons, who I have seen multiple times this year, picked up two fouls within the first five minutes of the game and sat on the bench for most of the first half. He played a much bigger role in the second half, even while continuing to struggle with fouls. Simmons finished the game with 5 points and 12 rebounds. Simmons is a crazy athletic 6’8 forward, who can sky and grab boards, and has a nice touch around the rim. He was matched up with Ty Jones, who is a much more physical player than Simmons is, as he is giving up probably around 25 pounds to Jones.

 

Bede has always been a favorite of mine from Cushing. He and Makai are a great back court tandem, they are both true point guards, and work really well together. As far as I am concerned, Bede is the better shooter, and he showed that by starting the game off burying a deep 3. Bede isn’t going to overwhelm you with size, as he checks in at just about 6’0, but he’s a kid that is not going to do anything to hurt you. He had 12 points in the game, and showed a really nice mid-range game.

 

Unfortunately, anyone in the house to see Christian David missed out.  About half way through the first half David scrambled for a loose ball and it looked as if he was rolled up on pretty badly. He went down hard and the gym went silent. You could see the pain on his face, and after about a 5-10 minute delay, David was helped off the floor and was in clear pain. I will update everyone as soon as I hear the severity of the injury. I think we can all hope for Christian to dodge a bullet here. Bruce Brown stole the show for Vermont.  He had 35 points, a handful of rebounds, and showed off his crazy athleticism with some ridiculous dunks.

 

The good news is, as of now, all three players have another year to work on their craft. Makai is clearly the main target. Ed Cooley and Brian Blaney were both front and center for the game. It will be interesting to see how the recruitment plays out for the Cushing trio.

 

The second game Featured Northfield Mount Herman, who sports a handful of kids the Friars have been rumored to be involved with, against St. Thomas More.  Friar fans constantly are buzzing about NMH Rhode Islander Tomas Murphy, and I’m sorry to write this for everyone with high hopes, but I am officially off that bandwagon. I am not saying it’s not possible that I will jump on board with later on this summer, or next winter, but for now, I think there are much better options out there at this point. Tomas hardly saw the floor today, and when he did, he didn’t do anything to stand out. That’s the third time I have seen him within the last month, and every result has been the same.

 

I wrote about Nate Laszewski a month or so ago when I saw him play in the NPSI. He was impressive then for only a class of 2018 player. Today, he was the star of the show. Nate showed exactly why he is considered the 2nd best player in the class of 2018 for New England. He was the MVP of the game, and he easily grabbed everyone’s attention today. With 26 points, and 7 made three-pointers, Nate was the real deal. He’s gritty, he’s tough, and he can stroke it. He did all of the little things, like fighting for loose balls and playing on the block. Oh yeah, he also knocked down 7 three’s to go along with doing all the glue guy stuff. I stated I was moving on from Tomas Murphy, and I’d like to put all of that attention on Nate Laszewski. This is certainly going to be a name to remember moving forward.

 

I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I really hope we try to get some interest from Kellen Grady. He is easily becoming one of my favorite players in the NEPSAC to watch. He’s a lengthy, long, sharp shooting 6’3 point guard. From what I have gathered, Davidson was the front runner, and Butler is also in a good spot. I have also heard Villanova is getting involved. I think we may be late to the party, but if late invitations are being accepted, I’d like to see Providence jump in.


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