DAVID DUKE SHINES AS CUSHING WINS

On Sunday, March 5th, Cushing Academy and the Tilton School faced off at Rhode Island College for the NEPSAC AA Championship. In addition to the fans of the schools playing, there were a number of college coaches in attendance.

Among those I saw were coaches from URI, Brown, Bryant, UMass, Virginia Tech, RIC, Johnson and Wales, VCU, Duquesne, UConn, Harvard, Richmond, Fordham, and of course, Providence. There were also a number of Friar fans attending hoping to see David Duke for the first time live. I brought my daughter with me, as she knows David Duke from Classical High School, and loves the Friars.

Cushing was led by Duke and Wabissa Bede, while Tilton featured Terrell Brown and the Radisson brothers. The game itself was rather slow paced, as they spent the first ten minutes or so trying to not make mistakes. The Tilton School collapsed on Bede, forcing him to stay up top and look for his teammates. Duke started to open things up with several drives to the basket as he split the Tilton defense. Duke and Bede were too quick for Tilton, but Tilton managed to stay in the game (and briefly led) due to the outside shooting of Marcus Zegarowski. This forced Cushing to expand their defense, allowing Terrell Brown opportunities slashing to the basket. Despite Brown’s height advantage, the 6’10” Pitt commit did have at least two of his shots blocked, by 6’6” Greg Kuakamensah. While the game was going back and forth for most of the first half, one couldn’t help but feel it was only a matter of time before Cushing pulled away.

 In the second half, Bede started bullying his way to the basket, and hit a few outside shots. This, combined with the all around abilities of Duke, pushed Cushing to a lead of as many as fifteen points. Oddly, it was only then that Tilton got Max Zegarowski involved in the offense. He hit three three-pointers in five trips down the floor, including one from about 26 feet. Marcus scored once in between, as Tilton got within five, but no closer. The 57-50 final was probably a fair indicator of the caliber of the game. It was never a blow out, but it seemed clear Cushing would win in the end.  Wabissa Bede was named tournament MVP.

Watching the key players, I will give a quick synopsis of my observations:

Terrell Brown is committed to Pitt, and seems to me to be the exact opposite of the prototypical Pitt players from their Big East days. He looks like he’s going at half speed, until you realize how quickly he gets up and down the court. He handles the ball extremely well for his height, and his shot comes off effortlessly. He did seem to shy away from contact, and went for the fancy moves rather than forcing his way to the basket. Max Zegarowski was impressive on the floor, as he does a little bit of everything. He handles the ball well and has a decent shot. A good comp would be a poor man’s Ryan Arcidiacono. I had hear that Providence was in contact with him, but that may be a bit of a reach for his skill level. I didn’t notice his brother Marcus (who is 6’7”, compared to Max’ 6’2”) until the final minutes when he started bombing threes. It was impressive because even the 26-footer came from his natural shooting motion. I read online that UMass may be interested in both as a package.

For Cushing, Wabissa Bede is much improved from when I last saw him play a year ago. While only 6’1”, he has a solid body (reminded me of Maliek White) and uses it to his advantage. His handle is well above average, and his shooting touch has improved significantly. I would expect him to be able to contribute at Virginia Tech immediately. He also appeared to be the team leader, and was more vocal during timeouts than even the Cushing coach.

I saw David Duke play at Classical, and this is the same player in name only.  My guess is that he’s about two inches taller and about twenty pounds heavier, reminiscent of Kris Dunn when I saw him play at Alumni Hall during his senior year at New London High. He looks like a combo guard, but in the best sense of the phrase. He could play major conference ball as either a point or an off guard. His shooting touch has improved, and he can drive through traffic at will at this level. There was a coach from an unnamed A-10 school sitting near me, and saw my daughter cheering for David, and noticed my Providence sweatshirt. He asked me if I knew Duke, and I told him my daughter did, and I was hoping he came to Providence. He laughed at me and said, “He should. He’s the type of player who would thrive under Ed Cooley.”

I only saw the first few minutes of the Brewster game, but in my very unprofessional opinion, I would rather Providence get David Duke than either Makai Ashton-Langford or Wabissa Bede. I think all three will be quality college players, but feel that Ashton-Langford and Bede are closer to finished products, while you can just sense that Duke is going to continue to improve. I also think he could easily contribute at the major college level next year if he chose. Whether it be 2017 or 2018, he is going to make some coach very happy.    


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