Yags’ Point Forward - All New England Team
Heading into the New England state associations’ championship weekend, I’ve been able to attend 193 prep games throughout New England, NYC and the backwoods of Pennsylvania so far this season. The overwhelming majority of those games featured Power-5 Conference and NEPSAC AAA/AA programs. With that in mind, I’m going to draw from that specific pool of players for my 2017 MVP’s and All-New England Team.
2017 Power-5 Conference MVP - Hasahn French, Commonwealth Academy
French built a loyal fan base of old school basketball grinders and new school analytics-driven cats from within the industry last summer while running with the PSA Cardinals. Both groups were drawn to French’s unique size, violent athleticism, unselfish team-first mentality and the value he placed on doing the little things to allow his teammates to shine. French took his summer momentum into the prep season, leading a young Commonwealth program to as high as #3 ranking in the national polls and a spot in the 2017 National Prep Championship.
For all of the team-oriented praise that has been heaped upon French over the last year, the versatile 6’7” Wingspan Big Man has also been responsible for some of the best individual performances that I’ve witnessed in that same span. French started the season with a 33-point/21-rebound/8-block outburst in a 98-64 win over Massanutten at the National Prep Showcase and always answered the bell when Commonwealth needed him most.
His 28-point/17-rebound/6-block performance against St Andrew’s in mid-February included the game-winning bucket with time winding down. He dropped 36-points and grabbed 15-rebounds against undefeated eventual-National Champion Brewster, in a game where three of his fellow Commonwealth starters were out with the flu. French’s triple-double (28pts/17rebs/11blks/5ast) late in the season against South Kent was arguably the most dominant performance I witnessed all season and sealed Commonwealth’s spot in the Prep Championship. French averaged 21 points, 14 rebounds and 7 blocks per game during his final prep season and will bring his winning ways to Travis Ford’s Saint Louis Billikens program this summer.
2017 NEPSAC AAA/AA MVP – Wabissa Bede, Cushing Academy
Bede ultimately laid the foundation for his final prep season last summer while leading his Mass Rivals squad to the Adidas Circuit championship. Armed with a different level of confidence and a better understanding of what it takes to win on a nightly basis, Bede immediately took ownership of this year’s squad Cushing as soon as he arrived on campus and became the best leader in New England basketball. He also became the NEPSAC’s unquestioned Most Valuable Player in 2017.
Bede’s spent the fall months listening to people question Cushing’s ability to overcome the departure of several key players from their successful ’15-‘16 team. After quieting skeptics over the summer and making his college decision in late-September, the 6’1” floor general now faced doubts about whether or not he could remain uber-productive while also being the focal point of every opposing team’s defensive game plan. Mature enough to understand that impressive personal stats would be meaningless without team success, Bede instead focused on the individual improvement of those around him.
Cushing’s preseason open gyms suddenly became the most competitive in New England. Teammates who expected to play a small role soon realized that they were going to be held accountable every single day. Bede enforced a zero tolerance policy when it came to repeated mistakes. He never hesitated to give his teammates a strong earful and those closest to him were going to be held to an even higher standard. By the time the regular season rolled around, expectations were defined and failure to reach them would be completely unacceptable.
It didn’t take long for teams across New England to realize that Bede & Co. were on a mission. After leading Cushing to a 59-53 win over South Kent in the Zero Gravity Prep Classic, Bede followed with a 19-point/8-rebound/7-assist performance in a 62-56 win over New Hampton at the NERR Scholar Roundball Classic. With a dominant 25-point/6-assist/3-steal output at the National Prep School Invitational, Bede sent a clear message to those in attendance that his rise as a prospect had not yet reached its peak and the road to the AA title would have to go through Cushing.
When it was all said and done, Bede would finish with averages of 19.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7 assists and 3.5 steals per game while filling Cushing’s trophy case with the 2017 NEPSAC AA Regular Season and Tournament Championships. He’ll head to Virginia Tech next season to play for Buzz Williams.
Even though Wabissa Bede will be leaving his mark on the ACC at this same time next season, the impact he made on the New England prep school basketball scene will be felt for years to come.
1st Team All-New England
Makai Ashton-Langford, 6’2”, Brewster
Thomas Allen, 6’1”, Brewster
Kellan Grady, 6’5”, Northfield-Mt Hermon
Andrew Platek, 6’4”, Northfield-Mt Hermon
Chris Duarte, 6’5”, Redemption
Cole Swider, 6’8”, St. Andrew’s
Eric Ayala, 6’5”, Putnam Science
Simi Shittu, 6’10”, Vermont Academy
Marcus Zegarowski, 6’1”, Tilton
Sidney Wilson, 6’8”, Brewster
2nd Team All-New England
Curtis Haywood II, 6’4”, Brewster
Alexis Yetna, 6’9”, Putnam Science
Kimani Lawrence, 6’6”, New Hampton
Anthony Gaines, 6’4”, New Hampton
Jordan Nwora, 6’8”, Vermont Academy
Malik Ondigo, 6’10”, Putnam Science
Devante Jones, 6’2”, Notre Dame Prep
Terrell Brown, 6’10”, Tilton
David Duke, 6’4”, Cushing
Geo Baker, 6’3”, Proctor
3rd Team All-New England
Michael Okauru, 6’4”, Brewster
Aaron Wheeler, 6’8”, Brewster
Derrick Ellis, 5’10”, Commonwealth
Jaheam Cornwall, 5’10”, Putnam Science
Marcus Santos Silva, 6’7”, Vermont Academy
Maceo Jack, 6’4”, St Thomas More
A.J. Reeves, 6’6”, Brimmer & May
Brycen Goodine, 6’3”, St. Andrew’s
Dana Tate, 6’7”, MacDuffie
Chol Marial, 7’2”, Cheshire