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Boston City League boys' basketball preview capsules

Posted by Justin Rice  December 6, 2012 03:20 PM

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120612hughcoleman.jpg

Brighton's Hugh Coleman has a huge challenge to get his team back to the state title game. (Matthew J. Lee / Globe file)

Here's a look at all the Boston Public Schools boys basketball teams heading into the 2012-13 season.

NORTH DIVISION

Brighton
Coach:Hugh Coleman (Fourth year)
Last year: 21-3

Strengths: The Bengals’ biggest strength is its experienced backcourt, which includes junior point guard Malik James and senior shooting guard Daivon Edwards. The duo played a huge role in Brighton’s run to the Division 2 championship, which they lost to Mahar by four points last season.

Concerns: While the Bengals’ might have the most solid backcourt in the city, they graduated five seniors last season, including power forward Jarard Meyes, who averaged 12 points and nine rebounds a game. That means depth will be an issue for Hugh Coleman’s squad if anyone goes down with injury or gets the academic ineligible bug. Coleman’s other concern will be keeping his team from thinking they will make it back to the state title game by just showing up.

Outlook: Making it to last year’s state championship game could either be a blessing or a drag this season. On one hand, Coleman said it provides him with a motivating factor in practice every day, but on the other hand he said it could cause his guys to get complacent.

“The critics and the people who stand on sideline and say ‘Hey you guys made it all the way to the state championship game, you’re going to win it this year, you have a lot of guys returning,’ Coleman said. “I definitely don’t think that way. I remember being on the bus thinking ‘This is unreal, we could have [easily] never have gotten here.’ You never know what's going to happen.”

On the other hand, Coleman said, “Now I can emphasize the point in practice. You know what it takes, any moment we are not working hard could be the difference of getting back or going home early.

“The experience is a measuring stick, a reminder of what it takes.”

Returning starters: Junior point guard Malik James (6-1, 170), senior shooting guard Daivon Edwards (6-1, 185), junior forward Nick Simpson (6-4, 200), senior center Prince Unaegub (6-6, 210).

Charlestown
Coach:Edson Cardoso (Fifth year, 61-29)
Last year: 20-5

Strengths: With a front line that is 6-foot-11-inches (Jon Gurllon), 6-8 (Eligia Robinson), 6-6 (Freddy Oliveria) and 6-5 (Tyrell Williams), size is clearly the Townies’ strength. On top of that, Charlestown also has defensive-minded guards who are quick and athletic.

Concerns: As the sixth man last year, junior guard Taris Wilson is the only contributor returning from last year’s state tournament run. Other than Wilson, Charlestown has 13 new players who will have to learn to gel together quickly if they want to make a run.

Outlook: While Wilson is the only returning contributor, with all things considered, Charlestown did well to reload. Robinson, whose brother graduated from Charlestown a few years ago, transferred from Holbrook when his parents moved back to Boston. Gurllon only played three games last year after needing surgery to replace cartilage in his knee and Oliveria transferred from West Roxbury. Head coach Edson Cardoso also said another transfer student from West Roxbury is junior point guard Jimmy Edwards, who dropped out of school at West Roxbury and is now on the honor roll at Charlestown.

The question will be how quickly can this new cast of characters start to work together to win.

“I think this is the first year we don’t know which way we can go,” Cardoso said. “I feel like I just need time with them in the gym. My outlook is I’m just going to teach them and hopefully they can learn some things. We just don’t know which way we are going to go with a brand new team like this.

“I think the inexperience this year will be a challenge but I do like this group of guys because they work hard in the classroom and on the basketball court. I think you just have to learn the system and Charlestown and play.”

Returning starters: None.

East Boston
Coach:Shawn Brown (first year)
Last year: 17-5

Strengths: Although they have a new coach, East Boston will still be a strong defensive team that gets after it. The Jets also have a lot of senior leadership in Kenny Ramos, Pat Santos, and Will Marsh.

Concerns: Even though they have three seniors, and even though new coach Shawn Brown will emphasize defense like East Boston has in the past, the Jets overall are still young and they will still have to adjust to a new coaching style this season.

Outlook: The Jets should be competitive in the newly created North division but that will be predicated on whether or not their defense can create their offense.

“I’m the type of person that believes offense is fickle, it comes and goes,” Brown said. “One constant is defense. Defense, that takes heart and desire. That’s what I’ve been preaching since opening day.”

And even though East Boston lost to Charlestown by three points in the quarterfinals of the Division 1 North playoffs last year, Brown, a former Townie player, said the rivalry doesn’t mean much to him.

“I’m excited about opportunity to be coaching,” he said. “It’s just that rivalry in terms of being traditional for both schools, it’s not because of my affiliation.”

Returning Starters: Senior power forward Kenny Ramos (6-3), senior point guard Pat Santos (5-8), senior forward Will Marsh (6-4).

Madison Park
Coach:Dennis Wilson (26th year)
Last year: 20-3

Strengths: Madison Park’s trademark defense will be back once again this season and so will one of the better bigs in the state, David Stewart, who averaged a double double last season.

Concerns: Stewart is the only returning starter from a team that lost to Brockton in the Division 1 South sectional finals last year. Coach Dennis Wilson is also concerned about the realignment of the city league because he thinks the teams in the North division will beat up on each other all year and be nearly exhausted by tournament time.

Outlook: After graduating four starters from an overachieving team last year, Stewart will need to carry the Cardinals on his shoulders this year if they want to have a repeat performance. MP is also looking to avenge a loss at the buzzer in the city championships to East Boston.

“My kids, man we always play hard, we play with that MP Pride, we are going to play hard,” Wilson said. “I’m very optimistic and I love the challenge. I know I got my work cut out for us any time you lose four starters. It was a very disappointing end to last season, losing to Eastie at the buzzer and losing to Brockton.

“I’m a dark horse this year. I was a dark horse last year. I’m kind of used to being the team everybody gets up for but everybody knows the teams to beat are Brighton, New Mission and Eastie.”

MP will look for a major contribution from Davonta Jackson, a 6-foot-4-inch athletic big man who came on strong in the second half of last season.

Returning starters: Senior forward David Stewart (6-3, 185).

New Mission
Coach:Cory McCarthy (fifth year 71-16)
Last year: 14-6

Strengths: New Mission will be one of the tougher and more focused teams in the city this season after they lost in the first round of the Division 2 North tournament by a point to Arlington. Another advantage for the Titans this winter will be the fact that for the first time in program history they will have their own gym. Moving from Mission Hill to the former Hyde Park Education Complex, the school no longer has to use the Tobin Community Center for basketball practices and games.

The renovated gym will not only be loud, it will be foreign to opposing teams who haven’t played there in several years.

Concerns: With an up-tempo full-court style, the Titans could be worn out by the time tournament time rolls around. Their mental toughness is another question mark, says coach Cory McCarthy.

Outlook: Despite graduating four seniors, including Leroy Hamilton (17 points per game), New Mission still has three returning starters. They will also get a boost from sophomore guard Juwan Gooding. The 6-foot-1, 160-pounder transferred from Milton High.

“He’s a prolific scorer to say the least,” New Mission coach Cory McCarthy said. “He was Bay State League All-Star last year as freshman and scored 19 a game. He’s lefty point guard with deep range. Dude will come over half court and bury threes. In my opinion, he’s probably the best 1-on-1 defender around.”

Returning starters: Senior forward Nate Anderson (6-6, 220), senior forward Isshiah Coleman (6-4, 190), junior guard Shaquan Murray (6-0, 165).

CENTRAL DIVISION

Boston English
Coach:Barry Robinson (20th season)
Last year: 8-11

Strengths: The Blue & Blue will be aggressive and should be a much better rebounding team than last season. With one full year under his belt, sophomore point guard Stanley Davis will be the first true star point guard the school has had in 12 to 15 years, according to coach Barry Robinson.

Concerns: Despite Davis bringing up the ball, breaking the press could be an issue for English, which doesn’t have many other ball handlers. English also lost seven seniors last year.

Outlook: Without much continuity on its roster, English has still managed to hold its own. With the realignment of the city league divisions, English will contend for the top spot in the Central and its first spot in the city championships since 2009.

“I think it’s great for everyone, it makes the interest more interesting,” Robinson said of the realignment. “Right now, I’m glad where we are in the middle of the pack in the second tier group.

“The challenge right now is putting a team together and building that camaraderie, that chemistry. I’m pretty confident we’re going to have a very exciting season.”

Returning starters: Sophomore point guard Stanley Davis.

Dorchester
Coach:Johnny Lee Williams Jr. (third year, 11-29)
Last year: 9-11

Strengths: The Bears are a hardworking unit that has improved a lot in third-year coach Johnny Lee Williams’ system.

Concerns: Depth and rebounding will be an issue for the Bears. The team also graduated six seniors last year.

Outlook: Looking to build on the success of its 10-1 football team that lost in the Division 5 Super Bowl this season, the Bears’ basketball team has a good shot at making the state tournament for the first time in six seasons. Three players from the football team also play basketball, including Leon Sealy and Darrius Patterson.

“Yes we’re hoping that it does carry over, last year they made a lot of strides in a new system, learning a different way of playing, different style of playing,” Williams said. “I think this year we may turn the corner and be at least .500.

“The third year [of a program] is very important because the kids know what I expect now. They know our emphasis is on defense, they know our emphasis on being prepared and they know our emphasis on learning the game, being students of the game. Before I didn’t think the kids understood basketball terminology; just learning the real basketball culture and it’s starting to make a difference.”

Returning starters: Junior point guard Kahila Newson (6-1), junior small forward Ceejae Agnew (6-2)

Latin Academy
Coach:Daniel Bunker (7th year)
Last year: 6-12

Strengths: Senior leadership will be a key for the Dragons. Sophomore point guard Rayshawn Miller will surprise some folks in the backcourt as well.

Concerns: The Dragons had some key players transfer out of the school and junior returning starter DeVaughn Riley, who got injured during football season, won’t be healthy until January. Latin Academy also lacks height.

Outlook: With injuries and transfers, sophomore point guard Rayshawn Miller will have a heavier load than a sophomore might otherwise. But coach Daniel Bunker said he’s up for the task.

“He makes really, really good decisions on the court,” Bunker said of Miller. “I’m very comfortable with him running our offense and the show. He’s not going to turn the ball over.”

And even though they don’t have height or much size, LA will be physical this year.

“Alex [Guerrier] is a really tough kid playing football. Edwin Porro is a lights out shooter and Fritz [Jolivain] is a do-everything guy. They’ve been really strong in practice but we really miss that key piece in DeVaughn. He really brings a lot to the table.”

Returning starters: Senior guard Edwin Porro (5-10, 150), senior forward/center Alex Guerrier (6-1, 170), senior forward Fritz Jolivain (6-1, 160), sophomore point guard Rayshawn Miller (5-8, 140).

O’Bryant
Coach:Drew Hughes-Brock (Third year 10-27)
Last year: 5-12

Strengths: Six players on the Tigers’ team have played for coach Drew Hughes-Brock since he took over the program three years ago. The team has a good work ethic and is buying into Hughes-Brock’s system. Four of the team’s five starters return this year and the team boasts eight seniors.

Concerns: Closing out games has been an issue for the Tigers and will continue to haunt them this season at times. The team is not that deep and is not comprised of speed demons either.

Outlook: The Tigers should have a shot at winning every single Central division game they play this season and could even take the first-ever Central title.

“We could go 8-0 in our Central games, we could win them all or we could lose them all,” Hughes-Brock said. “Every game will be a dog fight.”

In the end though, Hughes-Brock said his team should be in the cities at the end of the year.

“I think my kids actually believe it this year as opposed to saying it,” he said. “They believe it and I think that based on what I seen in practice.”

Hughes-Brock said they scrimmaged Scituate for the third straight year recently and looked like a totally different team than in years past.

“An assistant coach came up to me and said 'Drew they look like a totally different animal out there, they look hungry, very hungry,' " Hughes-Brock said.

Returning starters: Senior center Jared Butler (6-4 190), senior guard/forward Gabe Viera (6-3 190), senior point guard Harry Demofphene (6-1, 175), senior shooting guard Joshua Hall (5-6).

West Roxbury
Coach:Martin Somers (5th year, 39-42)
Last year: 10-9

Strengths: Senior leadership will be a stalwart for the Raiders this year even though the team lost a lot of senior leadership from last year.

Concerns: The team graduated five seniors and lost a few players due to transfers, including Freddy Oliveria (8 points per game, 12 rebounds per game), who went to Charlestown.

Outlook: Even though it doesn’t have a very deep bench, West Roxbury held its own during a scrimmage against Brockton this preseason.

“We played very well, we’re about seven or eight deep and those guys gave it their all so I was excited about yesterday’s scrimmage,” West Roxbury coach Martin Somers said.
Somers expects his team to compete for the Central division title.

“I’m really excited, I have a bunch of guys who are really good kids so that’s always fun to coach,” he said. “What we do here is if you are a talented player and you are a jerk you don’t play. That’s how we work over here. Some coaches deal with certain kids because they are talented. We don’t do that over here. We always have a great bunch of kids.”

Returning starters: Junior guard Marcus Neale (6-2, 210), senior guard Devon Robinson (5-10, 170).

SOUTH DIVISION

Burke
Coach:Samuel Jordan (second year)
Last year: 2-14

Strengths: Three starters from last season will be back for more this winter. The Bulldogs are also quick and athletic.

Concerns: The Bulldogs are still young and inexperienced. They also lack height.

Outlook: Former Snowden coach Meghan Waterbury, who won the Boston Scholar Athlete Program’s Alfreda Harris Coach of the Year Award last season, is joining forces with Jordan to try to turnaround Burke’s program.

Waterbury made the move mostly because she is a teacher at Burke. She will handle the junior varsity team this year but could eventually take over the program.

“She’s very good, so we’re putting our talents together and we’re trying to put out a good product this year,” Jordan said. “We’ve been practicing about a week and half and everything is upbeat. I think everybody is enthusiastic. So this should turn out to be a decent product and I think we’re building. We have bigger kids on JV.”

Returning starters: Junior guard Jesse Bland (5-10, 170), senior forward and center Demetrius Richards (6-2, 245), senior forward Emoni Vicence (5-11, 180)

CASH
Coach: Courtney Valentine (7th year)
Last year: 4-17

Strengths: The team is starting to become battle tested after it made it to the finals of the Beantown Slam in September. It also qualified for the state tournament last year due to the Sullivan rule.

Concerns: Only two players return from last year’s team. The team also lacks focus at times.

Outlook: CASH turned heads across the city when it made it to the finals to the Beantown Slam in September before losing to New Mission.

“We beat Westie, we beat Winchester, which had beaten us by 45 the first time we played, and in the third round we played BC High and beat them by 21, which I was ecstatic about,” CASH coach Courtney Valentine said. “The stars aligned for us. I’ll take it. The kids needed that moral boost.

“Hopefully that translates to the season but we lost some guys due to various reasons. I’m hoping to build off that.”

The school, which is the former Hyde Park High, hadn’t been to the state tournament in about 15 or 20 years before last year, according to Valentine. They made the tournament because of the Sullivan rule, which states that they only had to win 50 percent of their games against teams in their division to qualify for states.

“This team has potential to win Division 4,” Valentine said. “However, if these kids aren’t focused, if they don’t get their minds right, we won’t get out of the first round.”

Returning starters: None.

Fenway
Coach: Murales Louis (fifth year)
Last year: 0-16

Strengths: Fenway has smart upperclassmen that have been in the program for three or four years and are beginning to understand how to play the game. The team is small but fast.

Concerns: Chemistry will be an issue for the Panthers as they struggle to put together full practices. Some players have to miss practice for work, to babysit siblings or to stay after school for homework help.

Outlook: Fenway might not have many wins on the floor this season but coach Murales Louis said his squad will still be winners.

“I did not, and I still do not measure my students’ success base on how many games they have won,” he said via email. “I look instead at how much progress the students have made over the course of the season. I often get students who are playing organized basketball for the first time. I often had to start by teaching basic skills like, how to screen, how to dribble and how to play defense. I measure my success and the success of my students based on how many of them mastered and are performing these skills at the end of the season.

“Last season, we did not win any games. However, my players worked hard, learned a great deal of knowledge, competed to the best of their abilities and had fun. I make it a priority for my student athletes to have fun while playing because at the end of the day this is still a game. Games are supposed to be fun.”

Returning starters: Senior guard Jonathan Roman (5-7), senior forward Justin Phillip (6-1), senior guard Eduard Santos (5-11), junior guard Johnel Ledesma (5-9), senior guard Ricky Smith (6-0).

Snowden
Coach: Paul Rogers (first year)
Last year: 10-10

Strengths: Quickness, guard play and a relentless defense.

Concerns: Rebounding will be a huge issue for Snowden this year. Snowden lost four players, including the Boston City League’s leading scorer from last year, Paul Maurice.

Outlook: With Paul Maurice (22 points per game) moving on to Mass College of Liberal Arts and coach Meghan Waterbury moving on to coach at Burke this season, it would seem like Snowden has its work cut out for it. But first-year coach Paul Rogers was Waterbury’s right-hand man last year.

“The fact that we lost [Maurice] was negative but the positive is we have a lot of players with experience, including tournament experience so that is plus for us,” Rogers said. “We’re looking forward to getting to the tournament and competing for the state championship.”

Last year, Snowden lost to top-seeded Manchester Essex in the state tournament by one point. It was actually Snowden’s third loss of the season to Manchester-Essex, including a two-point loss on the road.

“I fully expect us to not only to make the state tournament but to be one of the contenders to make the state finals this year,” Rogers said.

Returning starters: Senior guard Jaquann Smith (5-10, 165), junior guard Kareem Murrell (5-11, 150), junior forward Derron Stone (6-3, 200), sophomore forward Javaughn Kittrell (6-1, 170).

South Boston
Coach: Jeremy Silva (Third year, 13-21)
Last year: 6-12

Strengths: Size will be a major factor for the Knights since they have six guys bigger than 6-foot-2-inches this season and four guys bigger than 6-4, including 6-8 senior David Stewart, who, believe it or not, is the brother of Madison Park’s David Stewart.

Concerns: Inexperience at the varsity level and lack of depth at the guard position. Six of the team’s players are new to the program.

Outlook: Third-year coach Jeremy Silva, whose father is legendary Marshfield football coach Lou Silva, said he has no idea how this season will play out.

“I honestly don’t have any idea, I honestly don’t,” he said. “I have so many new kids. I want to see how we mesh together. I think everyone in our new league is much improved but I’m hoping we’re improved as well. I guess I’m going to take a wait and see attitude at least.”

Returning starters: Senior forward Phil Lodge (6-4, 200).

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.
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