I'm A Player
Central Catholic senior captain Jimmy Zenevitch has been part of two state championships and is helping the Raiders chase their third. The No. 2 Raiders haven’t lost since the Christmas Tournament and have won 12 straight games. Zenevitch, a 6-foot 8 forward, is averaging 18.9 points per game and has helped the Raiders clinch the MVC title. We caught up with the big fella last week.
What’s been going right for the team since the Christmas Tournament loss to Andover?
The biggest thing since the tourney has been our intensity on the defensive side. We didn’t really pressure the ball as much in the tournament, but we picked up the ball pressure since then. Another thing is our rebounding. We’ve been killing everyone on the boards by almost 17 rebounds per game.
You guys got a big game against Andover next week, what are you guys looking forward to?
Andover’s our biggest rival since they’ve first played each other. We lost to them in the Christmas tournament but we played them a couple weeks later and beat them by 10 or 12. People would say the game doesn’t matter because we’ve clinched the MVC last week, but to me and to the team, it’s probably the biggest game of the year up to date. We always want to win no matter what
What have you been doing for the team this year to make up for the loss of Carson Desrosiers
People would say it’s scoring, but the biggest thing I focused on is rebounds. He would get 12-15, sometimes 20 rebounds per game. I knew that without a seven- footer in the middle, I definitely had to step up.
You’re heading to Assumption in the fall, what are you looking forward to the most about going there?
I’m looking forward to a new level of play, more talent all around. They’ll never be a kid who isn’t good at all, there’s going to be five really good kids on the court. I’m really looking forward to having a new team, a new life. Its just like starting over you’ve got to gain every ones respect again
What does your team need to do to win a state championship?
Basically, It starts with heart, but then everything has to click on all cylinders – offense, defense, rebounding our shots, dribbling and limiting turnovers. If we want it more than anyone else, most likely we have a chance at getting it.
Your sister Katie is pretty good at basketball herself over at BC. In a game to 21, who wins?
I win, hands down. Without a question.
Last week, we got the chance to catch up with Charlestown junior Akosa Maduegbunam. The versatile guard is averaging 23.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for the No. 4 Townies. The best part is we didn’t even need a linguistics expert to help us pronounce his last name – he did it for us.
Can you spell that for us?
Where are you from originally?
My family’s from Nigeria but I was born and raised in Boston.
How have you been dealing with all this snow we’ve been getting lately?
I’ve been staying in – I haven’t been able to go to the gym much. I try to do a little in the house, some push-ups and sit-ups.
Have you been doing most of the shoveling lately?
I live on a big hill so I gotta shovel the whole hill.
Can you take us through your pre-game routine?
I don’t like to be early to the [game], but not late. At least thirty minutes before the game because players go through a lot of emotions. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I don’t. My main way to get ready before a game is focus.
What’s more satisfying for you, climbing over someone for a rebound or dunking on them?
Definitely dunking on them because I like to see the faces of the victim.
You had 25 points against St. John’s Prep and Coach Connolly teaches here at Charlestown, so how motivating was it to get the win?
It was a big boost for us. Connolly’s a great guy I look up to him as a mentor. After the win after the win, I saw him on Monday and went up to his class and was rubbing it in his face.
Are you a big trash talker?
Uh, a little bit.
You're averaging 23 and 8 a game so what do you do for yourself to make sure you’re an effective corer, but an effective rebounder as well?
Sometimes you gotta do little things to get extra points. I probably I get about 14 points ff my own miss. You gotta do the little clean up and get your own rebounds and sometimes I always need the ball in my hands so I go get the ball myself and make sure I get the rebound.
What’s the best dunk you’ve ever had on someone?
I’ve been slouching this year when it comes to dunking on people. I would say the BC High game when I went baseline.
Dennis Clifford is a seven-foot center at Milton Academy averaging 15.8 points per game and will be trading in his Milton orange and blue for the Boston College maroon and gold next season. We got the chance to catch up with the big fella and ask him a few questions after practice – no ladder necessary.What are you most excited about playing basketball at Boston College next season?
Clifford: Mostly I think its just being part of the team and playing college basketball. It seems like they’re a family up there and I can’t wait to be a part of it.
Who was your favorite athlete growing up?
Clifford: Id have to go with Shaquille O’Neal. He’s the most dominant center ever and I always try to be like him.
What’s been the best moment of your basketball career?
Clifford: The best moment I think was the open gym last spring when I first saw [Boston College] coach [Steve] Donauhue. I recognized him from Cornell and after the workout I went over to shake his hand and he was wearing the BC shirt.
What’s been the most embarrassing moment?
Clifford: Seventh grade travel, I was going on a fast break and someone threw me a long pass so I tried to outrun it, but it ended up hitting me in the back of the head and everyone started laughing – so I think that’s got to be the most embarrassing part.
What would you say is the best part of being seven feet tall?
Clifford: The best and worse is you get a lot of attention wherever you go – that can come to bite you in the rear end. I’m always getting attention when I go to public places and people are always talking to me.
Do you ever have a hard time finding a date when you’re seven feet tall?
Clifford: They come easier just cause the girls want to get the attention, the only thing is they won’t stop talking about your height.
Ask Kevin Curry how many touchdowns he's had called back this year and he knows the exact number.
Curry has had an amazing year for the Holliston Panthers. He was named the Tri-Valley League most valuable player for his outstanding defense and play-making skills, he's a part of a group of Holliston players that literally fly around the ball on defense and then, when they get the on the other side of the line of scrimmage, show what I call ECOD -- Escapability and change of direction. He's racked up 16 touchdowns to help put the Panthers in a position to bring home a Super Bowl title after finishing last season as the Division 3A runnerup. The team still feels the sting of losing to Austin Prep 38-15 at Gillette Stadium.
Curry and the Panthers have a tall task ahead of them. Holliston (11-1) has to beat a Cardinal Spellman (12-0) team that features one of the most elusive running backs in the state in Blaise Branch (Division 3A leading 36 touchdowns). None of which is lost on Curry.
What's the best part about playing at Gillette in your second year coming?
Second year in a row is even better than the first time around. It's just the atmosphere here. You got a stadium all the way around you, you got your fans. You got your whole community behind you. You've got great teams playing here all day. So you've just got the best competition, the best environment and the best sport.
What's the No. 1 thing you have to do for your team to win the game?
I just have to play into the scheme we're gonna have for the game. Play my best every single play. Make sure the kids are doing as best they can. Encourage the team that way. Lead by example and motivate.
What was the best moment of your season prior to making it to the Super Bowl?
Would definitely have to be beating Medway at our home. The revenge game. That's what it's kinda known for. It was definitely sweet. It was perfect. It was definitely necessary for us to get to the playoffs.
Thoughts on Cardinal Spellman? How hard is it going to be chasing around Blaise Branch?
Blaise Branch, he seems like a great running back. He's got great stats. His team's got great stats. They've put up big numbers. They've played a lot of good teams in their division. It's gonna be a challenge that way. But I feel like our team speed is exceptional. The way our defense runs from sideline to sideline, 10 of our 11 kids run sub-5 40's. Everybody's getting after it. So I feel like we can contain the speed.
It's Round 2 for you guys in the Super Bowl. What's the mentality after not getting the title last year?
My first thought goes right to the kids last year, the seniors. (We're) getting it done for our team this year. But definitely for the kids last year. All those seniors that worked so hard to get us there, that taught us a lot of things, and brought us here. We want to get it done for those guys. Because they didn't have the opportunity to complete the task.
Holliston allegedly has the most touchdowns called back this year. Any proof in that?
Well, me, personally, I have seven touchdowns called back. I'm trying to make things happen and that's just how it happens sometimes.
Preston Cooper is a wiry and speedy running back for BC High. As a sophomore last season, Cooper proved to be a dynamic talent, often carrying the Eagles offensively (12 touchdowns) as they struggled through a 6-4 season -- a downer after claiming a Super Bowl title in 2008. This year, he's back to his old ways (5 touchdowns so far) leading the Eagles. Listed at 5-8, 170 pounds, he heads an attack for the 2-1 Eagles, ranked No. 5 by the Globe, as they get ready to take on No. 14 Falmouth in what will likely be a huge game for both teams and their seasons. I caught up with him this week to get five (or so) questions out of him.Q: You guys had a setback with the loss to Brockton, you're going into a game against Falmouth that's going to be pretty tough, what's the state of your team and what do you think you guys are going to do going forward? Preston Cooper: Well we have to be physical going in to Falmouth. They pulled up an upset on us last year. So yeah, we don't want that to happen again. So we'll need to be physical.
Q: I've seen you take snaps directly in a Wildcat style of offense, do you like doing that? And what are your favorite plays?
Cooper: Yeah, I like it al ot actually because it's quicker for us to get out to the outside. And we have speed. Our backs are fast. The Wildcat, pitches direct. Anything to get the ball to the outside.
Q: How would you describe your style of running?
Cooper: I can be a shake and bake kind of guy when it's needed. I can ... even though I'm small, I feel like I can run through linebackers when needed. Pretty much all raround.
Q: Who is your all-time favorite player and why?
Cooper: Walter Payton. He was a good running back. He played real well when he was in the biz. I mean, I like his running style.
Q: Did you watch him on film?
Cooper: Some on ESPN Classic.
Q:You're a junior now, what are your plans, if any, for after high school?
Cooper: Go to college. Try to play college. If not, settle down, be a lawyer or study something like that. Gotta always be ready to do something else.
Paul Mroz went from sharing the role of signal caller to QB No. 1 overnight -- literally. As coach Peter Colombo said after Brockton's Week 1 win over BC High, he couldn't sleep all night, tossing and turning before deciding on which quarterback to lead the No. 2 Boxers. Now, after two weeks of nearly flawless play, Mroz is leading Brockton in probably the biggest game of the year, facing No. 1 Xaverian today. I caught up with Mroz to get his take on the game as well as to get to know him better.Q: What does it mean playing in a game of this magnitude (No. 2 Brockton vs. No. 1 Xaverian) so early in the year and how does it measure your team's overall success or failure?
A: Brockton is a pretty traditional team and I'm happy to play for a pretty traditional team. Part of that is playing in these big games. Xaverian is probably the best team we can play now, and probably in the playoffs too. It's just a big game and we gotta do what we have to for the win.
Q: What's your favorite play to run and why?
A: My favorite play is the 36-power pass. Over the years, Brockton has been known to be a running team. It's easy to pass it off to (Trevon) Offley, but I like a good fake. It's a fake (run) and it's a good play. And not just the 36, but the 37 too.
Q: Who is your all-time favorite football player and why?
A: I'd have to say it's Tom Brady. He's just my inspiration. Let's start with college. He did his thing in college and then came in as a backup and waited his turn. Now he's got Super Bowls and he's like the greatest. So I'm very inspired by Tom Brady.
Q: How do your friends and teammates describe you on and off the field?
A: I'd guess they say I'm a beast. They're happy with me and they're confident with me as their quarterback. And that brings me confidence. But if there's one thing they say about me, is that I'm probably a beast.
Q: What are your goals for after high school?
A: I plan on going to (Division 1) college. I mean, I live in the projects. I became an athlete because I wanted to come up. I want to get into the NFL. Since I was in junior high I've been living for this. So after four years of college, I want to see if I can get in the NFL. So that's what I want to do.
Barry Chin / Globe file
Kelly Naegelin struck out 215 batters in 119 innings pitched last year as a junior pitcher on the Cohasset softball team, and returns this year hoping to help the Skippers repeat as Division 3 South champs. We caught up and asked her a couple of questions about how she fares off the diamond.
Who is your favorite professional team?
Naegelin: "Boston Red Sox."
Who's your favorite athlete?
Naegelin: "Cat Osterman, the pitcher from the USA softball team."
What's the most played song on your iPod?
Naegelin: "Probably anything by RED."
You're going to be trapped on a deserted island, and all you can take with you is a DVD player and three DVDs. What movies do you take?
Naegelin: "Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz 2, and probably Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring."
If you won $50 million in the lottery, what's the first thing you'd buy?
Naegelin: "I'd get a car, probably a hybrid. I just like the way they look."
Read more on Naegelin this Sunday in Globe South.
— Jake Seiner, Globe Correspondent
Globe Correspondent Braden Campbell talked to Moira Cronin, a member of Andover's track and field team who has earned all-scholastic honors last year. He asked her a few good questions.
What's your greatest moment doing track?Cronin: "I would say winning New England's, because that was when I first cleared 5'9" [in the high jump]. I was on cloud nine."
Is there a song you use to get pumped up?
Cronin: "I have a playlist. I'm not like a big music person, but there's a song from Radio City, I forget which one. There's a song from The Format. Any of those songs."
What's the one food you can't live without?
Cronin: "Before every meet I try to have a burger. At our pasta dinner last night I kinda pigged out."
What's a ritual or superstition your team has?
Cronin: "After every jump, my teammate Jess Salley, we do this high-five. I think that's part of our ritual, keeping the same thing every time.
If you were stuck on a desert island with only one person who would it be and why?
Cronin: "I'd probably say my best friend Jill Pengeroth because she's just hilarious and we always have a good time."
Photo by Barry Chin / Globe Staff
Mike Vecchione is a junior forward on the Malden Catholic boys’ ice hockey team. The assistant captain helped lead his team to the semifinals in the Super 8 Division 1A tournament. Globe Correspondent Jason Mastrodonato spoke with Vecchione before the tournament to get a sense of the player.
You clearly have been scoring a lot this season, what’s been your secret?Vecchione: “My teammates and my line-mates give me the puck good. We work together well. It doesn’t matter who score as long as we score and as long as we win.”
What’s been your greatest moment on the ice?
Vecchione: “My freshman year against Catholic Memorial, me and teammate Alex Minter were on the ice, he gave me the pass and I scored to put us in the Super 8 finals.”
What’s been the craziest moment?
Vecchione: “The last game we played against St. Johns Prep, a kid put me in a headlock and kicked my legs. I couldn’t do anything. Since it was the end of the game, I didn’t want to retaliate.”
When you’re suited up for Malden Catholic, what do you like to do?
Vecchione: “Street hockey, pond hockey, anything hockey. I have an older brother and he played, so once I was ready to skate I was playing hockey.”
What is your team’s biggest strength right now?
Vecchione: “We’re just going to the net hard and getting in our rebounds. We’re working as a team right now, we’re shooting the puck an doing all the little things right.”
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.