By: Sam Rubinstein (@_samruby)
Here are our Top 20 returning players to the CIAC for the 2016-2017 season! Check it out.
Tremont Waters - Senior, Notre Dame West Haven
Tremont Waters shook the world of CIAC basketball on August 19th when he announced he was transferring from South Kent School to Notre Dame West Haven. Waters is a top 5 point guard in the entire country according to ESPN’s rankings. His list of offers consists of the most prestigious and successful division one programs in the nation including Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas, Georgetown, and in-state UConn. Despite just being 5’9, Waters’ quick release and consistency from long range, combined with exceptional ball handling ability and court vision have created problems for defenders from coast to coast the past several years; it will be no different this fall when he suits up in the green and gold for the Notre Dame Green Knights.
2. Mike McGuirl - Senior, East Catholic High School
After a breakout summer of AAU play, Mike McGuirl is back and better than ever, as he looks to lead his East Catholic squad to their third state championship in four years and back to back conference titles. As a junior last season, McGuirl averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds per game including game high 16 point performance against Middletown in the Class L final, which brought him first team Class L honors. After the departure of Mark Carbone (U of San Diego), McGuirl’s production should to take a colossal leap as the reins of the team are now his. This will allow him to impact the game with the ball in his hands a lot more than he did last season. McGuirl is a Kansas State commit headed to the Big 12, but this year he’ll to do everything in his power to get another championship ring.
3. Jared Simmons - Senior, Newington High School
A historic 4 year run will come to the end after this winter for Newington senior point guard Jared Simmons. Simmons will leave the school as the all time leading scorer, with single season record for points (550) and assists (185). A three time All-CCC recipient, two time first team Class L recipient, and one of the most winning players in school history. Simmons can not only create for himself (22 ppg last season), but also for others as he averaged a healthy 7.3 assists per game. These qualities along with his freakish-jumping abilities have not only caught the eye of fans and opposing coaches around the state, but also college coaches. Simmons has one division one offer from Rider University along with interest from several other America East schools (for more information, check out our recruiting spotlight on Jared here: HERE). Look for Simmons to continue his growth and development as he aims to lead his Indians to another record-breaking season and a chance to play for a CCC and Class L crowns.
4. Joe Kasperzyk - Senior, Hillhouse High School
Last year, when Joe Kasperzyk came in at #11 on our top returning player list, we mentioned how he is one of the best guards, on one of the best teams, in one of the best conferences. One year later and this is no different. Hillhouse returns almost all of their key components from last year’s Class LL championship team and Kasperzyk is that main component. A do-it-all type point guard, Kasperzyk averaged 14.8 points, 5.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.0 steals per game including 26 points in the Class LL final. Kasperzyk holds two Division one offers from Sacred Heart University and Iona College (you can check out more about his recruiting here: HERE). Not only will Kasperzyk look to help Hillhouse repeat as state champs, but he will also help his squad aim to win the very competitive SCC conference title in which they lost in the final last season.
5. Raheem Solomon - Junior, Sacred Heart High School
It’s not so often that one of the top players in the state has never been the go-to guy for their own teams. For his first two years of high school, the 6’2 rising junior, Raheem Solomon, has been in the shadows of one of the greatest senior classes to ever come through the state. Now that those seniors are gone, Solomon has a chance to show the NVL and the rest of the state what they’ve been missing out on. Solomon has the athletic ability to get to the rim at will and is force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball. One of the top rated players in the Class of 2018 according to multiple recruiting sites, Solomon has already been getting interest from high major schools including Washington, Virginia, Pitt, Auburn and has attended Syracuse’s elite camp this past August. The sky's the limit for this next standout product out of Sacred Heart High School and we are all very excited to see what he can do this season.
6. Byron Breland III - Junior, Hillhouse High School
In the past few years, there has been a massive influx of young talent in the CIAC that is getting opportunities to showcase their talents as underclassmen. Byron Breland III is one of those many young stars on the scene after only two short years at Hillhouse. The 6’3 forward is one of the elite scorers in the state and also has the size and athleticism to bang on the boards as shown by his few double-doubles last season. Coming off a sophomore season that ended in a Class LL championship (in which he poured in 23 points) and Second Team Class LL honors, look for Breland to continue to get better as a junior this season and make a push to repeat as state champs.
7. CJ Seaforth - Senior, Hamden High School
CJ Seaforth is back for his senior season as he looks to build on what him and his team did last winter in which they finished with a 14-9 record and an appearance in the SCC and Class LL playoffs. One of the top players in the SCC, Seaforth averaged 21.5 points per game which was good enough to earn him Second Team Class LL honors. Seaforth has terrific control of the basketball, which allows him to create for himself off the dribble at a high rate and consistently finish at the rim whether in traffic or not. He also has the ability to step outside and knock down the three point jumper if it is given to him. This combination of skills along with great athleticism and capability to defend multiple positions is why he comes in at number seven on our list of returning players. Watch out for this Iona College commit in the next several months as he leads his Hamden Dragons through the highly-competitive SCC.
8. Jaecee Martin - Senior, Weaver High School
Jaecee Martin of the Weaver Beavers has been one of the top players in the state for the past few years. The 5’8 point guard is a ball of energy out on the court and is a threat on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. As a junior, Martin made the Class LL Second Team while averaging 15.6 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.5 steals per game and helping his team to an appearance in the Class LL finals at Mohegan Sun. One of the more impactful players this state has to offer, it’s no surprise he holds an offer from close by Division One program, Iona College. Weaver will be one of the best teams in the state this season yet again and Martin will be a main reason why.
9. Chalynn Martin - Senior, Weaver High School
Chalynn Martin of the Weaver Beavers has also been one of the top players in the state for the past few years. Just like his brother, Chalynn has been part of one of the state’s most successful programs in the past several seasons at Weaver High School. Standing at 6’1, you wouldn’t think he would have much presence on the boards but in fact he does. Along with averaging 15.4 points per game as a junior last season, he put up 5.8 rebounds per contest as well. He is one of those guys that just does it all for his team. He is a true threat in every aspect of the game. The former first team Class LL honoree is bound to have a special senior season and we can’t wait to witness it.
10. Christian Adams - Junior, Hillhouse High School
The third member of the Academics to make our list, Christian Adams was just as important to Hillhouse’s success last season as Kaspersyk and Breland III were. The sharp shooting forward is one of the most versatile players in the SCC. At 6’4, Adams has the ability to control the game with his outside shooting, while he can also manage to dominate down low. As a sophomore last season he averaged a double-double of 11.6 points and 10 rebounds per game which was good enough to earn him Second Team Class LL honors. With Adams, along with his teammates from earlier on the list, it is safe to say that Hillhouse is going to be a problem for the SCC and the rest of the state this season.
11. Patrick Harding - Senior, Fairfield Prep
This 6’8 big man is yet another player in the long line of Fairfield Prep greats. After graduation of all-state guard, Rich Kelly, Patrick Harding will be the main focus of this year’s Prep team. A true post presence, Harding is an excellent rebounder and shot blocker down low to go along with an efficient scoring touch. He is a great ability to run the floor at his size and has potential to dominate every game he plays in this season. Harding holds offers from Army and Columbia and has other Ivy schools expressing interest. Safe to say Harding is going to make it very hard on the SCC and the rest of the state this winter as he plays out his senior year.
12. Marcus Fox - Senior, Danbury High School
Marcus Fox is one of the more powerful post presences this state has to offer. Standing at 6’4, Fox’s strength and great footwork set him apart from the other bigs that the FCIAC has to offer. Not only is he great at scoring down low, but he is an above average passer out of the post and is a menace on both the offensive and defensive boards. Coming off a junior season where he earned Second Team Class LL honors and First Team FCIAC honors, Fox is hands down the most impactful player returning in his league. Look for the Hatters out of Danbury to follow up their amazing season last year (a run to the Class LL semis) with another stellar mark due to the fact that they have Marcus Fox controlling their paint.
13. Isiah Gaiter - Junior, Platt High School
This 6’4 southpaw started his high school career at Xavier, but after his freshman season, he transferred out to Platt High School in Meriden. There, he led the Panthers to a first round victory in the Class L tournament, and a mere upset over the #1 seed Windsor in the second round. Gaiter was a double-double machine last season and don't expect anything different in this upcoming winter. Gaiter has a smooth lefty stroke from the perimeter and has an easy time getting into the lane when smaller guards attempt to defend him so far away from the basket. Playing in the biggest conference the state has to offer is no easy task, but Gaiter showed an uncanny amount of poise and leadership as just a sophomore a year ago. He was the one that hit the buzzer beater to send them to that second round game in the state tournament. Not to mention, he dropped 21, 23 and 31 on Windsor, Middletown, and Newington respectively; three of the top tier teams of the CCC and state. Already with an offer from Iona College, don’t be surprised to see this rising junior burst on to the scene as one of the top players in the state this season.
14. Cairo McCroy - Sophomore, Northwest Catholic High School
It’s not often we find a player as athletic and as versatile as Cairo McCroy. The rising sophomore only has one year of varsity play under his belt, but has already earned All-CCC honors in the largest and if not toughest conference the state has to offer. Measuring in at around 6’4 and 175lb, McCroy is skilled on both the perimeter and inside on the low post. Whether you decide to defend him with a smaller guard or a larger big, he has the ability to create and put the ball in the hoop no matter who is attempting to match up with him. Already with an offer from a local Division One program, Sacred Heart University, the sky is the limit for Mr. McCroy out of Northwest Catholic. We all can’t wait to watch to see what he does this season and in the coming seasons and he continues to grow into the high level player that we know he can be.
15. Tyler Thomas - Junior, Amity High School
Last season, Amity hit the jackpot when Tyler Thomas transferred in from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The Second Team Class LL guard helped resurrect this SCC program from a 4-16 season in 2015 to a 16-7 mark, an appearance in the SCC semifinals, and a 10 seed in the Class LL tournament. Thomas’s athleticism sets him apart from most as he consistently plays above the rim. His quick release jump shot off the dribble and off of a catch + shoot also poses a problem to defenses as it is tough to guard someone with speed and explosiveness that Thomas possesses. The 6’2 guard has already been drawing college interest as he will be taking unofficial visits Columbia, Yale, Princeton, and Boston College in the fall. Watch for Thomas to emerge as a top player in the SCC as a junior this season.
16. Joe Reilly - Sophomore, East Catholic High School
We’re not sure that a freshman season could have gone any better than the one that Joe Reilly of East Catholic had. He started for the Eagles, won a CCC championship in which he led his team with 21 points in the final, and also won the Class LL championship. What more can you ask for? Reilly is one of the state’s best three point shooters as he shot at a ridiculous clip of 47% last season. He only averaged 13.3 points per game last season, but, don’t forget, he was just a freshman. Now that he has a year of experience under his belt, a couple championship rings, not to mention an offer from the University of Hartford, Joe Reilly is going to be a special player this season for one of the state’s elite programs.
17. Isaiah Williams - Junior, East Hartford High School
Although he stands at just 5’7, Isaiah Williams is a force to be reckoned with out on the floor. Whether it be with an acorbatic finish at the rim, an explosive mid range pull up, or even stepping outside the three-point line to show off his smooth-lefty stoke, this shifty little point guard can score from all over. Don’t be surprised to see Williams break out during his junior season and make a name for not only himself but also his East Hartford Hornets.
18. John Kelly - Junior, Fairfield Prep
Rising junior John Kelly will have a much bigger role with the Jesuits this season after the graduation of his brother. The 6’5 forward is an excellent shooter from the perimeter and can also defend multiple positions with his length. Already an SCC champion, Kelly is very experienced for just being a junior. He has played in all of the big games and comes from a program that understands what it takes to win. Prep will for sure be a top team in the state again and look for Kelly to be a main component of all that they go on to accomplish.
19. Kewan Smoot - Senior, South Windsor High School
After squeaking into the Class LL tournament with a 9-11 record last season, watch for South Windsor to make a bit more noise this time around as Kewan Smoot is back for his senior season. Another stud out of the CCC, Kewan Smoot is one of the more electrifying players in the state. The 6’2 point guard averaged 20.1 points and 6 assists per game as a junior which was good enough to earn him Class LL Second Team honors. Smoot is a strong finisher at the rim and has impressive court vision to constantly get his teammates involved.
20. Connor Harkins - Senior, Greenwich High School
Not so often you come across guy that can shoot it like Connor Harkins. You don’t believe us? Watch his junior year highlight tape HERE!
Harkins has “in the gym” range and can consistently knock down the jumper off the pull up, step back, and catch + shoot. In his junior season he averaged 18 ppg and earned First Team All-FCIAC, along with making 82 threes in 21 games (roughly 4 threes per contest). If that wasn’t enough, Harkins hit the game winning step back 3 from the top of the key in last year’s first round upset over Stamford in the Class LL tourney. Opposing coaches better start prepping now for their contests against the Greenwich Cardinals because Connor Harkins is going to be a handful.
Honorable Mention Next 5
Next 5 Seniors
Alex Preston - Darien High School
Isaiah McNair - Ledyard High School
Chase Belden - Pomperaug High School
Jalanni White - Notre Dame West Haven
Jack Williams - Wilton High School
Next 5 Juniors
Mekhi Warren - Windham High School
Jaekwon Spencer - Bristol Central
Jamil Hornesby - East Catholic High School
George Gamble - Windsor High School
Delshawn Jackson Jr. - Prince Tech
The Future is Bright! Top 5 Returning Underclassmen
Connor Raines - Sophomore, Notre Dame West Haven
Dev Ostrowski - Sophomore, East Lyme High School
Aidan Carpenter - Sophomore, Hamden High School
Ken Turner - Sophomore, Ledyard High School
- Nate Tabor - Freshman, Sacred Heart High School