PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: EAST HARTFORD'S ISAIAH WILLIAMS by CTHoopsNews

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By Robbie Goodrich

There is a loud buzz booming about East Hartford’s Isaiah Williams.  The Hornets’ junior PG has stung all six of his opponents this year, including a monster game against Mike McGuirl’s East Catholic.  The 5’9 Williams torched East Catholic for 28 points and added seven assists. For the season he is averaging 18.7 points per game, 5.5 assists, and 5 rebounds per game.  The 6-0 Hornets have skyrocketed in state polls (fifth in the GameTime Poll and second in the Courant Poll) because of Williams’ play.  Polls are polls, how will they react to the hype?

I spent some time at practice with the Hornets last week and got to know Coach Ed Lavoie and his PG.  Lavoie, in his sixth year coaching the Hornets has developed a strong relationship with his players on the court and in the classroom.   Mr. Lavoie co-teaches Biology and Freshmen Seminar. He considers his players as “well-rounded,” and “school and community leaders.” He noted his varsity players have a combined 3.5 GPA.   The practice was rough.  Players were flying all over the court, and at times several went to the ground after being bumped or struck by their teammates.  

Coach Lavoie describes Isaiah Williams as a combination of some of his best players he has coached.   He said, “I was fortunate enough to coach Anthony Jernigan and Nick Fenton and he (Williams) is a combination of those kind of kids; where he scores the ball very well like those guys, embraces defense, a great teammate, a good leader on court, (and) facilitates on the court as well.”  Lavoie described Williams production as “effortless,” and added, “it comes easy for him when he gets on those spurts where he scores eight or nine points and adds some assists as well.” 

Isaiah Williams, who has recently had his sixteenth birthday, is happy with the opportunities he has been afforded attending East Hartford High School.  Williams is very comfortable with who he is on and off the court.  He lives with his mom, dad, older brother and dog Apollo.  RIP MAX.  He has developed all parts of his (game) and is looking to improve on his playmaking skills as well as his consistency. He said, “I’m in a phase where I’m trying to become a creator, and (learning) changing my speeds so I can help my teammates get open.”    He had a tremendous, eye-opening performance in the Hornets win against East Catholic.  He has scored in double figures in all six games this year with his low being 11 and his high being 28 against East Catholic.   Looking at his best games and worst games of his young career he noted a near triple-double performance versus Tolland as his best; and the Hornet’s loss in the CCC tournament against East Catholic in 2016 as his worst.   In describing the loss in CCC tournament he focused on his turnovers in big moments as a reason to count that as a learning experience.  He has learned and he is excelling.  Tonight he leads his squad up against another top PG, South Windsor’s Kewan Smoot.  It will be a tough and exciting matchup...

Favorite Player to play against: Mike McGuirl, East Catholic
Player her fears the most: Nobody
Favorite Coach to play against: Coach Smith, Windsor
Pro Player: Chris Paul, Clippers
College Player: Frank Mason, Kansas

Recruitment:  It should be noted that Williams is a young junior, just turning sixteen.  He is committed to improving his game while his body matures.  He will have many options in the next year or so to showcase his talent.  One thing is certain about his future, whether it’s doing a year in prep school or going straight to the collegiate level, Isaiah will have choices.

*Updated*Recruiting Spotlight: Joe Kasperzyk (Senior, Hillhouse High School) by CTHoopsNews

Joe Kasperzyk #2 6'1 Guard Hillhouse '17 MixTape courtesy Brass City Films,  a Rob Maia owned and operated sports film company. 

BY Nate Rubinstein

Versatility is a characteristic that many high school basketball prospects lack. The ability to play as either a leading scorer, or a role player, depending on the team’s situation, does not come easy.

Players must be willing to do whatever it takes to win basketball games rather than focusing on their individual performances. Joe Kasperzyk, a rising senior at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut, is a perfect example of a player who is able to transform into any type of role on the hardwood.

Provided by: ctpost.com

Provided by: ctpost.com

Ranked No. 12 in Connecticut’s class of 2017 by New England Recruiting Report, Kasperzyk plays with Expressions Elite, a powerhouse AAU team from the New England area that competes in tournaments across the country. The program has had over 30 players since 2009 that have competed at the DI level, and a couple players that went on to play professionally.

Check out Joe Kasperzyk throwing down a one-hand jam against Guilford this past January.

There is a shift in talent when Kasperzyk leaves his Hillhouse Academic squad at the end of the March, and begins running with the Expressions Elite. At Hillhouse, the 6-foot-1 guard is noted as the star player, taking on majority of the scoring load. As for Expressions, Kasperzyk is turned to more for his defensive talents.

“When I am at Hillhouse I feel like I have to do a lot of stuff,” Kasperzyk said. “With Expressions I have a special role, focusing on defense.”

Provided by: wnpr.org

Provided by: wnpr.org

The speedy athletic guard has two DI offers on the table, with one being from Sacred Heart University and the other from Iona College. With the early understanding of what a role player means to a team, Kasperzyk knows that when he steps onto a college campus, he will need to do what his team asks of him.

“I know that when I step into college I am not going to be ‘The Man’,” Kasperzyk said. “I am going to have to play my role, and do what my coach asks me to do.”

Last season, the Academics were victorious over Weaver High School in the class LL final, beating the Beavers 94-83 in double overtime, but that is the past, and now the Hillhouse team is focused on defending the state title. In fact, Kasperzyk and company has already begun their training for the 2016-2017 campaign.

“We (Hillhouse) have gotten back in the gym,” Kasperzyk mentioned. “We have been doing a lot of conditioning to get ready for the season.”

CIAC teams will have to highlight Hillhouse again this year, as they have nearly everyone returning from last year’s roster. Christian Adams, Tyler Douglas and Byron Breland III are a few of the names that create the Hillhouse nucleus, along with Kasperzyk.

The versatile Kasperzyk will continue to receive interest from college coaches as the AAU season wraps up, and he begins to primarily focus on his last season in a Hillhouse uniform.

Provided by: ctpost.com

Provided by: ctpost.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recruiting Spotlight: Jared Simmons (Senior, Newington High School) by CTHoopsNews

By: Nate Rubinstein (@Nate_Rubinstein)

Simmons is a last name that has been heard quite a bit this past month after Louisiana State University’s former freshman standout, Ben Simmons, was drafted No. 1 overall by the Philadelphia Sixers in the 2016 NBA Draft.

However, Connecticut high school basketball has its own high-profiled prospect that shares the same last name as Philly’s promising rookie, and his name is Jared Simmons, a senior guard for Newington High School. Simmons has made noise in the Connecticut ranks, as well as the AAU circuit, drawing attention from many college coaches, including a scholarship offer from Rider University.

CTHoopsNews.com

CTHoopsNews.com

Along with his offer from Rider, Simmons has been in conversations with Sacred Heart University, Quinnipiac University, University of Maine, University of Vermont and a few DII schools. Despite having a solid amount of DI interest heading into his senior year, Simmons is still considering to take a post-grad year at a prep school before heading to college.

“I am waiting to see how this summer plays out, as far as what schools are recruiting me,” Simmons stated. “I am going to finish up this year at Newington, and possibly look to post-grad.”

St. Thomas More, Putnam Science Academy and the Masters School are the three prep schools that intrigue Simmons for his potential PG year.

Ranked a two star DI recruit on Verbal Commits, Simmons is a talented scorer, averaging 20.1 points per game this past season according to MaxPreps, as well as scoring his 10000th point in his junior year. The now rising senior is also noted for his passing ability.

Check out how Jared Simmons scored his 1000th career point for Newington High School here!

“I like to get my teammates involved to start off the game before I start to go in,” Simmons said. “It builds their confidence.”

During the school season, Simmons takes over the point guard responsibilities for Newington, but when running with the Connecticut Basketball Club during the spring and summer he moves to shooting guard in some situations, allowing him to prove to college coaches that he can play both guard positions.

Provided by: centralcommunications.com

Provided by: centralcommunications.com

To add onto the rigorous schedule that CBC follows, Simmons has found the time to attended elite camps at Quinnipiac University, Iona College and Providence College.

Simmons works out regularly at a local gym with his brother as he looks to put on more muscle to his 6-foot frame so that he can become a more appealing prospect to coaches at the DI level. If he improves his strength and speed he will be able to lock in a lot better on the defensive end, and there will be some more scholarship offers in his future.

For Newington’s upcoming season, the Indians will have a bit of a new look after having six seniors graduate in June.

“Losing six seniors is a big loss in the leadership roll,” Simmons said. “Nick Guadarrama and myself are going to look to take over that roll.”

A few new faces that Newington will look to fill the shoes of the seniors they lost include Isaac Ortiz, Tim Rivera and Andres Ithier Vicenty.

Provided by: centralcommunications.com

Provided by: centralcommunications.com

After having such an impressive regular season and then coming up short in both their conference tournament and the state tournament, Newington will be coming back to the gym hungry in early December. Simmons will be in charge of leading them to the promise land, also known as Mohegan Sun Arena.

Recruiting Spotlight: Rich Kelly (Post-Graduate, Cheshire Academy) by CTHoopsNews

By: Nathan Rubinstein (@Nate_Rubinstein)

Not too fast Connecticut high school basketball fans, we still have one more season left of watching prospective guard Rich Kelly play at the high school ranks. However, instead of wearing a red and white Fairfield Prep Jesuit jersey, he will be rocking a blue, white and gold Cheshire Academy Fighting Cats uniform.

Although Cheshire Academy is right down the road from the Shelton, CT native, the competition that Kelly will be facing is a dramatic change from what he has matched up against in the CIAC, preparing him even more for his future collegiate destination. The distance from home, and schedule that is on deck for Cheshire Academy, were both factors when choosing a prep school for his post-graduate year.

Provided by: fairfieldprep.org

Provided by: fairfieldprep.org

“It (Cheshire Academy) is close enough where I can drive, so I can stay another year at home,” Kelly said. “It’s NEPSAC AA so it’s obviously great competition. It’s a good academic school, and I also have a couple of friends that go there.”

The 5-foot-11 guard is the definition of a floor general. I mean, we did after all see him help lead the Jesuits to a state championship his junior year in 2015 after losing the final game at Mohegan Sun Arena two years in a row prior. He has an extraordinary basketball IQ and gets everyone on the floor involved, while also looking for opportunities to pull his polished jump shot.

Provided by: ctpost.com

Provided by: ctpost.com

Kelly’s success at Fairfield Prep gained interest from DI programs such as Dartmouth, Holy Cross and Yale to name a few, and with the post-grad year at Cheshire Academy, don’t be surprised if more schools begin to dial his number.

“The schools that were interested in me, became more interested because I can get bigger, stronger and faster,” Kelly said. “Not a lot of new schools have reached out, but I think that might change in July.”  

Kelly’s schedule has been packed so far this summer and will continue to be, playing in AAU tournaments with Project Triple Threat Elite out of Wallingford, Connecticut and ran by current Choate Rosemary Hall head coach, Drew Dawson. Along with AAU Kelly will be attending multiple exposure camps this summer, to make a great introduction to college coaches who didn’t get the chance to see him play at Fairfield Prep.

Coach Dawson, who formerly played point guard for Lafayette College and coached at the college level, has a handful of connections and will be having some DI coaches coming to see Kelly play this summer. It will all be up to the rising guard to show what he has in his arsenal.

“I just have to perform under the lights,” Kelly simply stated.

Those of us who saw him take control of games throughout his career in the CIAC know very well that when the lights turn on, Kelly is ready to play.

Provided by: ctpost.com

Provided by: ctpost.com

 

 

 

Recruiting Spotlight: Rayon Christie (Senior, Simsbury High School) by CTHoopsNews

By: Nathan Rubinstein

Coaches at any level of basketball are always looking for players that can immediately impact their teams, and continue to improve over the years. That is exactly what senior guard Rayon Christie has done for the Simsbury High School basketball program.

Provided by: @RayonChristie11

Provided by: @RayonChristie11

Christie came onto the Connecticut varsity high school basketball scene later in his freshman year, first molding his craft at the junior varsity level. Simsbury just didn’t know exactly where Christie would fit on the experienced Trojan varsity team. 

After scrimmaging with the JV team for several weeks, Christie earned a spot on the varsity bench. His talent was hard to keep quiet, and head coach Greg Stillman of the Trojans remembers the first game that Christie checked in, and from that point on, Christie was a varsity player.

Provided by: @SimsburyBall 

Provided by: @SimsburyBall 

“First game we put him in, we let him play a couple of minutes,” Stillman said. “It was one of those things when the lights went on and he was just a player.” 

The young frosh belonged at the varsity level, and his minutes continued to increase as the season played on. 

Halfway through Christie’s freshman campaign, he said farewell to the JV’s, and became a varsity member full time. Filling the role as the Trojan backup point guard, he played the game with poise as if he was a seasoned vet. 

Christie finished his freshman year scoring eight points per game, shooting 39 percent from 3-point land. Rayon came back to Simsbury his sophomore year ready to contribute but took a back seat to a couple of high profiled players in Walter Whyte and EJ Crawford. 

Knowing that Whyte and Crawford would handle majority of the scoring load, coach Stillman sketched Christie’s name into the point guard slot to act as a third scoring option and a distributor. He ended his sophomore season scoring 11.1 points per game while dishing out 3.5 assists per game. 

Christie knew his role and facilitated Simsbury’s offense well, but when his number was called, he had no problem stepping up.

The last regular season game of that year the Trojans had Farmington on their plate, and the Indians knew that they had to shut down Simsbury’s EJ Crawford if they wanted to win. With Crawford being locked down, Christie took over and dropped 36 points, proving that he was a proficient scorer. 

“That was the first time he really put it (Christie’s scoring ability) on display,” said Stillman.

Junior year, Christie blossomed not only as a player, but also as a leader for the Simsbury program. Both Whyte and Crawford transferred to prep schools in hope to gain more college interest, and the Trojans had a couple of seniors that graduated as well. 

With the inexperience that Simsbury had, Christie was moved from point guard to shooting guard, having the offense revolve around him. To add to that, Christie’s teammates named him captain as a junior and knew that they could trust him under that roll. 

“He’s very good at appreciating his teammates,” Stillman said. “Nobody has a problem passing to him (Christie), nobody has a problem setting screens for him, getting him the ball knowing that’s the guy we want to get the ball to, and a big a part of that is because he appreciates them doing that.”

Many critics believed that the Trojans were going to fall right on their face in the 2014-2015 season. Losing all the star power from a 16-7 team the year prior, the expectations from Simsbury fans weren’t high.

They obviously didn’t understand the capabilities of their junior guard.

Simsbury finished the regular season 16-4, and fell in the state LL quarterfinals. Christie scored 23.7 points per game and grabbed 5.2 rebounds. From 3-point range he shot 44 percent, and earned first team Class LL All-State recognition.

Now, Christie is a senior, and is the all-time leading scorer at Simsbury High School with 1274 points, and counting, next to his name. 

Provided by: @Jane_Langlais

Provided by: @Jane_Langlais

The Trojans currently sit at 10-3, and have potential to win some hardware for their school. 

“One goal is to win the CCC,” Christie said on his team’s mission for the 2015-2016 season. “The other is to just become better as a team overall.”

The 6-foot-2 guard is currently scoring 22.1 points per game, shooting 40 percent from behind the arc. With his numbers continuing to progress, he has been receiving interest from coaches at the next level.

“I want to get stronger and faster,” Christie said on what he wants to focus on in his post-graduate year. “I also want to get more exposure and play against more competition.”

The two prep schools that Christie has shown interest in are Canterbury School, in New Milford, CT, and Proctor School in Andover, New Hampshire. Either program will not only allow Christie to excel on the court, but academically in the classroom as well.

A scorer, a leader and a versatile player that can play both the point guard and shooting guard positions, is what is packaged in Rayon Christie’s arsenal. With only a few months left of the high school basketball season, coaches will begin to crack down on the excellence that Christie exemplifies on the hardwood.

While the recruiting process could be a burden for one of the top guard in the state, Christie continues to play the game he loves with a smile on his face, focusing on achieving the goals that his team set in place at the beginning of the season.

To view Christie's highlights from last year follow the link below:

 http://www.hudl.com/athlete/3603015/rayon-christie

 

 

 

Recruiting Spotlight: Danny Campbell (Sophomore, Classical Magnet High School) by CTHoopsNews

By: Nate Rubinstein ( @Nate_Rubinstein )

When a star breaks out in Connecticut the hype turns real. Once the word circulates its as if the whole state starts flocking to their games to see what the buzz is all about. Danny Campbell of Classical Magnet High School might be that next breakout player and it wont be long before we find out. 

The 6’2” forward has the athleticism that allows him to play above the rim and exposed this quality during the AAU circuit. 

Campbell created some excitement for himself on the AAU circuit playing for the Connecticut Rough Riders. By the end of the off-season he earned recognition at several events, including the Connecticut Basketball Combine 2015 Fall Showcase. 

Even with his success, he still looks to improve his game going into the winter. 

“I want to work on my guard skills. My ball-handling, shooting and scoring off the dribble will be my focus,” he said. 

Campbell realizes that if he wants to have any future in his game past high school, he will need to be able to play beyond the perimeter. Although he has the talent in the paint, being 6’2” will only allow him to play up to a small-forward position in college at best. 

Only seeing the floor a little bit during his freshman campaign, Classical Magnet will look for him to adjust to a bigger role this season. With the Gladiators bring back multiple seniors this year; Campbell is taking in all he can learn from his mentors. 

“I look up to Jameal Cushnie (Senior forward) and Leroy Collier (Senior guard) as leaders for the team.” Campbell said on some of his returning Seniors who were named the captains for the Gladiators in 2015-2016.

Cushnie, a 6’2” forward as well, averaged 8.6 points per game as well as grabbing 7.0 boards a game, per MaxPreps. Collier on the other hand averaged 8.3 points and dished out 1.5 assists per game.

With the loss of Timothy Flynn, there will be a need for a legitimate scorer for Classical. Flynn was the go-to-guy for the Gladiators last year, as he netted 21.1 points per game, and totaled 4.0 assists and 6.3 rebounds as well.

 

Provided by: courant.com

Provided by: courant.com

The Gladiators amounted to the 17th seed in the Class M state tournament last year, but fell in the second round to the number 1 seed Hartford foe, and eventual state champion, the Weaver High School Beavers. Classical will look to get back to post season play, and potentially follow the journey that all Connecticut basketball players know as “the Run to the Sun”. 

Campbell was listed as one of the top players in Connecticut for the class of 2018 by “Recruit the Bronx”.  He is an outstanding rebounder and can finish around the basket with ease. Campbell is also a selfless player in the frontcourt with his high basketball IQ. 

Although Campbell was able to make a name for himself with the Roughriders, and at multiple exposure events, he has been unable to pick up any interest from any schools due to him only being a sophomore. 

If Campbell can translate his impressive AAU play to the high school style of play, then don’t be surprised if colleges and universities are knocking on his door.

Recruiting Spotlight: Jordan Pettway (Senior, Notre Dame-Fairfield) by CTHoopsNews

Provided by: ctpost.com

Provided by: ctpost.com

Recruiting Spotlight: Jordan Pettway

By: Nate Rubinstein (@Nate_Rubinstein)

The class of 2016 is full of talent, and a 5’9’ point guard from Notre Dame-Fairfield is at the top of the list.

Jordan Pettway boasted 14 points per game and an 82 percent shooting mark from the charity stripe in helping the Lancers to the Class M state final. Although they weren’t’t able to bring home the hardware, Pettway is confident that they will be able to make it back to Mohegan Sun Arena for another run this year.

Pettway has all the right to be confident with the arsenal of players that Coach Vin Laczkoski has surrounded him with. Pettway explained, “We have our other captain Jesse McIntosh, then we have a couple young players that were freshman last year, and we have a couple foreign exchange students that will help us out a lot.”

McIntosh will look to improve on his All-Patriot division honors last year, in which he averaged 12 points per game. The two foreign exchange students that Pettway referred to are 6’3” Giovanni Cagnazzo and 6’6” Tom Gerling. Both Tom and Giovanni will be huge parts of the Lancer offense this season. With his “drive and dish” talents, Pettway will have plenty of players to get involved in the offense.

However, Jordan is looking to improve on more than just his tangible traits. He was named co-captain of the 2015-2016 roster, which he is taking to heart. He said, “Last year I came into my own as a player, so I am working on becoming a leader, being able to score more and work with my teammates. Become more of an overall player.”

The second team Class M CHSCA All-State selection had a solid spring and summer with the Stamford Peace AAU club receiving looks from multiple schools. However, Pettway claimed that a post-graduate year at a prep school is on his mind following his graduation from Notre Dame-Fairfield. The prep schools that have already started to contact to Pettway include Canterbury School (New Milford, CT) and Putnam Science Academy (Putnam, CT).

When asked what he is looking for in a school Pettway said, “I’m looking for a system that I can play in. Maybe a three-man system that uses a lot of pick and rolls because I like playing off of them.”

Look for Pettway to make some noise in the CIAC, and gain more attention from prep schools and colleges across the New England territory.