By Nick Curcuru
---- — With the winter high school sports season over on Cape Ann, it’s time to reflect on the season that was.
When it comes to boys basketball there was a lot to like this winter. Although Manchester Essex was the only team to qualify for the postseason, Gloucester and Rockport showed big improvements and strong individual performances were at a premium.
Guards and swing men make up the strongest contingent of individual talent on Cape Ann. While the Fishermen, Vikings and Hornets are all fairly height challenged, teams made up for it with athletic guards and strong outside shooting which led to some high scoring games.
While perimeter players rule the roost on Cape Ann, there are also a fair share of grinders and defensive stoppers that every good team needs.
Here’s a look at what a team built of the best boys basketball stars on Cape Ann may look like.
PG- Liam Aldrich, Manchester Essex. Aldrich took the Cape Ann League by storm in his first season as the Hornets’ starting point guard. The senior captain does everything that a point guard is expected to do. He quarterbacks the Hornets offense, sets the tempo, breaks a full court press and gets his teammates involved.
Ball movement was one of the main reasons the Manchester Essex offense was so prevalent this season and it all starts with Aldrich at the point.
Aldrich, however, is more than your typical point guard and his deadly offensive game is what sets him apart from the rest. His first instinct may be to pass the ball and find an open teammate, but Aldrich also has an efficient jump shot that he’s not afraid to use. It seems like every time the Hornets point guard has an open look, he knocks it down as is evident in his 14.6 points per game and 44 three pointers.
Aldrich’s ability to shoot and pass makes him a matchup nightmare for just about any team he faces.
SG- Shaun Asepsi, Rockport. Simply put, Shaun Aspesi can score the basketball. Some players are labeled as shooters, some as slashers, Aspesi is a scorer.
Play off the junior guard and he can sink a long jumper (28 three pointers on the year). Play him tight and he will put the ball on the floor and drive right past you. While taking it to the hoop, Aspesi also has the luxury of a strong mid-range game and good touch around the basket meaning he can pull up and shoot, or take it to the rim.
Aspesi led all players on Cape Ann with 16.9 points per game on the season and showed the ability to take over games on the offensive end when called upon.
SF- Max Nesbit, Manchester Essex. Nesbit is no stranger to the Hornets starting lineup as he was a fixture on last season’s 19-3 Cape Ann League Small champions. As a senior in 2013, it was time for Nesbit to shoulder a bigger role and he thrived.
Nesbit may have the most dynamic offensive game on Cape Ann thanks to his size and athleticism. At 6’1” Nesbit is a handful for most swing players in the Cape Ann League because he can run the floor with the best of them. Combine that with his area leading 55 three pointers and you have a bona fide matchup nightmare.
Nesbit led a deep Manchester Essex starting lineup with 16.4 points per game this season and was the team’s go to guy when it needed a bucket. Nesbit demands respect every time he has the ball and also has a crafty passing game to add to his arsenal.
PF- Tucker Meredith, Rockport. More of a swing man than a power forward but versatility is what makes it possible to play Meredith at the four. On the offensive end, Meredith’s sweet spot is on the perimeter. At 6’3” he can let a jump shot go over the tallest of perimeter defenders and his range is unlimited. Three pointers are his game but he can also put the ball on the floor and drive to the rim.
Meredith was one of the more prolific scorers in the area this season with 12.9 points per game and 40 three pointers.
But what makes Meredith such a unique player is the most underrated aspect of his game - defensive versatility. On the offensive end he’s a swing man in every sense of the word, but on the defense side of the floor he can cover any position. He’s quick enough to stay with guards, athletic enough to handle a strong drive to the rim and strong enough to battle a big man in the post and hold his own on the glass.
Meredith frequently guarded the opponents most dangerous player regardless of position.
C- Drew Shairs, Gloucester. With a lineup full of outside shooters, a grinder in the middle is a necessity and Shairs fits the bill perfectly. The junior center is not incredibly tall at 6’2”, but his defensive tackle frame makes him tough to handle down low. Good luck trying to box out a player who takes on two offensive linemen per play throughout the fall.
Shairs was Gloucester’s leading scorer with 10.2 points per game and their leading rebounder.
Off the Bench
Jason Vizena, Gloucester. A battle tested combo guard that can play any role his team needs. If you need him to handle the ball he will run the point. He can shoulder a scoring load and he can turn his focus to being a defensive stopper. He’s the kind of versatile player that every team needs.
Taylor Ketchum, Manchester Essex. An inside out threat, Ketchum can rebound, score in the post and step back and drain a three-pointer. He’s another player who is athletic enough to cover a swing man and strong enough to cover a big man.
Austin Davis, Gloucester. Established himself as a reliable scorer for the Fishermen this winter thanks to a deadly outside shooting game. The senior guard led Gloucester with 28 three pointers on the year and is as deadly a spot up shooter as you’ll find on Cape Ann.
Nick Scatterday, Rockport. While he’s not a big scoring threat (4.2 points per game), Scatterday thrives in every other area and does all the little things on both ends of the floor. Scatterday is a respected floor general running the point for the Vikings and a reliable perimeter defender.