Friar Basketball

Live from Providence: NPSI 2017

David D

During the early days of my focus leaned heavily on recruiting. The site started in year two of Keno Davis’ three year tenure at PC, and as the product unraveled on the court I focused more and more on in-person reports of local tournaments and games.

One of my favorite events of the year has always been the National Prep School Invitational. Having just wrapped up its 19th season, this has long been a showcase of future NBA and college stars (Andre Drummond, Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Napier, Will Barton, Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Steven Adams, Noel Vonleh, Jamal Murray and the list goes on) on absolutely loaded prep teams.

It was at this event when I met Craig Leighton and a few years later I invited him to write for because his passion for recruiting and the development of young players was unlike anyone I’d met.

This past weekend was my eighth year covering the event for, and sixth since partnering with Craig. Once again the field did not disappoint. Friar assistant Brian Blaney was in attendance on Thursday, Friday and Sunday (the team was in Milwaukee Saturday), and the full staff was there to see top recruit David Duke of Cushing Academy on Sunday.

Here are our takeaways:

Who were you most impressed with throughout the weekend?

Kevin Farrahar: This list could get pretty lengthy. I was in attendance on Saturday and Sunday, and after a pair of so-so games to kick off the first day, Orangeville Prep of Canada and Putnam Science impressed.

Orangeville is where current PC freshman Kalif Young played (they’ve also produced the likes of Murray and Thon Maker) and point guard Junior Farquhar was very good. The junior scored 17 points, but the strength of his game is in his ability to get into the lane and find teammates. He’s a terrific passer with a good build who figures to see his stock rise with more exposure.

Putnam’s Eric Ayala has been mentioned with Providence at certain points, and with his shooting stroke it is easy to see why. He hung 22 on Orangeville and showed one of the best outside shots of the showcase.

Nate Laszewski shot the lights out in Northfield Mount Hermon’s win over PC recruit Cole Swider and St. Andrew’s, while one-time PC recruit Marcus Santos-Silva (VCU) of Vermont Academy bullied Cheshire Academy inside (CA was without 7’3 Chol Marial), and Santos-Silva’s teammate Simi Shittu’s freakish athleticism was on full display.

Brewster is completely loaded once again, and N.C. State commit Thomas Allen was incredible from deep. His 21 points came just days after making 11 3-pointers in a game in which he broke Brewster’s school record with 50 points.

The best performance I saw, however, came from Cushing point guard Wabissa Bede on Saturday afternoon. The Massachusetts native and future Virginia Tech Hokie was unstoppable in scoring 26 points against a team from Prague that couldn’t match Cushing’s athleticism. I grew up in Andover, MA, and had a friend rave about him after seeing him score 47 for North Andover High School a few years ago, but he’s come so far as a play-maker, shooter, and with his handle since that time.

He was connecting on an unguardable step-back jumper and is playing with supreme confidence and a bit of an edge on both sides of the ball. He looks to have completely reshaped his body and is a true top 75-100 talent in his class.

Craig Leighton: This was probably the best National Prep School Invitational that I have seen in the last few years. Several teams had big time national recruits on their roster and many of the games were very competitive.

Rhode Island native and New Hampton small forward Kimani Lawrence may have been the best player I saw during the tournament. He was able to score inside and outside at will and was virtually unguardable during the weekend. Lawrence had 24 points in a win over Orangeville Prep and 31 points in a victory over South Kent.

The player who showed the most talent was forward Simi Shittu of Vermont Academy. At 6’9, Shittu handles the ball and passes like a guard. He is a superior athlete who gets to the rim with ease and can dominate down low. Shittu is the type of player that a high major program can build around.

Cushing’s 6’1 point guard Wabissa Bede continues to show why he was the breakout player during last summer’s AAU season. Bede is now able to get his own shot when he needs to and has the ability to dominate games offensively. He has an improved outside shot which looks more consistent. Virginia Tech may have gotten a steal when they got a commitment from him.

Bede’s Cushing Academy teammate, 6’4 combo guard David Duke from Providence, gets better every time I see him. He has all the tools to develop into an elite point guard at the next level and is just scratching the surface of his ability. Duke may be the Friars’ number one priority for the class of 2018 and the coaching staff was out in full force to see him on Sunday.

What about the PC targets? Who did you go to see from a Providence perspective?

KF: This weekend was all about Duke and Swider for Friar fans.

Duke missed time last week with a bum ankle, and turned it early in Cushing’s game on Saturday. It looked bad and I wasn’t sure if he’d return, but he did in time to finish with a 12-point, 10 rebound double double.

On Sunday, Duke was the best player on the floor in a game that included Villanova commit Jermaine Samuels of Rivers as well as Bede. There’s really nothing to dislike about Duke’s game. He’s as athletic as it gets, has grown to what looks to be 6’3, and is a well above average shooter from deep and mid-range. A subtle thing? He’s already a capable passer with his left hand.

Duke, a junior, is a Providence native and he’s getting plenty of love from the Friars. I’ve seen him play four times this year and a member of the PC staff has been at each game. All four recruiting members of the staff were in attendance on Sunday and they sat directly behind Cushing’s bench.

Simply put, Duke is an outstanding talent. Connecticut is in pursuit and he got an offer from Florida this weekend according to Corey Evans of He’s going to be the next Mass Rival to explode, so hold on tight during this recruitment.

Swider and St. Andrew’s were fairly significant underdogs against Northfield Mount Hermon. They have played each other a few times in this showcase in the past 3-4 years and it turned into a runaway for NMH, but not this time around. NMH closed it out late, winning 81-73 behind North Carolina commit Andrew Platek (17 points) and one of my favorite players of the past few seasons in Davidson pledge Kelan Grady.

Swider finished with 15 points, but struggled to shake NMH’s defenders. He got himself into trouble dribbling into traffic at times and had a big opportunity to make it a one possession game in the final two minutes with an open 3 that he front-ended.

Still, Swider has very good upside as a 6’7-6’8 sharpshooter who doesn’t hesitate to put the ball on the floor. Like Duke, he is a Rhode Island native and would be another very good get for the Friars.

CL: Kevin nailed it with Duke and Swider, so I will add a couple of other names that the Friar staff has been involved with to one degree or another.

Brewster Academy’s Sidney Wilson is an athlete who plays the whole game above the rim. At 6’7 he runs the court like a gazelle and finishes with authority. He is one of the top small forwards in the country, and if he continues to work on his handle and his outside shot he could be a great player on the college level with NBA potential. Wilson was the games’s MVP on Sunday, finishing with 18 points in a Brewster victory over South Kent.

6’4 Eric Ayala of Putnam Science had a solid performance in the game I saw him play against Orangeville Prep. He finished with 22 points while demonstrating a sweet outside shot and great court awareness. Ayala should wind up being one of the top combo prospects nationally in the class of 2018.

I thought that Nate Laszewski of Northfield Mount Hermon was the best shooter in the tournament. He has beautiful form on his shot, and when watching him you sometimes wonder how he could ever miss. At 6’7-6’8, he needs to add strength to excel at the next level and should wind up being a valuable stretch four for a high major team.

One of the great things about the National Prep School Invitational is that it is a great place for the Friar staff to scout under the radar talent that they have not been involved with. Coach Blaney was on hand for most of the games on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, watching for potential future Friars.

Who is now on your radar that might not have been previously?

KF: St. Andrew’s sophomore Brycen Goodine is a good place to start. The New Bedford, MA native may have been Mike Hart’s best player against powerful Northfield Mount Hermon (20 points) and could develop into a top 100 player.

Farquhar was a name I knew coming in, but he was much better than expected. The Friars will be looking for point guard help in 2018, and he has the makings of a steady floor leader and playmaker.

Craig called my attention to 6’8 Ignas Brazdeikis, Farquhar’s Orangeville teammate, who may have been the breakout player of the weekend. He was impressive — a big, skilled lefty with a pretty outside shot who is active on the glass and defensively. I’d be shocked if his recruitment doesn’t really take off soon, especially after a pair of tremendous performances here. He had 27 against a very good Putnam Science frontcourt.

Marcus Zegarowski of Tilton is another 2018 point guard to keep an eye on. While he didn’t play particularly well against Redemption Christian Academy on Sunday, he’s quick with the ball and has a good motor.

Redemption’s Christopher Duarte was a force on the other side, scoring 38 points against Tilton on Sunday, a day after going for 32 versus Bridgton.

CL: I agree on Duarte. A 6’5 point guard, he is going to be in high demand at the next level.

One of the biggest surprises for me was the play of 6’8 power forward Brazdeikis. At a solid 230 pounds I expected him to be just an inside banger, but Brazdeikis has the full package including an incredible outside shot. He also has a nice handle and great court awareness. His combination of an inside game and an outside game is what separates him from most power forward prospects.

As mentioned earlier, Brazdeikis’ teammate, Junior Farquhar, is a pass first point guard who possesses all the tools to succeed at the next level. He is a great passer with a good handle and is fun to watch. At 6’3 he has great size for a point guard and should be in demand for teams looking for a floor general for the 2018 class.

The Rivers School has a couple of players that Friar fans should keep an eye on in the future. Jay Dieterle is a 6’3 point guard who already is solid running a team even though he is only in the 9th grade. Camaran Tongue is a 6’5 forward who was effective while on the court even though he is only in the eighth grade.

A name that Friar fans will become familiar with over the next four years is 6’9 class of 2017 center Paul Newman. He was able to score on a variety of low post moves against a tough Northfield Mount Hermon front line. Newman has committed to play for Brown University next year.


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