Friar Basketball

Live from Groton, MA – Lawrence Academy vs. St. Mark’s

Made the short ride to Groton to check out a handful of noteworthy preps in this clash of NEPSAC Class C powers.

St. Mark’s is the two time defending Class C champion with a scary front line, including Nate Lubick (Georgetown), Melsahn Basabe (Siena), and steller sophs Alex Murphy and Kaleb Tarczewski.  Both sophomores are Friar targets and among the most highly sought after players in the class of 2012.

Lawrence Academy attacks in a different way.  Their explosive backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Denzel Brito looks to be the best in Class C.

I spotted Friar assistant Pat Skerry in attendance, along with Adam Ginsburg of UMass, and a coach from Georgetown who I believe to be Kenya Hunter.

In a game of contrasting styles, with huge runs in an action-packed back and forth second half, LA pulled out a 76-72 win behind their scoring force at point guard.  More on Napier later.

Player Impressions:

Nate Lubick: Impossible not to like Nate if you’re a true basketball fan.  A sturdy 6’8 power forward, Lubick is an above average rebounder, really good passer for a kid his size, nifty around the basket, hits his free throws, and is as humble as you’ll see from a kid ranked in the 30s nationally in every major publication.  With his passing skills he should be a great fit in JTIII’s system.  The type of kid PC fans should hope to get, from both a talent and demeanor standpoint in the future.

Denzel Brito: Don’t believe the hype.  This was my third time seeing Brito and I’ve yet to see a Big East level guard.  Good build and athleticism and an underrated passer, but the shot isn’t what it was supposed to be, which could make life difficult for a 6’2 shooting guard.  A notch down from Duke Mondy.

Basabe: So this is how Siena does it.  A springy 6’8 kid who does all of his work under the basket and plays with a lot of aggression.  Lawrence led by 7 at the half, by 10 with under 4 minutes to go, but Basabe willed St. Mark’s back into this one by dominating an undersized LA froncourt.  Lubick and Basabe fouled out LA’s top two post defenders.  If this one went to overtime, which it looked like it might up until the final five seconds, LA would have been in trouble.  Basabe got offers from Big East schools, but it was too little too late and he was off to Fran McCaffery and the Saints.  Too bad for the Big East.

Alex Murphy: All of the tools are there.  A heady passer, good shooter, and looked to be slightly taller than Lubbick already.  Murphy deferred his game to Basabe and Lubick and didn’t put up a big stat line, but he’s so skilled for a kid his age and size.

Kaleb Tarczewski: With the attention he is getting I expected him to play more.  He’s in a bit of a minute crunch playing behind the two senior big men, but the one thing that stands out is his jumper.  They just don’t make 6’11 sophomores with a jumper as soft as his.  Hit both free throws he took and swished a 17 footer.  There wasn’t enough of a sampling tonight to get a true read on his rebounding and defensive abilities, and those will obviously continue to develop as he does.

The Great Point Guard Debate:

A week ago no one was pushing for Shabazz Napier to Providence more than I.  The kid is an absolutely explosive scorer with a good handle and great range on his jumper.  The play-making ability was still a question after seeing him last February, but Providence hasn’t brought in a guard who can put 9-12 points on the board in a minute and a half span like Napier can in what seems like forever.

Then I saw Naadir Tharpe.  Ignore what Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury turned out to be and take a trip back to 1996 with me.

We’re approaching the 1996 NBA draft and two point guards are the headliners: Georgetown’s sophomore scoring lead man Allen Iverson and Georgia Tech’s freshman Stephon Marbury.

Iverson was the flashy scoring guard, capable of going off for 40 on any given night, a pest on defense who wasn’t a great 1:1 defender, but got his hands on a lot of balls due to speed and aggression.  His play making skills were brought into question, but the pro-AI crowd swore that given the right cast he would be less of a shooter and more of scorer with the ability to create.



Stephon Marbury was more of a creator who scored.  Hubie Brown on Steph: “He has a great feel for the game, he gets everyone involved.  He can score, shoot the 3s, and make the pass in traffic.”  Then Steph cried on camera – who would have guessed?



One more note from this clip – Steph on point guards: ” A leader. Someone who is going to make everyone around him better.  Sacrifice… do everything that it takes to win.”

I digress.

Want to know if you are pro-Napier or Tharpe?  If you were an AI fan in 96 Napier is your guy.  If you felt more comfortable with the true point guard like Marbury then Naadir is your man.

Napier is the home run hitter.  A player capable of putting up back to back 3s, then pressuring full court, picking up a steal and layup and completely turning a game around.   He did that tonight against St. Mark’s.  LA led by 7 at the half, St. Mark’s stormed out of the lockerroom and looked to take control of the game and then Napier harrassed the point guard into turnovers, rained down a few 3 pointers, and attacked the basket when the opportunity arose.

He did force the action at times and turned the ball over more than you’d like, but it was difficult to leave the gym tonight not excited about his scoring potential.  He worked harder on defense than I anticipated.

When asked to compare the two I’d say Napier can get you back into a game, or blow a game open single-handedly, whereas Tharpe is going to make his teammates a lot better.  He’s a great passer and decision maker.

If Providence ends up with either of these kids fans should be thrilled, but if you’re the type who needs to pull for one over the other you now have options.

Oh, and then there’s the less heralded Stevie Taylor who I know absolutely nothing about other than he seems to be Friar fans’ 3rd choice.  The third point guard taken in 1996?