If I can be entirely candid, this wasn’t the most exhilarating year of high school basketball I’ve ever seen or covered in Western New York. There were some magnificent teams this past season, but none that will rank among the all-time or even best in recent memory. Sure, there were a number of marvelous players, but probably not any we’ll be looking back at years from now and remembering where we were the last time they played in a high school gymnasium.
However, this was one of those years that offered a massive dose of parity and if you’re the type that enjoys excitement and unpredictability, then this was as good as it gets.
It felt like anytime a team took the floor in the role as underdog they were capable of pulling an upset and often this year—they did. With the exception of Olean dominating the area small school scene wire to wire, there was heavy movement up and down the poll rankings almost every week.
Because of that… and I’ll probably say this every year, the task to select the 20 kids that form our four All-Star teams was more arduous than I could’ve imagined. I kept a notebook with my first-team picks and updated it weekly for nearly the entire season. I’m not embellishing the truth why saying no less than 13 different kids at one time or another appeared on said list.
This year, it genuinely was that challenging to come up with a top five, let alone a 20 before honorable mention, which even that ultimately leaves off a handful of deserving athletes.
I did the best I could to take everything into account with this year’s edition. An equal premium was put on team achievement, postseason success, statistics, individual prowess and in many instances, intangibles that not always on the score sheet. It’s hardly an exact science and there’s sure to be criticism aplenty in snubs or kids being ranked too high or low. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it goes.
Instead of spending more time defending those not on the list, I’d rather just extend congratulations to those who made the cut.
Lastly, this is not the official All-WNY list. The Buffalo News has and will continue to be the publication that “officially” recognizes the All-WNY team. This is merely meant to serve as Buffalo Sports Daily’s All-Star team, which was based on being at and covering a lot of games, as well as countless conversations with site contributors, respected media members from other publications and correspondence with more coaches than you’ll ever know.
Without further ado…Our second annual Buffalo Sports Daily All-BSD Boy’s High School Basketball team.
♦♦♦♦♦ PLAYER OF THE YEAR♦♦♦♦♦
Stan Wier, East Aurora (Senior)
In the spirit of full disclosure, had this competition run only through the regular season Wier probably wouldn’t be my 2011-12 Player of the Year. It’s not that numbers don’t pop off the charts, because averages of 25 points and 10 rebounds per night most certainly do.
Keeping things real, I just felt for a lot of the season Wier was a product of hype based on his past and even more so, a scoring machine with the ultimate green light to shoot every time he touched the ball his senior season at East Aurora.
Wier tasted heavy success as a sophomore at Nichols, becoming a key ingredient in a squad that would eventually win the Class A New York State Federation title—the highest honor you can capture in the state. I was heavily disappointed to learn he was transferring to play in Indiana his junior season, though he did return to Western New York for his senior campaign, fresh with a scholarship to the University at Buffalo for next year in his back pocket.
Still, I thought his game was just a bit more propaganda than substance and four high schools in four years? Really?
Boy, did he ever prove me wrong.
Wier had a stretch late during the regular season of scoring at least 30 points in five straight games. But his individual accolades pale in comparison to how impressive he was when the games mattered most. Known as a scorer first, second and third around these parts, Wier put his team on his back when the Section VI playoffs started and by the time it was over, shocked the local high school hoops world with how things turned out.
Seeded third when the Class A2 playoffs began, East Aurora took the court at Buffalo State in the semifinal against second-seeded Riverside. There, Wier dropped 27 points, including five three-pointers and 10 rebounds as his Blue Devils advanced. In the A2 championship game against favored Amherst, Wier scored 17 points to go with eight rebounds as East Aurora upended the top seed, 45-35.
But perhaps the most remarkable game of the season came in the Class A crossover championship four days later. Facing a heavily favored McKinley team that dominated the Yale Cup and Class A1 playoffs, Weir scored 17 points, added 12 rebounds and was a factor on both sides of the court as the Macks were shockingly eliminated in lopsided fashion, 55-41.
His final game came against one of the top teams in the state, Bishop Kearney in the Far West Regionals. Though the Blue Devils lost by 21, Weir proved himself one final time, scoring 26 of his team’s 43 points.
An imposing pedigree coupled with an extraordinary effort both in playmaking and team leadership, combined with East Aurora’s postseason triumphs make Wier a must-have choice for Player of the Year.
Adam Weir, Canisius (Junior): While Matt Hart may have been the most consistent player on Canisius; Weir was Mr. Explosive, particularly early in games.
I covered a good amount of Canisius games this past season and I’m hard pressed to find anyone in Western New York with more dominant first quarters than Weir. It seemed every time I saw him step on the court he’d be in double figures before the start of the second quarter. With the regular season Catholic title on the line in the finale against St. Joe’s, Weir had 12 points in the first six minutes. Against Timon he had 14 points in the first half. By the way, Weir was usually good for all four quarters.
Being able to hit shots from the outside as efficiently as he’s capable of driving in the paint, Weir averaged 18 points and pulled seven rebounds down per contest. The junior is sure to be a preseason Player of the Year favorite come his senior season next year.
Reggie Agbeko, St. Joe’s (Senior): To be perfectly honest, Agbeko was a heavy Player of the Year frontrunner for me for the majority of the regular season and held a slight edge heading to the playoffs. Although one postseason game hardly should make or break an entire campaign, I couldn’t help but come away tremendously disappointed by Agbeko’s paltry 12 point effort in an upset St. Joe’s blowout loss to St. Mary’s in the Monsignor Martin Association semifinal contest at Canisius College.
But his worst game at the worst time certainly doesn’t wipe away the tremendous factor Agbeko was the entire season. Western New York’s premier big man was almost always the best player whenever he took the court and more often than not, performed as such.
The senior, in just his second year of high school ball averaged 18 points and 14.5 rebounds per game. He has multiple Division I college offers on the table and is expected to make a decision soon. From what I’m hearing, Rhode Island and Drexel are two strong possibilities.
Matt Hart, Canisius (Senior): When Gordon Lyons and Aaron Nevins graduated following the Crusaders’ Manhattan Cup run last year, the one downfall to a Canisius title repeat could’ve been a lack of senior leadership. Hart ensured that didn’t happen.
The senior was a leader off the floor and more importantly, on it as well. After recovering from aggravating injuries that slowed the start of his season, Hart became quite deadly and often chartered into assassin territory. One of the best shooters and all-around players in WNY averaged a shade over 15 points per game but clearly saved his best performances for the most difficult competition, including 23 in a win over St. Joe’s, 20 in an overtime win at Bishop-Timon and 30 against McKinley at the Martin Luther King Classic early in 2012.
While other players in the area may have flashed more spectacular performances throughout the season, few if any where as consistent—and well respected than Hart.
Jermaine Crumpton, Niagara Falls (Junior): Niagara Falls possessed one of the area’s top crops of talent this past season with four guys averaging double digits in scoring, but clearly Crumpton was the best of that bunch and with another year of high school left will only get better.
The junior big man averaged 19 points and nine rebounds per game as a junior and despite his bulky 6-5 size, Crumpton is a better than advertised shooter from the perimeter.
His steady play helped lead Niagara Falls back to a Class AA Section VI title, avenging last year’s defeat to Jamestown and while he’s already verbally committed to Canisius College, that could change with Tom Parrotta getting fired. If he ultimately decides to not go to Canisius, he’ll generate plenty of Division I interest elsewhere over the next 6-12 months.
Jordan Williams, Bishop-Timon (Senior): If there’s a better pure shooter in Western New York, I’d like to meet him and if you don’t believe me, ask almost any coach who went against Timon this season. His 12.6 points per game average and 48 three-pointers don’t jump off the page at you, but anyone who watched Timon basketball knows Williams was the best player on a balanced squad that was as talented as anyone in Western New York but was never able to get over the hump.
Williams didn’t always get the field goal attempts other top area players got but when he did, few handled it better, as his 27 point effort in Timon’s lone signature win against Kearney and his 29 point effort in the playoffs against Canisius attest.
One of just two players on this list that also made All-WNY in football (Martin Bailey the other), Williams passed up multiple college football offers and has been offered a basketball walk-on roster spot at Niagara University by head coach Joe Mihalich.
Sterling Taplin, Williamsville North (Sophomore): Taplin may not have made my first team this season, but there’s not a player on the hardwoods around these parts with a brighter future. Only a sophomore, the kid has been starting at Will North for three years now and continues to grow by leaps and bounds.
Taplin averaged 19 points per game this past season, but also struggled in many contests against good competition. Partially because he lacked dependable teammates to occasionally pick up the slack, Taplin often tried to do too much. Again, he’s also just a sophomore.
To his credit, he was sensational in the playoffs against both Kenmore West and Niagara Falls. Based on pure talent he’s easily a first-teamer, but I had to go with five guys with a better body of work over the past five months. With Division I interest already there, Taplin could be the best and certainly the most exciting player in Western New York come his junior campaign next year.
Sam Eckstrom, Olean (Sophomore): Crumpton may be the marquee underclassmen center in the area for now, but don’t be shocked to see the balance shift in Eckstrom’s favor come next fall. The 6-7 sophomore was the best player on a Class B championship Olean squad that’s going to be even better next season.
Eckstrom averaged just less than 15 points and nine rebounds per game; statistics that don’t tell the whole story since Olean was on the winning end of many lopsided blowouts. This kid has all the physical and fundamental skills to be one of the best big men to come out of Western New York in quite some time before his playing career is over.
With a slew of underclassmen dominating that Olean roster, they could be primed to make another state championship run in 2012-13 with Eckstrom serving as the catalyst.
Cordell Torres, OTC Middle College (Senior): One of two Yale Cup representatives on our second team, Torres was one of Western New York’s best all-around players on a team that won the Class C Section VI championship and advanced all the way to Glen Falls.
Torres averaged just over 13 points per game to with nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks and was also OTC’s best defender.
Torres also had a habit of saving his best scoring games for his toughest competitors, topping 20 points against St. Joe’s, East Aurora and Seneca. He’s already decided to play for Genesee Community College.
Aaron Frasier, MST Seneca (Senior): If they ever put the term “never found a shot he didn’t want to take” in the dictionary, I guarantee it would be accompanied by a photograph of Frasier. The kid loved to the put the ball up from anywhere on the court and why wouldn’t he? He was Seneca’s best and most talented player for each of the last two years and one of the most deadliest shooters in the area.
Frasier averaged 23 points and eight rebounds per game as he keyed Seneca staying competitive with the top city schools all season.
He ended his playing career with 1,393 points and is weighing options with several Division II college basketball programs.
Tommy Campion, Jamestown (Junior): With Darin Butts graduated and last year’s Player of the Year, Jaysean Paige bolting to Kentucky for his senior season, it looked to be a down year for the Raiders following their Class AA Section VI championship last year. Campion made sure that didn’t happen. The junior averaged over 18 points per game and hit a slew of clutch shots as Jamestown made it to the Section VI title game again before bowing to Niagara Falls in the final seconds. Campion will be an even bigger force next season.
Connor Kennan, Williamsville East (Senior): One of the top scorers in Section VI this year, Keenan averaged 23 points per game as Williamsville East earned a share of the ECIC II title and advanced to the Class A Section VI title game before losing. Keenan will go on to play at Geneseo College next year.
Ryan Whelpley, Walsh (Senior): He’s the second leading scorer all-time in Western New York history with 2,347 points and has been a five-year starter at Walsh. You could easily make a case for him being ranked higher, but was held to just nine points in the final game of his career; a playoff loss to Timon in which Marcus Clarke was easily Walsh’s best player. We’re not taking anything away from Whelpley because he’s a tremendous kid, brilliant student and one heck of a basketball player, but sorry—his career scoring stats are a bit skewed by where he played. He’ll have to “settle” for being one of the 15 best in Western New York this year.
Jesse Lalka, Tonawanda (Senior): Tonawanda won the ECIC IV title for the first time since 1958 and the biggest reason was Lalka being a consistent force all season. The senior forward averaged around 22 points and pulled down nine rebounds per game as the Warriors won 34 games over his last two seasons, though both campaigns ended with losses in the Section VI semifinals at Buffalo State College. He leaves Tonawanda as the school’s all-time leading scorer and will go play at Daemen College.
Wil Bathurst, Olean (Sophomore): The exciting sophomore is going to be one to keep an eye on over the next two seasons. On a deeply young and balanced team, Bathurst averaged close to 12 points per game and was often the spark plug for huge Olean runs.
Martin Bailey, Kenmore West (Senior): Arguably one of, if not the best all-around athletes in Western New York, Bailey went from being first-team, All-WNY in football to a hardwood general for Kenmore West. He was instrumental in their huge upset win at Niagara Falls earlier in the season, averaged over 16 points per game for the season and amazingly, played almost the entire year with a shoulder injury.
Kyle Kobis, Bishop-Timon (Senior): A true all-around player under retiring head coach Jim Palano, Timon depended on Kobis to be a consistent scorer and distributor while defending the opposition’s point guard. More often than not the senior delivered; averaging 12.5 points and nearly four assists per game as he went over 1,000 points (1,105) for his career.
Justice Feggans, Riverside (Junior): One of the more athletic large forwards in Western New York, Feggans expanded his game after making honorable mention last year as a sophomore. Feggans averaged over 22 points per game as Riverside was in and out of the top 10 large school rankings all season before losing to East Aurora at Buffalo State College in the Class A2 playoffs. Feggans is already closing in on 1,000 career points headed into his senior season next year.
Jordan Farrant, Holland (Senior): Not exceptionally well known because of where he plays, the senior netted just over 19 points per game after averaging 20.8 as a junior the year before. This is his second straight season on our all-star team and finished with 1,575 career points–good for 57th all-time in Western New York.
Jamaal Carter, City Honors (Senior): One of the more fun players in the area to watch, Carter scored more than 22 points and over four assists per contest as City Honors was in Yale Cup contention all season. His best games came against fellow city small schools OTC Middle College and MST Seneca where he scored a combined 92 points in three games.
♦♦♦♦♦COACH OF THE YEAR♦♦♦♦♦
Dan Gill (St. Mary’s)
When you look at the Monsignor Martin Association, you see a league filled with individual stars. Canisius and Timon are both well represented on these teams with two players each while St. Joe’s and Walsh each had one among the top 20. St. Mary’s had no such luxury.
While the 2011-12 Lancers edition featured a group of hard working, experienced kids with good chemistry and an uncanny collective unselfishness, they didn’t necessarily have one “go-to” player who consistently got them out of jams when the rest of the team couldn’t get anything going.
It didn’t matter. They simply took turns being that guy.
St. Mary’s was one of the best stories in boy’s high school basketball this season. While many expected the Lancers to get blown out early in the year at the MMA-ECIC challenge against ultra-talented Olean, they fought tooth and nail to the wire and almost pulled an improbable upset. Later in the season they did just that when the underdogs walked into South Buffalo and left Bishop-Timon winners in a key league matchup that ultimately altered the final regular season standings.
But without question, their pristine moment came in the Manhattan Cup playoffs.
With everyone and their mother expecting Canisius and St. Joe’s to meet in a rubber match for the second straight year for the Manhattan Cup title, Gill and his regiment had other plans. From the opening tip Mary’s dominated over heavily favored St. Joe’s and by the time the one-sided affair was over, it was the Lancers advancing to the championship game with a 62-45 victory that reverberated over the local hoops community.
Although their run would then end with a championship loss to Canisius followed by a State CHSAA Class B championship game defeat to Nazareth downstate, it was a conquering run for the small school from Lancaster.
Gill deserves a considerable portion of that credit. He was able to take a roster featuring a core of four senior players; Devin Redden, Jake Denz, Nathan Meyers and Erik Simmons—and get them to play cohesively as a unit.
Under Gill’s leadership, Mary’s finished 19-8 overall and 8-3 in league play. It was an engaging team to watch, a tougher team to play against and the biggest reason of many for this, is they were as well coached as anyone in Western New York this year.
Well done, Dan Gill.
Of course, there were many other fabulous coaching performances this year that warranted Coach of the Year discussion. Those include fellow Monsignor Martin Association coach Kyle Husband at Canisius for repeating as Manhattan Cup champions despite losing his two best seniors from the year before, Randall Rich for the stellar job he did getting OTC Middle College all the way to Class C state finals, Chris Koselny over at East Aurora for getting his team to peak at the most opportune time and Ben Drake of Jamestown—last year’s winner who was able to put the monstrous Jaysean Paige distraction behind his program and keep the Red Raiders near the top of the large school polls all season long.