PSA pg 11 1-31-19


Putnam Science Academy Alums Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi with PSA staff, administration and current players after St. Bonaventure’s win over UMass. Courtesy photo.

PUTNAM — Putnam Science Academy has had quite the run the last few years as a National Prep School powerhouse in basketball. And this year’s team will be making waves, too.
Led by Head Coach Tom Espinosa, who was inducted into the inaugural class of the Putnam Science Academy Hall of Fame late last year along with carrying an 80 percent-win percentage at the helm for over a decade, he knows how to spot talent and get the most out of what he’s given.
That has never been more true over the last handful of years.
After coming up short in the National Prep Championship tournament in 2016 and 2017 with teams loaded with Division 1 talent, it was 2018’s team that ended up winning it all for Espinosa. The 2016 and 2017 teams, even though they didn’t win the tournament, were loaded.
Hamidou Diallo played with Kentucky before being drafted in the NBA by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Mamadou Diarra has gone on to UConn, battled injuries and is now back on the floor for the Huskies in his season debut in a win over Wichita State. Eric Ayala went on to Maryland, Jaheem Cornwall to Gardner-Webb, Saul Phiri to Lasalle and Alexis Yetna to South Florida. Phiri just last week scored 14 points and dished out three assists in a win over Fordham while Yetna, who was looked over by former UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie, was a steal for South Florida, averaging a double-double and had a monster night last week in a 77-57 win over ECU that saw the France native score a career high 28 points to go with 13 rebounds.
2018’s team on paper at PSA didn’t look like a National Prep Championship team but the team had depth and knew how to play with one another. Now those players from 2018’s team are making waves at the next level.
Starting point guard Kyle Lofton, in his first year at St. Bonaventure, leads the A-10 Conference in most minutes played with 41.5 minutes and has had big games as of late including a 24 point, 2 assist game in a win on the road at UMass, which saw PSA staff, players and coaches in attendance. The guard, who in the beginning of 2018 had no Division 1 offers at PSA, ramped up his play and would accept an offer from St. Bonnies following the 2018 National Prep Championship game. Lofton added a 21 point, 5 rebound and two-assist game against Richmond for his freshmen year resume. Lofton’s running mate at center, Osun Osunniyi, who won the 2018 National Prep Tournament MVP for the Mustangs, leads the A-10 in blocks per game. He is ranked 15th in the country in blocks, locking down the paint for the Bonnies. Jose Perez has been named Freshmen Player of the Week three times already this season at Garnder-Webb and has made an immediate impact scoring the basketball at a high rate. Perez scored 14 points and grabbed 10 boards in a tough loss for the Runnin’ Bulldogs against Winthrop this past week as conference play starts to heat up.
And then there’s Akok Akok.  Akok was a highly touted 6-foot, 9-inch stretch forward who can knock down 3’s, rebound, push the ball up the floor and make a difference as a shot blocker. Akok made big shots from outside in the 2018 National Prep Championship game and rode the momentum from that game all the way into this season where he was ranked #40 in ESPN’s Top 100 for the Class of 2019. Once the new season began, coaches came flocking to PSA’s open gym runs. Akok would play a handful of games for PSA before committing to UConn under Head Coach Dan Hurley in December. Akok, who was in his post-grad year at Putnam Science Academy, would forgo his PG year and enroll at UConn for the second semester. This allowed Akok to practice with the Huskies but he won’t be able to play until next season.
The Putnam Science Academy team is ranked #1 in the Prep School rankings, having won 24 straight and 48 in a row dating back to last season. It’s expected this team will make similar impacts for their respected college programs. Point Guard Tyson Etienne leads the team in scoring in his first year at PSA and is committed to Wichita State. Charles Pride came to PSA with no offers but has been a spark off the bench, leading PSA in rebounds and recently accepted a scholarship to Bryant University. Russell Tchewa, at 7-0, 250 pounds, is headed to Texas Tech. John Buggs III will play at the next level at UMass after playing high school ball in Homer, La., where nine kids graduated in his class.
With 14 games remaining on the schedule, the Mustangs are primed for yet another National Prep Tournament run except this time as the defending champs. No matter how this season ends for this PSA team, the depth and skill of this year’s team will propel most, if not all of them to the next level just like past Mustangs.
Josh Sanchas
Sports Information Director
Putnam Science Academy


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