Putnam pg 9 11-2-17

The Putnam Science Academy team. Courtesy photo.
After a 34-7 campaign that featured a National Prep Championship run to the Final Four, Head Coach Tom Espinosa was tasked with replacing a group of key contributors who have moved onto college.
The only returnee for Espinosa is ESPN 60 forward Akok Akok from Manchester, N.H. With the need to replace all five starters and multiple key contributors off the bench, Espinosa and his coaching staff hit the recruiting trail.
In the world of prep school basketball, trying to find forwards and big men can be a tough task. With that in mind, the staff focused on finding a center who could play alongside Akok. They were able to do so as they landed Osun Osunniyi, a 6-foot, 10-inch shot blocking big from New Jersey. Osunniyi will be completing a postgraduate year before heading onto La Salle University in Philadelphia.
With a quality big man in the fold, Espinosa turned his attention to the guard position. The Mustangs lost all three starting guards last season and were looking to load back up as guards have the ability to control the game at the prep school level. The Mustangs were able to secure commitments from 6-5 Jose Perez from the Bronx, N.Y., and 6-foot Cam Gooden from Texas. This will be the first time that a student/athlete from Texas will don the Mustang colors. Perez will look to continue the trend of success stories from New York following notable alums Hamidou Diallo, Mamadou Diarra and Dayshon Smith.
The coaching staff continued to deepen the team by adding postgraduate Nick Brennan who would come to the quiet corner of Connecticut after a storied career at Iona Prep. Brennan, known for his 3-point shooting ability, is expected to contribute instant offense.
Next, the Mustangs turned their attention to securing a dynamic wing that could not only shoot the three-point shot, but one who has the ability to finish at the rim. They were able to find that in Jonathan Kabongo, a senior who was previously at Huntington Prep. Kabongo, the younger brother of professional basketball player and former Texas University star Myck Kabongo, comes from a basketball background. Standing at 6-3, Kabongo possesses the size and skill to play both point guard and the off guard position. Kabongo is being recruited by multiple high major schools such as Virginia Tech, Clemson, and New Mexico.
Lacking a true point guard though, the Mustangs continued on the hunt and found a “diamond in the rough” at the Providence Jam Fest, a local AAU tournament run by the Hoop Group. Watching The Firm AAU program out of New Jersey, they became enamored with the effortless control of the game that Kyle Lofton possessed. Heading into the summer Lofton had zero Division 1 scholarship offers, but now holds offers from Manhattan and UMass along with interest from various other schools.
The coaching staff hit the midwest area again later in the summer, securing a commitment from Caleb Nero, a 6-2 point guard from Oklahoma. Nero was originally committed to UW-Milwaukee, but after a coaching change Nero decided to look elsewhere. With it being late in the recruiting process Nero ultimately decided to come to PSA and go through the full recruiting process. He is expected to be a major contributor.
The roster will also have a local standout as Dan Porcic will suit up for the Prep team this year after playing last season on the Varsity team. Porcic standing at 6-4 is known for his ability to space the floor. Porcic has made quite a jump from last year where he averaged 10 points a game on the varsity team. Porcic, considered a gym rat by the coaching staff, is seeing his hard work pay off.
Alex Morrow, a postgraduate 6-3 swingman, will add toughness and another player who can make shots. A standout high school player in Maryland, Morrow loves scoring from behind the arc and the midrange. Espinosa has always been a coach who loves to have shooters and this year is no different.
With two legit big men in the fold with Akok and Osunniyi, Espinosa wanted to add another experienced big to deepen the group. The Mustangs then secured the commitment of Josh Mballa originally from France. Mballa will be the second Mustang to hail from France as last year’s squad featured Alexis Yetna. Mballa has a similar game to Yetna as both are athletic and ferocious rebounders.
This year’s Mustangs squad will also feature a group of highly touted youngsters in the class of 2020. Hassan Diarra, the younger brother of Mamadou Diarra and 6-8 Kareem Reid. Both Diarra and Reid come into Putnam Science holding multiple Division 1 offers. The third member of the class is Demarr Langford Jr., who is the younger brother of current Providence College freshman Makai Ashton-Langford. Langford a 6-4 wing has a powerful frame and the ability to knock down the jump shot. The last in the group is Anthony Thomas, a 6-6 guard from Baltimore. Thomas, a skilled offensive player has the ability to finish with both hands around the rim.
With a mix of several determined postgraduates who have something to prove as well as a group of talented underclassmen, Espinosa believes this team has the ability to make some serious noise on the prep school circuit.
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