By Dave Ruden
Preseason prognosticating is an inexact practice, and when it comes to this FCIAC boys basketball season, going out on a limb is both the easiest and most difficult of tasks.
The easy: barring the arrival of spaceships whisking its players away, Bridgeport Central seems destined to win its second straight league title. The Hilltoppers have most of their top talent back from a team that caught fire during the second half of last season.
The difficult: figuring the order of finish behind Central. Take the Hilltoppers out the picture and this would be the most unpredictable year ever. It won’t be surprising if seeds 2-4 have a minimum of three losses. This is going to be a dog-eat-dog winter, with as many as 10-12 teams harboring realistic hopes of reaching the conference tournament, and more than half of them at earning a top seed.
Bridgeport Central. The Hilltoppers are loaded. How loaded? They would stand a good chance against an All-Star team from the rest of the league.
Guard Tyler Ancrum, who averaged 15.7 points and 7 assists, is the catalyst, with enticing targets like Marcus Blackwell (15.4 points, 11 rebounds), ShaQuan Bretoux 14.9 points, 5 assists, 4 steals) and Antoin Pettway (9 points, 8 rebounds).
Coach Barry McLeod won’t want to hear it, but the talent is here to be the No. 1 team in the state by season’s end.
St. Joseph. Quincy McKnight has transferred, but the Cadets have a strong returning cast that includes Raekwon Reid, Erick Langston and Jonny Dzurenda. Steve Hashemi, fresh off helping the school’s football team win a state title, completes the starting five. If Central is somehow to be stopped, the rival Cadets would appear to have the best chance.
Norwalk. The Bears were done in last year by the lack of a reliable point guard play and bad chemistry. Two strong starters — Roy Kane Jr. and Steven Enoch — will lead one of the league’s best frontcourts. If Norwalk can get steady backcourt play and supporting contributions to open up opposing defenses, it will be primed to take the next step.
Westhill. There may be a handful of players more talented, but none more entertaining than guard Jeremiah Livingston (15.7 points, 5 assists, 5 steals, 4 rebounds). Together with CJ Donaldson (8.2 points, 6 assists), the Vikings will have one of the state’s top backcourts. If returning forward Evan Skoparantzos (8 points, 8 rebounds) gets help inside, the Vikings are going to be a dangerous postseason team.
Trinity Catholic. The Crusaders have had better players, but none that had a better season than Schadrac Casimir did a year ago. He is departed, and Trinity has operated pretty much underneath the radar since practice started, an unfamiliar status. Tremaine Fraiser steps into the headlining role for Trinity, which has a lot of potential — and inexperience.
Bassick. Kobe Ancrum is back to lead the Lions. There are a lot of unfamiliar faces. But this is Bassick.
Greenwich. The inside-outside punch of Alex Wolf and CJ Byrd make the Cardinals a team capable of beating anyone on a given night.
Stamford. Here is our pick for most improved team from a year ago. The Black Knights won just six games, but their JV went 17-1 and forms the nucleus this season. Kenny Wright is the leader, and Gianni Carwin is a name you don’t know now but likely will come February. Stamford took its lumps last year. That may be the foundation for a run at one of the top eight spots.
Tyler Ancrum, Bridgeport Central
Marcus Blackwell, Bridgeport Central
Tremaine Fraiser, Trinity Catholic
Roy Kane Jr., Norwalk
Jeremiah Livingston, Westhill
Matt Staubi, Darien
ShaQuan Bretoux, Bridgeport Central
CJ Byrd, Greenwich
Steve Enoch, Norwalk
Eric Houska, Wilton
Larry McKinney, Brien McMahon
Alex Wolf, Greenwich
Kobe Ancrum, Bassick
Jonny Dzurenda, St. Joseph
Patrick Racy, Ridgefield
Reggie Stewart, Harding
CJ White, Danbury
Kenny Wright, Stamford
*Sleeper-Sleepers. With so much parity, there could easily have been a few more teams in the above sleeper category. So consider Brien McMahon, Ridgefield and Darien teams to also keep an eye on.
*Feeling Blue. Darien is a school known for success in many sports. Boys basketball has not been one of them. Former player and current coach Kyle Marian has been working hard to change that. This could be the best Blue Wave team in recent memory, one with a realistic shot of making a rare appearance in the conference playoffs.
*Trees In The Paint. It is a guard’s game, but the FCIAC will have more players 6-5 or taller than at any time in recent memory. Quality big men. Call it retro-ball.
Players To Watch
Bassick: Curhone Baldwin, Kobe Ancrum, Brandon Hilario, Rajohn James, Michael Nunez, Brevin McCullough, Keante Smith, Jacob Difre.
Bridgeport Central: Tyler Ancrum, Marcus Blackwell, ShaQuan Bretoux, Antoin Pettway.
Danbury: Chris Latham, CJ White, Michael Kline, Elijah Duffy, Jamar Peterson, Michael Schneider, Corey Brosz, Josh Nelson, Tysheen McCrea, Will Orr, George Bielizna.
Darien: Matt Staubi, Bobby Fitzpatrick, George Phillips, Ames Murray, Chima Azuonwu, Colin Sullivan, Alex Preston, Hudson Hamill, Casey Brown.
Fairfield Ludlowe: Mark Malone, Matt Doyle, Darren Lee, Chad Peterson, Kevin Hickey, Hayes Kelchner, Kiran Prakash, Jonah Rosner, Jack Armstrong, Chris Howell.
Fairfield Warde: Brian Kerrigan, Nick Cotto, Mike Pehota, Terrance Walden, Tommy Luckner, Kavon Polk, Brandon Bisack, Giacomo Brancato, Chris Smaldone.
Greenwich: Tom Povinelli, Jonathan Palmer, CJ Byrd, Leanel Hyatt, Alex Wolf, Kyle Foote, Patrick Santini, Griffin Golden, Alberto Larraguibel, Michael Gianopolous.
Warren Harding: Terrence Rogers, Reggie Stewart, Tyzhon Dixon, Okoe Narh, Antoine Sistrunk.
Brien McMahon: Larry McKinney, Delquan Howard, Tim Hinton, Trevon Forney, Thomas Clyne, Allan Lenard, Jahmerkiah Green-Younger, Kenny Keen, Harold Garcia, Josh Jenkins.
New Canaan: Zach Allen, Chris Andrews, Carsten Berger, Claude Chandonnet, Jack Evans, Paul Hagopian, Erik Jager, Andrew Penchuk, Beau Santero, Max Urbahn.
Norwalk: Steve Enoch, Roy Kane, Bryant Bracey, Tommy Barrett, Zaire Wilson.
Ridgefield: Charlie Irwin, Matt Brennan, Zac Ward, Patrick Racy, Thomas Haughney, Matt Bartalucci, Johnny Stamatis, Will Brady, Cavan Briody.
St. Joseph: Raekwon Reid, Erick Langston, Jonny Dzurenda, Steven Hashemi, Tyshon Williams, Mike Sulick, Omar Telfor.
Stamford: Kenny Wright, Ancel Nevers, Kwe Askew, James Gronberg, Gianni Carwin, Jack Rakoczy, John Odoom, Rich Benoit, Whens Desther, Jay DeVito, Yan Carlos Marte, Donny Depina.
Staples: David Katz, Nic Esposito, Darryle Wiggins, Jake Melnick, Andrew Felman, Todd Goldstein, Ben Casperius, Justin Seidman, Harry Kohn.
Trinity Catholic: Tremaine Fraiser, Tyrell St. John, Justice Page, Aaron Wheeler, Peace Ilgomah, Mike Szemenyei, Wyatt Garyk. Tyler Williams, Neno Merritt
Trumbull: Gio Klein, AJ Alston, Rashard Rodriguez, Billy Brown, Frank Puglia, Matt Turner, Eddie McElroy, Chris Lyons, Mike Miller, Jason Micalizzi, Brandon Owen, Zack Yellen.
Westhill: Jeremiah Livingston, Evan Skoparantzos, CJ Donaldson, Brandon Thomas, Juan Delcruz, Luke Herritt, Jesse Brown, Chianta Holtzclaw, Ethan Peikes, Samir Johnson, Terrell Alexander.
Wilton: Eric Houska, Matt Shifrin, Richard Williams, Lucas Savoie, Peter Ciaccio, Scott Shouvlin, Michael Bingaman, TJ Savvaides, Justin Shepard.