St. Andrew's Varsity I boys' hoops starts surprisingly strong

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BARRINGTON — During his near-two decade run building the St. Andrew's School Varsity I boys' basketball program into a regional prep power head coach Mike Hart has seen his share of surprises, and the Saints' faster-than expected started to the 2012-13 season is one of them.

St. Andrew's entered its own holiday tournament in town over the weekend undefeated, something Coach Hart admitted he would not have anticipated a month ago when the season tipped.

"I didn't think we would be undefeated at this point. I thought we would have lost to Putnam Science and I thought we would have dropped one down in Virginia. But the team chemistry is good. The guys have accepted their roles. They're playing hard. I'm happy with them so far," Coach Hart said.

St. Andrew’s broke from the gate with six victories in a row, including two wins in the Life & Breath Classic held in Wakefield, Va. The Saints defeated host Wakefield, 86-57, and the Blue Ridge School, also of Virginia, 63-51.

Four of their wins came by comfortable double-digit margins. The two others were close. They defeated Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy, 83-81, and the Salisbury (Conn.) School, 77-73.

“We’re playing well. We’re a very deep team,” Coach Hart said.

The Saints swept their two games in their own holiday classic, Dec. 14 and 15. St. Andrew's decisively defeated Christian Heritage, 68-35, then easily handled St. Mark's, 71-41, to improve to 8-0 on the year.

The Saints are unusually deep, if fact, something of a blessing and a curse for Coach Hart, who is attempting to use all 12 players at his disposal.

Six-foot-six junior forward Bonzie Colson and 6'2" junior point guard Henry Bolton, of Portsmouth, are the two most experienced players for St. Andrew's.

Around them, Coach Hart and trusted assistant John O'Shea have gathered a group with varied skills and size. Chancellor Ellis is a 6'5" slashing sophomore forward. John Geary (6'5") and Tom Hunt (6'2") are junior shooters from the wings. Richard O'Brien (6' senior) and Agyei Gregory (6'3" junior) are the other backcourt players on the roster.

Up front, Andre Berry is a burly 6'7" junior center. Nikola Vukosavovic is a 6'8" center who can post and face in the painted area. Edson Dascy is a 6'5" junior forward. Six-foot-six freshman Terrell Brown, of East Providence, completes the 12-man Varsity I squad.

"It's hard to play 12 guys. I'm finding that out first hand," Coach Hart said. "But at the same time, they deserve to play and they're all helping the team win at this point."

Whether Coach Hart decides to stay with his rather large rotation or not, Bolton will be on the floor plenty this winter. As both his body and basketball acumen mature, Bolton is beginning to attract attention from high caliber college programs.

"Henry has actually played just OK so far," Coach Hart said. "But he's got a huge course load this year, which is weighing on his mind. I hope it's weighing on his mind. But he's right where we expected him to be at this point. Henry is getting a lot of looks from some really good schools."

In East Providence's Brown, the Saints potentially have their next dynamic player in line with the likes of Demetris Nichols (Syracuse), Rakim Sanders (Boston College) and Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), each of whom graduated St. Andrew's to major Division I college programs.

"The sky is the limit for Terrell, depending on his work ethic," Coach Hart said. "At first, I was going to put him on our Varsity II team, but he needs to play against our guys. He's earned it. He deserves to be with us."

Brown is long and lean with a frame he will eventually grow into. He looks like a freshman playing at such a high level, but he's already shown flashes of what could be in the offing if he does what is necessary to improve his game.

"He's not getting as many minutes as I would like, but he has older guys in front of him and that's the way we do it here. The older guys are going to play. He's got to earn his time," Coach Hart added. "But Terrell has embraced what we're trying to teach him. He's embraced the weight room. He's focused on what he needs to do both on and off the court."

After taking a break for Christmas, the Saints are back in action Dec. 28 and 29 in the Belmont (Mass.) Hill School Holiday Classic. St. Andrew's remains away from home for a game against Cushing Academy and Portsmouth product Andrew Chrabascz, Jan. 4. The Saints are next home for Tabor Academy Wednesday, Jan. 9, at 5:15 p.m.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.