Let’s Hand out the 1st Annual Hoops Awards

Quincy McKnight was one of the best high school players this year as a junior.

Let’s start (maybe) the final #ctbb blog-o-roonie with story time.

It’s a quick, one, so don’t get too upset or click over to another page to update your brackets.

Actually, this isn’t even a story; instead its more of a factoid or quick tip. Back in college at UConn someone started calling me “Hoops” around the offices of the Daily Campus. The nickname stuck … in the greater Storrs Metro region a decade ago, at least.

With the 2012-13 boys basketball season over following Hillhouse’s win over Fairfield Prep in in the Class LL championship game Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena, I’m digging back up the Hoops moniker to hand out some awards, superlatives, etc. to teams and players.

On the plus side, a “Hoops Award” sounds nice on a resume.

The down side? You don’t actually win anything tangible, although I think I have some Subway coupons in my car if you track me down and want physical proof of your honor.

Without any further hemming and hawwing, let’s hand out some (psuedo) awards, shall we?

The 2013 Hoops Awards:

Best Atmosphere (game): The SWC final when Bethel played at Bunnell — bar none. Credit to the Stratford Fire Marshall for making sure everybody who wanted to be there could see it, because it was packed. Not a single seat in the bleachers. The huge contingent of Bethel fans even caused minor damage to said bleachers because of all the jumping up-down-they did over the course of the game. It had to be close to 80 degrees, if not warmer, in the gym with all the bodies crammed in there.

Best Dunk: This kind of comes out of nowhere, but Bassick’s Dale Kirkland threw down — in a clogged vpaint area — a two-handed thunder dunk against Central in January. What made this standout, over some of the offerings from Issac Vann or Quincy McKnight was the fact Kirkland did it flat-footed rather than in transition.

Best play: Ryan Pittman’s underhand reverse scoop layup at the buzzer as Bunnell downed ND-Fairfield in late January is the pick.

Best kid I never saw play: Apologies to O’Brien Tech’s Shaquan Jackson, whom was well-regarded throughout the area and especially the CSC. The CSC has grown into a very good boy basketball conference and Jackson averaged well over 20 ppg. this year, so hats off to him.

Best pregame music: Call this the biggest upset of the awards. ND-Fairfield’s Rielly Gymnasium seemed to be a shoo-in due to the fact Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” was in steady rotation. Then whomever was running the show at Wilby played “Superthug” by N.O.R.E. before Fairfield Prep’s Class LL semifinal vs. East Hartford, ending the contest. Sorry young guys, I know who 2 Chainz is (after nearly every team used him in their warm up lay up lines), but I’m an old dude and will defer to 90s jams every time.

Team that looks the best on paper in 2014: Central. The Hilltoppers, without a senior, won the FCIAC catching fire down the stretch. Everybody should be back for Central. How Barry McLeod’s team adjusts to being the heavy preseason favorite with everybody targeting them will be worth watching. And if, somehow, a 6-foot-5 kid decides to enroll on Lincoln Boulevard, watch out. Tyler Ancrum, ShaQuan Bretoux & Co. could (and should) do big things.

Tyler Ancrum led Central to the FCIAC title.

Player who’ll draw the most scouts in 2014: The easy answer here is Prep’s Paschal Chukwu. Then again, by next year everybody, be it UConn’s Kevin Ollie or Providence’s Ed Cooley or whomever, is already going to have a good read on the 7-footer via the summer AAU circuit. Same thing goes for Sacred Heart/Quinnipiac targets McKnight and Vann (who’s stock should only rise over the summer). Depending how he fares during the AAU season, Central’s would-be junior Marcus Blackwell will probably get a ton of looks, considering his ability to hang under the boards and knock down 3-pointers, especially if he sprouts up a few more inches.

Most fun coach to watch coach: Do yourself a favor and hit up the Shehan Center for a Kolbe Cathedral game next year. Rising senior Ian Gardner is worth the price of admission, but so too is Cougars coach Chris Smith, who’s team has lost in consecutive Class S semifinals.

Best Student Section: This is going vacant for 2012-13. Instead of handing out an award, I’m using this space to issue a challenge to all area student sections to up their games. We can all do better than chanting, “Scoreboard,” can’t we? During the Class L girls final Farmington students tried a “who let the dogs out” cheer, so maybe creativity isn’t necessarily the best course of action. That said, the amount of giant heads and crazy costumes worn by students attending games around the area was a definite sign of dedication.

Biggest surprise: Central got hot in February to win the FCIAC as the No. 4 seed and the Weston run to the Class M final was newsworthy, but from a pure basketball Xs and Os standpoint St. Joseph — the two-time defending Class LL champ — losing its final two games of the season is a puzzler. The Cadets fell to Central in the FCIAC semifinals then were stunned by Xavier in the Class LL second round following a bye. The Cadets ability to score all over the court seemed to make them all the more dangerous heading into the postseason. For whatever the reason, St. Joseph collapsed. Most of the team is back next year, probably playing with a chip on its shoulder.

Most underrated player: Marcus Vereen, Stratford. Vereen’s backcourt partner Bernard Brantley got most of the attention — over four years — but Vereen was quietly a steady hand for Stratford and a solid leader for Paul Dudzinski over four seasons.

Best use of  old school YMCA moves: St. Joseph’s Johnny Dzurenda doesn’t look like he’d be a starter on a team that’s won a state championship, but there he is, finishing around the rim with an array of moves — underhand scoops namely — and putting up close to 17 ppg.

Most Floor Burns: Hard to think of anyone who laid it all on the line more in every game than Bunnell guard Tim White.

Best Season Without a Superstar: It’s a subjective term, superstar, but you know what we mean when we say it. Jeremiah Livingston could blossom into one, but he hasn’t quite there yet as a sophomore which made Westhill’s excellent, out-of-nowhere season all the more impressive. The Vikings hung tough with East Hartford — on the road — in the Class LL quarterfinals and the Hornets were no joke and finished in the Top 10 of the final state poll.

Best One-Man performance: Daniel Garvin for Bethel in the SWC championship game. He scored. He rebounded. He blocked shots. He played defense. Garvin, almost on his own, kept the Wildcats in the game against Bunnell. It wasn’t enough, but it was impressive. Less impressive was Bethel’s second-round Class M loss. The team looked primed for a deep run.

Most consistent performer Danny Upchurch was an automatic 20+ points for the Lancers all year. Sometimes he’d pop for 30 or more, but you knew what the senior was going to give you night-in, night-out.

Dale Ellis Memorial 3-point Marksman award: Nobody this year canned more NBA-range 3-pointers than Bunnell’s Matt Nolting. Get the guy a “money ball.”

Best uniforms: Nigh on impossible to beat Harding’s vertical blue-and-gold striped warm up pants. You really can’t do it. Try.

Hand him the Keys Leadership Award: Shadrac Casimir drove Trinity Catholic all season. The Crusaders came up short in the FCIAC and Class L finals, but there probably wasn’t a more respected (or feared) player in Fairfield County than the senior guard.

Best Nickname: Woodstock Academy Centaurs. To be honest, until finding out Bunnell had to play Woodstock in the Class L semifinals, I’d never run across the school in eight years working at the Post. Hell, I had to use Google Maps to find out where Woodstock Academy even is located. In any event, Centaurs is a terrific high school nickname, whether you’re a student of ancient Greek mythology or not. Since we’re talking nicknames, I’ve dubbed center Ian Converse, “the Animal.”

Hoops’ Starting Five:

PG: Tyler Ancrum, Central

SG: Danny Upchurch, ND-Fairfield

SF: Quincy McKnight, St. Joseph

PF: Issac Vann, Bunnell

C:  Pashcal Chukwu, Fairfield Prep

Sixth man: Matt Nolting, Bunnell

Bench: Ian Gardner (Kolbe); Bernard Brantley (Stratford); Tim Butala (Fairfield Prep);

Coach: Pat Yerina, Bunnell.

Early 2014 League Favorites:

FCIAC: Central, St. Joseph, Westhill

SCC: Fairfield Prep, Xavier, Wilbur Cross

SWC: Vacant (every contender from this year loses a lot.)

And that’s that. Thanks for reading everything this year. Turned out to be a pretty terrific basketball season.