Monday, March 28, 2016

Seven local boys make CHSCA All-State teams

The 2015-2016 Connecticut High School Coaches Association boys all-state teams have been announced, and they are well populated by Waterbury players. There was also a St. Paul sophomore in the mix.
Leading the way are three Sacred Heart seniors, and I'm sure you know their names by now: Mustapha Heron, Tyrn Flowers and Charles Fisher. All three were chosen for the Class M First Team.
There is one player each from Crosby, Wilby and Holy Cross. Senior Jordan Booker was chosen from Crosby, senior Damian Grant gets the nod from Wilby, senior Justin Strielkauskas was taken from Holy Cross, and sophomore Michael Palmieri was picked from St. Paul. Booker was a First Team selection in Class LL while Grant (Class L), Strielkauskas (S) and Palmieri (M) were all Second Team choices.

Here's a little more on each player:

What more is there to say about Heron, other than this honor should have been in addition to being named McDonald's All-American and Gatorade state Player of the Year, but I digress. Heron was simply phenomenal in his senior year. When Sacred Heart needed Heron to carry it, he did, and often in spectacular fashion (VIDEO). Heron helped lead the Hearts to a third straight state championship, this time in Class M. Heron will next find himself playing for Bruce Pearl at Auburn University in Alabama.

This kid has blossomed into a terrific player, and he's still got more room for his game to grow. The smooth lefty can shoot (VIDEO), pass, drive and block shots, just to name a few skills. Flowers didn't score as much as fellow lefty Heron, but he affected the game in so many other ways. Even with fellow senior J.T. Riddick out for a spell with a back injury, Flowers teamed with Heron to form a dominant back line in a 1-2-2 zone trap defense. When an opposing player did find his way to the basket, he was often met by Flowers. Flowers will be playing at UMass-Amherst next season for Derek Kellogg.

How has no one picked this kid up yet? He's smart, well-spoken, and he has a strong game to boot. Fisher has been known for his defense throughout his time at Sacred Heart, but the guy has an offensive game too. He can handle the ball, and he can shoot. And if you're not careful, he can slam one (VIDEO) on you as well. Fisher has a game for the next level, and he should get an opportunity.

He's small in stature, but most definitely not in game. Booker showed what he can do in the state tournament when he lit Kennedy up for 42 points. Booker can finish in the lane, and he can fire up bombs from the outside. Booker has a ton of range, and he averaged over 20 points per game for Crosby. Booker showed why he's an All-NVL player throughout the season.

Grant was a double-double machine for Wilby. An explosive finisher near the basket, he could score with either hand. Grant provided inside stability for the Wildcats throughout the season. Grant often attracted double teams, as you can see in this video. Grant is No. 25 in green.
What made Grant tough to stop was his ability to finish in traffic with either hand. He could also be relentless going after the ball. Wilby will certainly miss his inside presence next season.

Strielkauskas was a tough, strong player for Holy Cross. He helped lead the Crusaders to the Class S state semifinals. Strielkauskas could shoot threes, he could get to the basket, many a time driving the baseline. He was also a solid rebounder for his size, something very important for a Holy Cross team that didn't have a ton of height. There was even a time when Strielkauskas, listed at 6-foot-2, was assigned to guard Wamogo's burly 6-foot-5 sophomore Garrett Coe. Strielkauskas did his job and held his own as Holy Cross rolled over Wamogo. 

The fun thought for St. Paul is Palmieri is their guy for the next two years. That's a not-so-fun thought for his opponents. Palmieri poured in 21 points in St. Paul's last game of the year, a second round state loss to East Windsor. Palmieri came up with big plays throughout the season, including tying the first round state game against SMSA late in the fourth quarter. The Falcons, seeded 31st, went on to upset the No. 2 seed that night. In another game, Palmieri showed his versatility with 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. I'm sure St. Paul looks forward to having Palmieri around for two more seasons. 

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