Friday, February 28, 2014

Worst Draft Picks in NBA History

by Stephen Barston

As the NBA season enters the heated second half, playoff spots are up for grabs and relatively-unknown players look to solidify their case as rotation players on their respective squads. Many rookies will be looking to become more household names in the league, while others (like Anthony Bennett) will simply be trying to make others forget about their poor performances earlier in the season. While it is too early to write off Bennett, the #1 overall draft pick in 2013, there are some other, more recent players that we can label as undeniable busts.

1. Sam Bowie (No. 2, 1984)
The man behind perhaps the most notorious snub of all time, Bowie was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the second overall pick in the 1984 Draft, one ahead of the greatest of all time, "His Airness" Michael Jordan. By NBA standards, he had a relatively successful career, playing 10 seasons after graduating from the University of Kentucky, averaging 10.9 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game during his time in the league. However, he simply needs to be #1 on this list, solely because he was picked before the best player to ever grace an NBA court.

2. Kwame Brown (No. 1, 2001)
Brown was waived in November 2013 by the lowly 76ers, and his career was seemingly put to an end. Coming out of high school with lofty expectations, Brown failed to meet even the most modest of these predictions, averaging a measly 6.6 points per game over his 12-year tenure in the league. Poor footwork and brick hands made him a liability in the post, as can be seen in the fact that he spent time with seven teams, never finding much success.

3. Darko Milicic (No. 2, 2002)
Milicic was labeled "the next Dirk" prior to the 2002 draft, as it seems every big man to come out of Europe is, yet he simply could not live up to the hype. In 10 seasons in the association, he averaged a meager 6.0 points per game and just 4.2 rebounds per game; for a man seven feet tall, these stats are downright embarrassing. To compound the problem, he was selected before NBA mainstays such as Amar'e Stoudemire, Caron Butler, Nenê, Tayshaun Prince, and Carlos Boozer, players who also have a combined 10 All-Star appearances among them.

Although Darko Milicic appeared happy on Draft Day, his performances
would soon bring frowns to members of the Pistons front office.

11/12 House Basketball End-of-Season Awards

As most knowledgeable fans and followers of the four major American sports leagues know, the end-of-season honors bestowed by the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB are voted on by a number of sportswriting organizations, including the Associated Press and the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. In an attempt to minimize controversy, a Darien High School sportswriters panel was assembled to nominate and vote on the recipients of the second annual Neirad House Basketball Awards and Honors. Names in parentheses indicate other vote getters.

Most Valuable Player: Austin Crane (Graham Helgans, Sam Bowtell)
Defensive Player of the Year: Dan Murphy (Danny Siemers, Jack Garfield)
Sixth Man of the Year: Patrick Winter (Nicky Wildish, Alex Gunya)
Coach of the Year: Paul Archey
Most Improved Player: Nicky Wildish (Peter Trismen, Colin Meier)
Sportsmanship Award: Jack Garfield (Nick Kunze, Matt Plank)

All-House First Team
G Austin Crane
G Brian Walsh
F Chris Rehm
F Graham Helgans
C Sam Bowtell

All-House Second Team
G Calvin Crosby
G Dan Murphy
F Zach Basu
F Charlie Travers
C Brad Magnusson

All-House Defensive Team
G Dan Murphy
G Brendan Donohue
F Danny Siemers
F Matt Vossler
C Jack Garfield

Darien Girls Hockey Dominates in FCIAC Semis

Wednesday (2/26), the Darien Girls Hockey team took on Wilton/Norwalk in the FCIAC Semi-finals. The Blue Wave was the first seed and had just seen the other semifinal of New Canaan vs. Ridgefield go into overtime with Ridgefield victorious. Darien was determined to continue their undefeated FCIAC season and advance to face the Tigers in the final.

Darien was focused from the start. 30 seconds into the game, junior Amanda Sload scored from the point off a pass from senior captain Ellie Bennett. The following two shifts also led to goals. Sophomore Schuyler van den Broek put it in with help from fellow sophomores Georgia Cassidy and Marissa Baker, and sophomore Hannah McLane made it 3-0, assisted by freshman Cassidy Schiff and Sload. The first three goals all were scored in the first two minutes of the game.  Junior Sammy Nielsen extended the lead to 4, assisted by Bennett, and sophomore Chandler Kirby took it end-to-end to finish the first period with Darien leading 5-0. Wilton didn’t have any shots in the period.

Darien kept the momentum going in the second period. Sload put the puck in the net after an impressive look by junior Allegra Molkenthin. Later in the period, Bennett scored off the bench with a pass from junior Christy Conley. Senior captain Shannon Hall was strong, stopping the one shot she faced.

In the third period, Wilton got a few chances, but junior Izzy Scribano, who replaced Hall in goal, was strong against the five shots. Cassidy scored from in front of the net, assisted by Baker. Baker then took the puck from the red line after a pass from junior Lauren Cicero and deked the Wilton goalie to bring the final score to 9-0. Overall, the Blue Wave put on a dominant performance with 50 shots to Wilton’s six.

Bennett was complimentary of the team’s effort and hopes for similar success on Saturday. “I think we came out the strongest we ever have and we're excited to play. This determination to win showed when we scored three goals on our first three shifts and setting the tone early on in the game. It will be important to come out with that same fire and determination tomorrow and ensure that we are working at 100 perfect throughout the whole game,” Bennett said.

Come support the girls as they defend their FCIAC title against Ridgefield on Saturday (3/1) at 12:30 at Terry Conners Rink.

Senior captain Sage Thacher passes the puck up the ice. Photo credits: Darien AF

11/12 House Basketball Semifinals: Players to Watch

by Stephen Barston

I'm back. Just for this one time. Trust me.

But anyway, the 11th and 12th grade House Basketball season is nearing the climax, with four teams remaining. There are certainly some star players who have propelled these squads into the semifinals, but there are also some individuals who don't receive the credit they truly deserve. I have selected one player from each of the four teams left that may not get a lot of attention on the House scene, but that you should certainly watch for tonight in the DHS gyms.

Lakers: Patrick Winter, Junior
Winter hustled his butt off last night in the Lakers' victory over the Nets. Besides nailing two clutch three-pointers, he was also spotted diving on the floor, dishing out assists, and grabbing boards. Winter is the ideal sixth man for this squad, complementing the duo of seniors Brendan Donohue and Zach Basu with an outside presence on offense and tenacious defense at the top of the zone. Look for him to stifle the Travers/Rehm combo tonight and perhaps contribute to a Laker victory.

Heat: Will Bloomer, Senior
Bloomer will probably be the tallest man on the court tonight, and he will inevitably provide a dominant post presence against the smaller Laker squad. Besides senior Matt Vossler, the Lake-show lacks some serious height, with junior John Mackie reeling in the majority of the boards. If Bloomer can maintain his physicality and continue to clean up the misses of Travers, Rehm, and the rest of the perimeter shooters on this Heat squad, it will surely be another advantage for a team coming off an emotional win over the #1 seeded Wizards.

Mavericks: Henry Soule, Junior
Soule, who plays JV basketball at Greens Farms Academy, is another versatile option for perhaps the team with the most depth in the entire league: the Mavs. Junior Sam Bowtell runs the show down low, and fellow junior Danny Siemers commands the point, but Soule is crucial to this team's success, especially on the fast break. He runs his lanes well and forces his way into the paint with his patented euro-step. It looks something like this, and it's deadly. Look for Soule to also command the paint on D, where his jumping ability makes him a threat to rotate over and swat away any weak stuff. Sort of like this. Seriously, watch out for him.

Nuggets: Nicky Wildish, Junior
Wildish was stifled last night in the Nuggets cruise over the Jazz, but he also didn't have a lot of scoring opportunities. The runner-up for sixth man of the year in 11/12 House brings a passion to the game that is unmatched by anyone in the league, let alone anyone else on his team. He pushes the fast break, he dives for loose balls, and he looks good doing it; admit it: that headband is fantastic. If he can get into space during the transition, senior point guard extraordinaire Austin Crane should be able to rely on Wildish as another valuable scoring threat against a physical Maverick defense.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

9/10 House Basketball Final Four Preview

by Britton Barthold

This week, Friday is meant for one thing and one thing only: the 9/10 House Basketball Final Four. In one corner, we have a suspected match-up. #4 UConn takes on #1 Stanford at 7:00pm. In the other corner, we have two Cinderella stories with #7 Kentucky taking on #11 Georgia Tech. Literally, this Final Four was so unsuspected I’m pretty sure ESPN can make a 30 for 30 film out of it. Right now, you will get deep breakdowns of every team involved and in-depth analysis of what to watch for when Middlesex Middle School is packed for some legit House action. But instead of me rambling on in a paragraph of who’s better, I want to make things a little more interesting. There will be a small intro, a player to watch, and a few match-ups to watch.

#1 Stanford vs. #4 UConn
 The two top seeds at the top half of the bracket took care of business on Tuesday to clinch a trip to the Final Four.

Stanford 53 Syracuse 38
The highlight of that game was seeing Stanford tame the giant in sophomore Dolan Gregorich and having sophomore John Foley walk straight up to me and say, “This was a statement.” Foley couldn’t have said it clearer. Stanford stomped their way into the Final Four and has huge momentum heading in.

UConn 46 Duke 41
No one really expected UConn to actually win this one, but that changed once freshman phenomenon Charlie Sealy decided it was necessary to go off against Duke. Sophomore Jack McCann walked out of that game tall (well, not really) and said, “Colin Minicus has nothing on me.” We shall see.

Players to Watch:
A little disclaimer before I start these. These are meant to be players that don’t usually get the credit. Yes, I understand Colin Minicus is a freak of nature at basketball, but just understand these are players that don’t get major credit.

Freshman Nick Percarpio (UConn): Underrated, unknown, but possibly the biggest three-point threat on the court on Friday. Stanford needs to keep an eye on him at all times to win this one.

Sophomore Jack Wells (Stanford): Jack Wells has played in the shadow most of the season, but continues to be one of the most underrated players in house. He commands the boards well, dominates down low and has that touch on his jumper only a few people have.

Freshman Peter Hartigan (UConn): Hartigan has been the best option for UConn at big man all year and he’s done a good enough job to get them into the Final Four. Hartigan remains a viable scoring option down low for the Huskies, so watch for him on Friday night.

Player Match-Ups:
Sophomore Sean Edgar (Stanford) vs. Freshman Charlie Sealy (UConn)
This is going to be a war. I can already tell. Sealy (Freshman of the Year) has been near unstoppable lately, and I don’t see him slowing down. However, Sean Edgar (Defensive Player of the Year) is a nightmare to have on you, so that means only one thing… entertaining basketball.

Sophomore John Foley (Stanford) vs. Sophomores David & Scott Voigt (UConn)
This isn’t going to be what I described above. Not a nice, clean match-up at the point. No, no, no. The physicality and talk the Voigts bring to the court is brilliant, as it gets into opponent’s minds and gives UConn the edge. However, Stanford owns the best antidote around. John Foley is the Richard Sherman of House. He talks, and backs it up. I will not be surprised if Foley and the Voigts brawl… just saying.

Stanford Strengths:
  • Tight defense
  • Driving to the basket
  • Rebounding on both sides of the ball
Stanford Weaknesses:
  • Defending big guards
UConn Strengths:
  • Charlie Sealy’s game
  • Three point game
  • Physicality 
UConn Weaknesses:
  • Reliable guard outside of Sealy

This game will be closer than most people think. Sealy can play, and has a great supporting cast in Hartigan, Percarpio and McCann. Stanford has everything they need however to continue to roll, but like I said before, it will be a close one.

I don’t like doing predictions, as it usually results in opposing players getting in a mood when they see me. So this time, I involved the league and asked five players not playing in the games what they thought the score would be and averaged those scores into what is below.

League Says: Stanford 34 UConn 29

#7 Kentucky vs. #11 Georgia Tech
There is one sentence that sums up what these two teams have gone through. They aren’t supposed to be this far, but yet, they are.
Kentucky 43 Missouri 33
Kentucky shocked the league when they upset #2 Missouri on Tuesday and walked out of that game like they knew that was going to happen. Holding Missouri to 33 points is tough, but Kentucky was able to do it.

Georgia Tech 42 Georgetown 33
Georgia Tech continued their Cinderella Story this Tuesday as they went off against a short-handed Georgetown team. Freshman Brian Keating was able to contain sophomore Big Man of the Year Mark Evanchick, which is great news for Tech as they head into their battle with Kentucky.

Players to Watch:
If you have no idea why these players are on here, look at the disclaimer on the other “Players to Watch”.

Freshman Ben Bidell (Georgia Tech): Bidell is Georgia Tech’s most reliable shooter behind freshman “Best Three Point Shooter” award winner Cord Fox. Bidell also has the fastidious ability to drive quickly and effectively to the basket, which gives Georgia Tech the perfect combination in the paint and behind the arc.

Sophomore Andrew Mercein (Kentucky): Mercein has been given a lack of credit this year as Kentucky’s only big man. He was able to stop most of Missouri’s productivity in the paint on Tuesday and made it hard for MVP Timmy Graham to get to the basket early. Mercein looks to capitalize on this success against Georgia Tech’s Brian Keating.

Sophomore Lee Gardella (Kentucky): Gardella is one of Kentucky’s best scoring weapons, hands down. He drives hard and plays with some fine finesse, which allows for great scoring opportunities. Gardella was a star in the league two years ago as well, leading his team all the way to the ‘ship before failing to bring home the title. Against whom you ask? Brian Keating’s squad.

Player Match-Ups:
Freshman Brian Keating (Georgia Tech) vs. Sophomore Andrew Mercein (Kentucky)
I’m guessing this will be a match-up on Friday night, and if it is, it will be a good one. Both big men aren’t the tallest, yet hold enough strength for what should be an entertaining battle down in the trenches.

Trifone Twins (Kentucky) vs. Freshmen Will Ahl and Cord Fox (Georgia Tech)
It is once again my guess that the Trifone twins will be paired up against Georgia Tech’s main threats, and in my opinion, that’s guards Will Ahl and Cord Fox. Fox was voted the “Best Three Point Shooter” in House this year, while Ahl is a big and fast guard that can make things happen at the hoop. The Trifone twin defense will be a hard thing to get past, so it should be interesting to watch.

Kentucky Strengths:
  • Defense
  • Transition play
  • Fast break offense
Kentucky Weaknesses:
  • Scoring in the paint
  • A “big” big man

Georgia Tech Strengths:
  • Three-point shooting
  • Driving to the basket
  • Steals
Georgia Tech Weaknesses:
  • Guarding the three balls
  • Transition defense

This one will either be close or a blowout, depending on which teams show up on Friday. If Kentucky brings its defensive mentality from the past two games, it should be a low-scoring affair. If Kentucky can’t bring that same defense, Georgia Tech will go ham on the three balls. This game, however, will definitely be awesome. You have Georgia Tech, who won three games in the regular season and has the entire House league on their side, against Kentucky, who wasn’t even supposed to be anywhere near good this year. Hopefully, it lives up to the hype.

League Says: Georgia Tech 43 Kentucky 42

Final Four Friday will be entertaining, and House Basketball will be at its finest. I look forward to seeing most of you there. Get there and be loud and proud.

Also, there will be no Championship Preview. There is no time in-between the Final Four and Championship. So with that, thanks for the support this year; I enjoyed it greatly.

Final List of Award Winners:
MVP: Timmy Graham (Missouri) w/ 38% of the vote.

Freshman of the Year: Charlie Sealy (UConn) w/ 55% of the vote.

Big Man of the Year: Mark Evanchick (Georgetown) w/ 51% of the vote.

Defensive Player of the Year: Sean Edgar (Stanford) w/ 45% of the vote.

Best Three Point Shooter: Cord Fox (Georgia Tech) w/ 38% of the vote.

Mr. Bank Shot: Kyle Fisher (North Carolina) w/ 46% of the vote.

Game of the Year: Missouri 49 Georgia Tech 48 w/ 35% of the vote.

Moment of the Year: Brendan Seiler posts up on Mark Evanchick and hits the fade-away jumper w/ 37% of the vote.

Coach of the Year: Ron Mulliken and Robbie Foresta (Miami) w/ 46% of the vote.

Twins of the Year: Matt & Chris Drake (Syracuse) w/ 38% of the vote.

Sportsmanship Award: Brendan Seiler (North Carolina) w/ 69% of the vote.

Underdog of the Year: Mac Keating (Missouri) w/ 58% of the vote.

Most House Swag: Mac Keating (Missouri) w/ 46% of the vote.

Most Finesse: Colin Minicus (Stanford) w/ 47% of the vote.

Best Celebration: Spencer Stovall (Missouri) and his “Special Celebration” after scoring w/ 62% of the vote.

Smallest Body, Biggest Heart: Brett Durbin (North Carolina) w/ 44% of the vote.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Three USMNT Players Who Must Find Their Form before World Cup

by Stephen Barston

With the 2014 World Cup fast approaching, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side has plenty of work to do. Recent winter training camps have allowed many domestic players to stay match fit during the offseason and there are also numerous players currently training elsewhere in the world with their club teams. However, there are some mainstays for this Stars and Stripes team that desperately need to find their top form before Brazil in June, especially with the threat that the “Group of Death” and its constituents (Germany, Portugal, and Ghana) pose.

1. Jozy Altidore (Striker, Sunderland AFC): Altidore has undergone an incredible role reversal in the past few months. Usually known for his lackluster international performances and his out-of-this-world club form, the 24-year-old has flipped the script; he has been virtually nonexistent for Sunderland this season, only scoring twice in 31 appearances for the Black Cats, while scoring frequently for Klinsmann and the US. Thus far, Altidore’s return to the Premier League has surely been a confidence-killer, yet if he can find some sort of consistency and help the 18th-placed Sunderland squad avoid relegation, the striker position for June may be solidified earlier than expected.

2. Jermaine Jones (Midfielder, Beşiktaş): Jones, formerly the first-team holding midfielder for FC Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga, was adored by German fans for his tenacity and bullish control of the middle of the pitch. However, this attitude did not necessarily translate well to the international stage, where he was often overcome with more passion than was needed: Jones was constantly overweighting passes or simply making reckless tackles during qualifying matches. However, if he can become more technically consistent in the Turkish Süper Lig, the German-born American will be a viable option for an everyday starter on Klinsmann’s squad.

3. Brek Shea (Winger, Barnsley): Shea, on loan at Barnsley (in the second division of English football), has been wildly inconsistent in recent memory, in both international and club matches. Many pundits no longer envision the bright future that Shea was supposed to have after his breakout 2011 MLS campaign. He has still yet to score in first-team matches outside of the MLS (which he left in 2012), and Stoke City’s purchase of him from FC Dallas for over $4 million seems to have almost certainly not paid off. However, no matter how frustrating Shea may be, he has still found a way to get on the scoresheet. Inconsistent qualifying matches and early-round Gold Cup matches were forgotten when he scored the late winner in the final of the aforementioned tournament against Panama. Midfield and attack are certainly areas of relative strength for the USMNT, but if Shea strings together some convincing games for his new squad, he may catch Klinsmann’s eye and bring another threat to the bench come June.

Shea, far right, celebrates his game-winning tap-in in
the Gold Cup Final with his USMNT teammates.

Boys Basketball Falls Short Against Westhill

by Jake Frasca

This Monday, February 24th, Darien took on Westhill at home for Senior Night. The Wave had high expectations heading into the game, as Westhill has proven yet again to be a top team.

Darien led the Vikings the majority of the game, senior Chima Azuonwu recorded one of his best performances of the season, as he dropped 24 points and hauled in 20 rebounds; he even knocked down some clutch free throws as he shot a perfect 4 for 4 from the line. Senior guard Matt Staubi recorded 10 points as well, but just couldn’t get his threes to fall. Senior George Phillips put up 7 points, including a three-pointer which sparked a hot stretch in the first quarter for the Wave. Despite Darien’s solid scoring, 9 turnovers in the fourth quarter cost them the game as Westhill overcame a small deficit in the final two minutes to complete the comeback.

It was a heartbreaker no doubt, especially considering the fact that the win could have added some extra momentum heading into playoffs. After the game senior Ames Murray said, “We were really happy with how Chima performed, just disappointing to lose a game where we fought that hard for a lead the whole time.”

Darien has improved greatly since last year, and hopefully they can continue their success. Come cheer on the team in their next game on Wednesday, February 26th, away against Stamford High School at 7 pm.

Azuonwu goes up for a putback during a game earlier
this season against Greenwich. (Credit: Darien AF)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

TJ Adiletta: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

by Colin Flynn

He is undoubtedly the most recognizable player in House Basketball. For some, junior TJ Adiletta represents what House Basketball is all about. He may not be the biggest, nor the strongest, or have the best shot in the game, but he does have one thing that no other player in House can beat him at: the swag he brings to the game. Adiletta is unmatched in the outfits he wears to his games. His preferred getup consists of a vast assortment of apparel. He wears white Nike Hyperdunks, Irish themed leg sleeves with purple high socks over them, his House jersey with cut-off sleeves, a pink headband, and not one, but two shooting sleeves. One is just a plain red color, but the other is an insane Skittle-themed sleeve. I asked this superstar why he dresses himself like this during a game, and Adiletta responded, “You see, I’m not that great of a Basketball player, so to make up for it I have to dress to impress.” Fellow House Basketball player and DHS junior Brian Walsh complimented Adiletta on his apparel, saying, “It brings a real edge to the game.” To cap off the regular season of House Basketball for Adiletta, he is the favorite to win Neirad's own award for "Most Swag". Be sure to check out Adiletta and his Lakers in the playoffs in the weeks to come.

Adiletta ready to go during last night's first-round playoff action.

9/10 House Basketball Award Voting

Britton Barthold--

That’s right, the 9/10 House Basketball Awards will be open to public voting. Voting will occur only until Thursday night, so get your voting in quickly. The results will be announced on Friday’s 9/10 Final Four Playoff Preview, so be ready for that. (Copy and paste links to get to full site)

Freshman of the Year:

Big Man of the Year:

Defensive Player of the Year:

Best Three Point Shooter:

Mr. Bank Shot Award:

Game of the Year:

Regular Season Moment of the Year:

Coach of the Year:

Twins of the Year:

Underdog of the Year:

Sportsmanship Award:

Most House Swag:

Most Finesse:

Best Celebration:

Smallest Body, Biggest Heart:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spencer McKeough Athlete Profile

by Reed Barthold

As the indoor track season comes to a close, there remain a few players who stand out among the large roster of “trackies”. Senior captain Spencer McKeough is one of them. Standing at 6’1” 225lbs, McKeough is hard to miss. He currently holds the record for shot put at DHS and has broken a few field house records.

“I started throwing back in freshman year because I saw my brother enjoying it,” McKeough said. After four years of throwing, McKeough stands as one of the best in the state. He can throw the 12-pound shot 51 feet 4  inches. This was enough to land him a spot in the National Indoor Track Championship in March. Co-captain and fellow senior Nick Lombardo said, “Spencer is extremely dedicated and has been the best thrower I’ve seen at each meet.” McKeough’s furthest throw is nearly eight feet beyond the previous record.

McKeough says he plans to throw in college and has no intention of slowing down.

McKeough participating in the shot put event at a meet from earlier in his DHS track career.