Not that anyone doubted that the Bishop Hendricken basketball team would be competitive, but there has been some buzz in the early going of the season regarding the new-look squad.
Hendricken did, in fact, lose quite a bit from last season. Bobby Fiorito and Andre De Los Santos graduated and Tyriek Weeks transferred to Pilgrim. It is totally reasonable to expect the team to take a step back, and I know quite a few people are hoping to see that happen, but I don’t believe that is the case after watching the Hawks’ season opener last week against Cranston East.
East is also a rebuilding team after losing both Aireus Raspberry and Nelvin Blanco, it is also extremely early in the year, so of course you need to take Hendricken’s 91-46 win with a grain of salt. However, I do think it is clear that the Hawks won’t be falling off much, if at all, and will be right in the Division I and state championship mix come March.
First off, let’s break down the roster and lineup.
Angel Sanchez is back for his senior season and looks to be on top of his game. He is known for his work on the gridiron, but I think people are going to see that he is also a top-notch player on the court as well. Last season he was essentially the team’s third man behind Fiorito and De Los Santos, heck, you could argue he was the fourth guy if you include Weeks.
What I saw on Friday though, told me that he is officially good enough to lead a Division I team to the promised land as a top option. He can shoot from midrange or beyond the arc, isn’t afraid to work on the inside, and plays solid defense as well.
Perhaps my favorite part of the Hawks’ win came in the first half. Sanchez went for a rebound and hit the floor. He came up with blood pouring from his forehead and immediately exited the game.
From my view, the gash looked bad and I expected him to go straight to the hospital to be stitched up. About 10 minutes later though, he returned to action bandaged up and hit a three on his first shot back. He went on to score 18 points overall.
Oh, and by the way, that cut on his face did require stitches afterwards.
Sanchez has all the tools to be an elite player this winter, and clearly the mental and physical toughness as well.
I think we are also on the verge of seeing a huge breakout season for junior Sebastian Thomas, who led the Hawks with a game-high 31 points.
Thomas flew under the radar last season and at least to me, I didn’t really consider him to be more than the team’s fourth or fifth guy going into the game. It’s clear that he’s an athlete and is another guard that can score from anywhere on the court … he and Sanchez, as well as senior captain Helio Sousa, will be more than capable of putting up big points on any given night.
The Hawks also have quality size and toughness underneath in the paint. Senior Sebastian Basilio will be a key forward for them, as well as guys like Jason Onye and Cam Hughes.
Overall, despite the major roster turnover, the Hawks will have more than enough talent and versatility to be among the best teams in the state once again. We will have to see how the bench will perform once the team’s depth gets truly tested.
Then of course, they have Jamal Gomes, who in my opinion, is the best coach in the state.
Gomes is the ultimate leader and has a system that works. There is no better coach in the league in terms of maintaining a culture within the locker room and being a tone setter each day. It’s hard not to respect what he has accomplished and who he is on and off the court. The kids always respect him, they always buy in, and when you have a guy like Gomes leading the way, that is always a massive advantage.
The last reason why no one should worry about the Hawks or expect them to take a step back in because they also have a chip on their shoulder this season, which is unusual for Hendricken teams.
The Hawks had the opportunity to win four straight state championships last season, and looked poised to do just that as they entered the open tournament as the No. 1 seed.
Cumberland, the No. 16 seed, pulled off the massive upset and dashed the Hawks’ hopes in the first round.
Although most of these players were either coming off the bench or on junior varsity, those are the types of losses that sit with you, especially when a fourth championship was on the table. Not that three straight isn’t impressive, but four straight, a full high school career, is something remarkable. To be blunt, they blew their chance.
Sometimes, losses like that can be more detrimental the following season, but not with this team. You can already tell it won’t be. From their opening scrimmages, the win against East, talking to them, I don’t see this team not being right in the state title mix in a few months.
Like I said, it’s not like anyone was expecting the Hawks to be uncompetitive, but there are some people that are expecting them to be more good than great. I’m starting to feel that this team is going to prove to be great, and possibly very soon.
Have a happy, peaceful, safe holiday, I’ll catch you next week!