Winchendon has a little bit of everything this year. In fact, make that a lot of everything.
Mike Byrnes’ program won the NEPSAC Class A title three years ago. Bridgton Academy has won the last two years.
With arguably the best guard tandem in the entire prep ranks – Malcolm Grant and junior Darius Gabriel – and a host of frontline guys young and old – Winchendon should be able to stand toe-to-toe with anyone this season.
Grant, who committed to Villanova in the summer, is a big-time scorer out of New York who will likely team with Gabriel – another New Yorker – to form a quick and dynamic backcourt.
``I think our team is very talented,” Grant said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can score and a lot of the guys work hard. I think we should go all the way. Nothing can stop us but ourselves.”
``I call this team the young and the ruthless,” added Gabriel. “We’re young and hungry.”
Byrnes has options at the wing spot with Chris Turner or Jamal Coombs. Turner is a 6-foot-4 ½ North Carolina native who has a smooth stroke while Coombs is just a sophomore, but plays with more maturity than his age.
A newcomer out of Sudan has been extremely impressive thus far in the preseason and will find a way to earn plenty of minutes. Junior wing Mathiang Mauot, who is long and skilled, will give Byrnes more athleticism. Kinard Dozier is a local guy who should battle for minutes at the shooting guard spot.
Both Coombs and fellow sophomore Alex Oriakhi, who should battle for minutes up front, have already committed to play for Jim Calhoun at UConn.
Oriakhi won’t be guaranteed minutes with a few guys who can play up front – including 7-foot big man John Hegarty, 6-foot-8 Ousmane Lo, hard-nosed 6-foot-6 Kevin Menner, 6-foot-6 athlete Romaric Lasme, 6-foot-6 Mike Ringold and newcomer 6-foot-7 Dartaye Ruffin, a sophomore who transferred in from St. Andrew’s.
``This is the most athletic team I’ve coached in a long, long time,” Byrnes said. “We’re just so long, so active, so athletic and so unselfish. The biggest question is how everyone will assume roles and me finding a rotation where they feel comfortable.”
``I need to find the right pieces to the puzzle,” he added. “Because in theory, we can go 11 or 12 deep and we really don’t lose much.”