Emerging Hoop Names in New England’s Class of 2021

2018 NCAA bracket Eye on the Alamo

We recently profiled some of New England’s top 2020 stock risers following the grassroots season.

Today, we’ll shift that focus to some of the 2021 prospects (and one in 2022) who have started to emerge in recent months.

Mac Etienne, Suffield Academy, PSA Cardinals

The fact that he had high-major tools was no secret. In fact, it was really just a matter of time before his emergence. However, there was no way to tell it would happen this quickly. Etienne seemed to be adding a new high-major offer with each passing day coming out of the summer recruiting period as Pittsburgh, St. John’s, Syracuse, Xavier, Wake Forest, Providence, Iowa, UConn, and Arizona State all came in succession. Marquette was the first high-major program to offer in June. Despite his surge, Etienne is still far from a finished project. His size and frame both translate to the highest levels but it’s his motor, and overall approach that differentiate him. If he can maintain that, while continuing to develop his skill, there’s no reason he should stop rising.

Bensley Joseph, Cushing Academy, Expressions Elite

Playing alongside two of the top rising juniors in the country, Terrence Clarke and Moussa Cisse, Joseph not only found his niche but made a national profile for himself in the process. Similar to Etienne, it’s Joseph’s mentality and approach that differentiate him. To put it plainly, he’s a winner who impacts the game on both ends of the floor. He’s added another inch or two in recent years but is also very long with a compact and strong build. He’s quick, a top-notch on-ball defender, and making strides as a shooter. He’s also smart for this stage in his career as he is already a pure point guard who distributes the ball, makes good pick-and-roll reads, and provides leadership on both ends of the floor. His maturity and ascension was recognized not just by college coaches, but also by USA Basketball, who invited him to take part in their July mini-camp.

Camaron Tongue, Rivers School, Mass Rivals

On a team with multiple highly talented rising juniors, Tongue stood out as perhaps the most consistent. Two things separate him right now. His motor (which is obviously a clear theme at this point) and a terrific set of hands. That manifests itself into an elite rebounder – one who is willing to pursue balls both in traffic and outside of his area and then able to hang on to almost anything he touches – who can also stretch the floor and score with touch around the paint. Tongue picked up his first high-major offer from Utah last month and now has several other programs at that level following his progress.

George Smith, Brooks School, Middlesex Magic

When the Magic saw their roster depleted by a variety of spring injuries, Smith seized the opportunity and emerged into a key player for them. The lefty shooter had played an important, albeit supportive role, to that point as a floor-spacer and shot-maker but showed he was capable of more from that point on. He not just made open shots but also tough ones, while showing toughness, I.Q., and dexterity with the use of his right hand (he’s a southpaw). That, coupled by his decision to reclassify at Brooks, led to his first few division I offers.

Gus Larson, Northfield Mount Hermon School, Expressions

Sometimes the most notable ascensions are the ones that haven’t happened just yet but are nonetheless rapidly approaching. Such may be the case with Larson. The Connecticut native showed clear potential and a very high-ceiling last fall when he first arrived at NMH. Once the season arrived though, he wasn’t yet ready to impact the game against older and more physically mature competition. He’s also had some nagging injuries, which we now realize may be because he’s still growing. In fact, he’s added at least two inches in the last year and is now standing very close to 6-foot-10. The bottom line…we haven’t seen him dominate anything yet but the long-term potential is even higher than it looked last fall.

Jai Smith, St. Thomas More School, Albany City Rocks

Not unlike Larson, Smith’s first season in the NEPSAC was undeniably slower than he imagined as he played a limited role with the Chancellors as a sophomore. However, the dividends from that investment were realized this spring as he exceeded all expectations while playing up with the City Rocks EYBL team. An athletic big body with a high-motor, Smith flourished as a finisher and dunker, which has been proven to be a lot more difficult than it sounds in the EYBL. He played within his limitations, was active defensively and on the glass. He earned an invitation to Nike’s Elite One Hundred as a result and has high-major programs following his progress.

And One from 2022

Dasonte Bowen, Worcester Academy, BABC

He’s only a rising sophomore, but he’s coming on so quickly he deserves mention. Bowen has been one of the top 2022 prospects in New England since day one in the high school ranks, but he started to put it all together this spring. He not only thrived while playing up with BABC’s 16’s but even made his presence felt when called up to the EYBL for session III. In fact, you could make the case that BABC was better with the rising sophomore than they were with rising fifth year players. Bowen is a true point guard with terrific positional size, instincts, vision, and leadership tools. He should be one of New England’s best for years to come.