Friday, April 24, 2009

2009 Providence Journal Rhode Island Boys Basketball All-State Team

2009 Providence Journal Rhode Island Boys Basketball All-State Team

Ashton Watkins, Senior, Classical: One of two repeat first-team selections, Watkins led Classical to a 22-3 record overall and its second Division II championship. In the playoffs he scored 26 points against West Warwick in the quarterfinals, 15 in the overtime semifinals victory against Scituate and 13 in a 20-point rout of Narragansett in the finals. He averaged 17.3 points while being double- and triple-teamed most of the season. He went over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in only 2 ½ seasons with the Purple after transferring from Hope. "He learned to make us a better team without his scoring. When teams took his scoring away, he did other things, like rebound and play defense. He came up with huge rebound after huge rebound. When he had to step up and make big plays, he did. To me, Ashton is the most dominant player in the state. He was double-teamed every time he got the ball. You can't play him straight up," coach Todd Keefe said. And Watkins shared the glory with his teammates. Junior Michael Palumbo was hot during the playoffs, scored 22 points in the finals and was the tournament MVP. "A lot of kids would have forced stuff the last couple of games. He didn't. He put the team first," Keefe said of Watkins.

Billy Baron, Senior, Hendricken: Perhaps the best player in the state this season, Baron repeats as a first-team choice partly because he was at his finest in the big games. In January he scored 42 points in a loss to Mount Pleasant, the only Rhode Island team that beat the Hawks (22-3) this season. He scored 38 in the first of two games against Cranston East, a three-point win, and 36 in the second meeting, a three-point overtime victory at the end of the regular season. In the playoffs he scored 23 in a blowout of Hope in the quarterfinals, 24 in the semifinal rout of Cranston West and 25 points in the championship game against Mount Pleasant. He averaged 23 points for the season. Baron can score from way outside and on layups after daring slashes to the basket. He is a good passer and defender. He won three state championships after playing on the junior varsity as a freshman. "He's a big-time player. He makes the jumper. He goes to the basket. He finds a way to get his shot off in traffic. He goes to the foul line and makes his free throws. He'll be sorely missed," coach Jamal Gomes says.

Billy Soriano, Sophomore, Mt. Pleasant: A dynamic player who can take over a game with his scoring (17.1 points per game), passing (6.5 assists) and defense (2.5 steals), Soriano is quick and has superb court sense. Teammates must always be on alert because of his pinpoint passing, and opponents must be prepared for his shooting. He scored 15 points against La Salle in the quarterfinals, 26 against Cranston East in the semifinals and 25 in the championship game loss to Bishop Hendricken. He led the Kilties to a 22-4 record. "As the games get more important and the stage gets bigger, he thrives on that. He enjoys getting out in front of as many people as he can get in front of," says coach Chris Coleman. "He pushes himself. He compares himself to the best in points, assists, steals, whatever. He wants to be the best. He wants to show everybody what he can do. He's the best pure point guard in the state, in my opinion. What he sees on the court, you can’t coach."

Mike Juarez, Senior, Cranston East: This quiet and respected leader averaged 18.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He broke the school's career scoring record and finished with 1,557 points. He and the Bolts finished with a 20-5 record, played tough in two three-point losses to Bishop Hendricken, the second in overtime, and almost upset Mount Pleasant in the tournament semifinals, losing by three. Cool under pressure, he didn't hesitate to take the last shot in the semifinals, his 35-footer at the buzzer caroming off the side of the rim. A true leader, after collapsing to the floor in disappointment, he pulled himself together and led his teammates through the postgame handshake line. He scored 22 points in that game. "I've coached a lot of kids in 33 years, and he's one of the nicest," says coach Bill Monigan. "He has been the hardest worker and the leader of this team since he was a sophomore. He's not a loud leader but a leader by example. His fellow players respond to him because he says, 'Yes, coach,' he runs the drills the hardest, and he's never late for practice or the bus. "He has really improved his game. He was always a good shooter, but now he's a very good shooter, he drives to the basket, he's our leading rebounder, and he's a very good defensive player. All the things he improved on he did by hard work and by listening."

Frank Robinson, Senior, Mt. Pleasant: Returning to Mount Pleasant after two years at East Providence High School, Robinson added experience to a team that lost eight players to graduation but welcomed members of the 2008 state junior varsity championship team. A solid player who can get to the basket or sink outside shots, he led the Kilties in scoring (20.0 ppg) and averaged four rebounds and two assists per game. His floater over Mike Juarez in the last minute beat Cranston East in the semifinal. He scored 13 points in the quarterfinals, 23 in the semifinals and 18 in the finals. He had 26 points in the Jan. 13 victory over Hendricken. "His all-around play helped us all season. He was our high scorer most of the games and was consistent all year. We would not have gotten as far as we did without him," said coach Chris Coleman.

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