EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 18, 2009

Desrosiers best I've ever seen in area

Boys Basketball

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — That's it. I'm convinced.

And after the last 20 hours, you would be too. In 63-plus minutes of floor time, Carson Desrosiers scored 57 points and grabbed 32 rebounds,

He's now 10 games into his junior season, and I will make the sure-to-be-debated proclamation that Central's Desrosiers has surpassed ex-Raider Scott Hazelton as the greatest hoop talent ever to play in our region.

Sure, the 34 points and 19 rebounds Friday came against Haverhill, a young team on the rise not to be confused with Dunbar High in the mid-1980s.

But his matinee encore here against a hoop monster in American Heritage of suburban Fort Lauderdale, Fla., authenticated Desrosiers and locked up the honor in my mind.

The Raiders used a big fourth quarter to make it interesting but fell to American Heritage, 82-77, yesterday at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.

In a land of long and lean giants, Desrosiers spun and popped, pulled up and fired. At 6-11, he even beat the Patriots off the dribble. He nailed 10 of 16 shots from the field and grabbed more rebounds (13) than any other athlete on the floor.

"You can't guard him down low, and he can step out and hit that three," said American Heritage coach Danny Harris, whose team plays one of the toughest schedules in the country. "He's just so tough to guard. We have good bigs, but our bigs are 6-8, 6-9 he (plays like) 7-foot or 7-foot-plus."

As great as Hazelton was — McDonald's All-American, UConn recruit, etc. — Carson has brought us into a new stratosphere in the Valley.

Rick Nault, Desrosiers' coach and an assistant during the Hazelton years, didn't hesitate when asked if his big man had moved to the top of the charts.

"He now is," said Nault. "People have always talked about his defense. It's getting to the point now where offensively, he just wants it."

The third-year head coach says Desrosiers should have quieted any skeptics.

"People always had questions, saying he's doing it against 6-2, 6-3 centers. Today, he went out against two good 6-8 kids, and how does he do? Twenty (actually 23) points, 13 rebounds ... He's the real deal."

The funny thing about the debate is that, with Hazelton, I was stubborn. I grew up in the Leo Parent era. Night in and night out, Leo dominated with not only offense, but defense and rebounding. It was special, and when Parent and his former Central teammate Bobby Licare brought home a national title at UMass Lowell ... it was almost a coronation in my mind.

Ultimately, Hazelton's athleticism, skill and savvy, along with Central's first state championship, overwhelmed my emotion.

But watching Carson from Day 1 ... when Desrosiers nailed three straight 3-pointers in his debut as a freshman ... to this most recent display, there is definitely an adjustment at the top.

Tourney tidbits

American Heritage coach Danny Harris had minimal knowledge about Central Catholic coming in. He was limited to reading about the state title last spring and other game coverage. It took him exactly 32 minutes to get a perfect read on Billy Marsden, who has made some of the biggest hoops in Central history.

"Billy's a tough guy, you can see the way he plays, he's a tough kid," said Harris. "I don't know him very well, but you can see he's a winner." ...

When Sports Illustrated ranked the top 50 high school athletic programs in the country several months ago, American Heritage checked in at No. 7. ...

Heritage, the reigning state Division 3A baseball champion, also produced power-hitting first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was chosen No. 3 overall by the Kansas City Royals in last June's Major League Baseball Draft. ...

Marsden on the one-on-one matchup with Florida signee Kenny Boynton: "This is nothing I'm going to forget. We could be seeing this kid in 10 years on TV and I'll be telling my kid that I played him."

And for the record, Billy, you put up 25 on him. ...

Count Boston College among the 18 Division 1 schools, who've already offered full rides to Carson Desrosiers.

Brockton-Andover this afternoon

The weekend hoopfest continues today with No. 2 Brockton coming to Andover's Dunn Gym for a 3 p.m. tip.

Golden Warrior coach David Fazio brought up an interesting point about scheduling. Traditionally, Fazio looks for the toughest non-league slate possible. His Warriors, now 6-3, have a pair of losses to top-ranked Central and one to top-20 Lowell, and beat BC High, which was preseason No. 5 in EMass.

Andover will traditionally face all comers, but the coach wonders what kind of toll that schedule could have on a young team like his.

"We're playing these games, and I just hope they don't deflate us," said Fazio, who hopes lessons learned in defeat now translate to victories in March. "We can't have a deflated attitude. We have to take what happens, now this is what we have to do, just to get better."

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