With the start of practice for fall sports right around the corner, the time is right to assemble the list of athletes we’ll be keeping a close eye on in the upcoming school year.
The choices are based on a combination of evaluating what they accomplished last year and anticipating what might be in store in 2009-10.
We’ll start with the boys and come back with the girls later this week:
1. Nicky Galasso, West Islip lacrosse — With three NYSPHSAA Class A championships in four years, West Islip is coming dangerously close to wrestling the title of best lacrosse program in New York away from 15-time state champ West Genesee. Galasso was spectacular in the 2009 final with four goals and four assists in a 10-5 victory over Orchard Park. He was third on all of Long Island with 71 goals for the season but topped everyone with 65 assists and 136 points. He’s already said he will enroll at North Carolina in the fall of 2010.
2. Dominique Easley, Curtis football — There is no football player in the state being more heavily recruited than Easley, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound standout from Staten Island. A hard-charging defensive end, Easley runs the 40 in 4.7 and can chase the play down from the backside. Curtis is coming off an 8-2 season a year ago and looking for a run deep into the PSAL playoffs.
3. Tobias Harris, Half Hollow Hills West basketball — The 6-8 forward missed nearly half of his junior season at Long Island Lutheran with a severe ankle injury but returned with a vengeance to lead the run to a victory over Jamesville-DeWitt for the Federation Class A crown. Harris, who averaged 23.5 points and 11.5 rebounds as a junior, has transferred back to HHHW and expects to make a college decision before the upcoming season. Scouts have moved him way up their lists this summer based in large part on how polished he is on the offensive end of the court.
4. Will Regan, Buffalo Nichols basketball — If Virginia gets two-thirds the production that another Nichols big man, Christian Laettner, gave Duke, then the 6-foot-9 Regan is going to be a major ACC presence. Regan is coming off a 23.9 scoring average on 60.5 percent shooting from the field and is halfway home in matching recent Niagara Falls/Syracuse University standouts Paul Harris and Jonny Flynn as a two-time Buffalo News player of the year. With 1,401 points so far, he’s a strong candidate to end his career in the 2,000 club.
5. Chris Secky, Maple Grove football and basketball — With one season to go, the big questions are which sport(s) Secky will play in college and how many more New York State Sportswriters Association player of the year awards can he pick up. Secky was named POY in football following a 13-0 season and state Class D championship, putting up ridiculous numbers at quarterback. In basketball, he earned his second straight POY (sharing this one with Ryan Creighton of Greenport) after the Dragons bowed out in the state semifinals in Glens Falls.
6. DaQuan Jones, Johnson City football — With just a touch more speed, Jones would be rated a five-star recruit. As it is, Penn State was more than happy to get a commitment from the 6-4, 300-pound defender, who could fit in at either tackle or end as a high school senior and perhaps move over to the other side of the ball after showing up in State College.
7. DaJuan Coleman, Jamesville-DeWitt basketball — On a lesser squad, the 6-foot-8 freshman would have had to carry the team last winter. At J-D, however, he played alongside Syracuse recruit Brandon Triche and the reliable Alshwan Hymes. But with 18 points and 18 boards in the NYSPHSAA Class A final against Peekskill, Coleman made a statement and bullied his way onto sixth-team all-state. Coleman has soft hands and sound footwork, and colleges will track his every move these next three seasons.
8. Alex Hatz, Fayetteville-Manlius distance running — It’s more than a little unfair to start talking up the possibility of Hatz firing off a four-minute mile next spring as a senior, but the fact remains that he is a top-notch distance runner. He was sub-4:07 and 9:10 in the 1,600 and 3,200 last spring and could get off to a flying start with a cross country team that will be favored to win a state championship and perhaps contend at Nike Cross Nationals. New York’s been spoiled by distance runners over the years, and Hatz could wind up as one of the best of the last 25 years.
9. Jeff Mack, Iona Prep football — The Gaels went 11-0 to dethrone seven-time defending champ St. Anthony’s in the Catholic High School Football League last fall. They have a ton of returning talent to be orchestrated by QB Tyrae Woodson-Samuels, but Mack will be weapon No. 1. He piled up 1,953 yards and 25 TDs on the ground to go along with 30 catches for 284 yards and another score last fall.
10. Jordan Thomas, Union-Endicott football — Jordan Thomas ran for 686 yards in the first five games of 2007 before injuring a shoulder and carried 141 times for 1,077 yards as a junior (plus 14 receptions for 329 yards and three of his 14 TDs). It added up to fourth-team all-state status as a junior, a commitment to play for Rutgers next year and a lot of attention for Thomas and a team that looks better than detractors might think.
11. Achraf Yacoubou, Long Island Lutheran basketball —
Largely overshadowed because of the presence of the Harris brothers but a second-team all-state pick in Class A nevertheless, the junior swingman will be the centerpiece of the program this winter. College coaches who came to see Tobias Harris (27 points, 15 rebounds) in the Federation final vs. Jamesville-DeWitt also witnessed Yocoubou put up 16 points and contribute solid defense. With J.J. Moore of Brentwood said to be leaving for prep school in Connecticut, Yacoubou will be Long Island’s No. 2 attraction this season.
12. Yarik Merkulov, Penfield golf — Merkulov carded eight birdies, an eagle and no bogeys en route to a final-round 61 this month to repeat as New York State Golf Association Junior Amateur champion at Skaneateles Country Club. His two-round total of 134 beat the runners-up by 10 strokes and the 61 destroyed the club's competitive-round record of 67. He was coming off a victory at the state amateur and also reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur last month. Merkulov was second as a junior in the NYSPHSAA tournament at Cornell University.
13. Quentin Gause, Rochester Bishop Kearney football — Teammate Jerome Lewis, a senior defensive end committed to Virginia Tech, will rightfully get a ton of attention this fall. But Gause, a 6-2, 200-pound rising junior RB/DB is earning raves as a hard worker on and off the field. He needs to get faster to project as top-shelf talent in next year’s recruiting class, but he may be on his way to becoming the state’s No. 1 football recruit despite playing what amounts to small-school ball with the Kings.
14. Joseph Lopez, Brentwood soccer — Having tallied all four goals at the final four as Brentwood swept to the NYSPHSAA Class AA championship in Oneonta, Lopez is going to be closely watched as the slightly advanced half of a potent one-two punch on a loaded team. He had a dozen assists to go with a school-record 25 goals in 2008, with Hancell Guevara drilling home another 21 goals.
15. Kyle Colling, Pioneer wrestling — Coming off a NYSPHSAA Division II championship at 215 pounds (beating 51-0 Craig Amidon of Canisteo-Greenwood to avenge a regular-season loss) as well as top honors in the Junior Nationals at Virginia Beach, Va., Colling will garner attention every time he steps on the mat as a senior.