They grew up playing basketball together. Now, in their senior year of high school, the core group of the Cranston East boys team hopes it can win big together.
The Thunderbolt haven’t hung a banner since the 2003-04 team won the Division I-A title and Cranston East has never won the state’s ultimate prize. But with eight seniors who’ve been on the court together since they started dribbling, this team gives them as good a shot as any as the Division I season gets underway.
“They’re definitely aware of it,” CE coach Isaiah McDaniel says. “They’re definitely aware of the past and they definitely want to leave a mark on their high school careers.”
The 1-2 punch of Aireus Raspberry and Nelvin Blanco give the 'Bolt a great start. Raspberry was a second-team Providence Journal All-Stater and first team all-division while Blanco earned second-team all-division honors.
“With Aireus, the sky is the limit for him. He definitely knows how to score the ball and can get teammates involved,” McDaniel says. “The big thing for him is controlling the pace and playing without the ball in his hands.”
That’s where Blanco steps in. His athleticism makes him a ferocious scorer and defender and there will be nights where the Thunderbolt offense runs through him.
“He’s a great passer [who] can get it into tight spots,” McDaniel says.
Cranston East is hardly a two-man squad. The 'Bolt return five other seniors who saw time last season in guards Andrew Khvang, Paul Maguire, forwards Mac Hanley, Luke Hogan and defensive wizard Jason Larosiliere, as well as junior big man Noah Berg.
The chemistry among them is evident; this is hardly a group that started playing together as freshmen.
“They know each other,” McDaniel says. “They know what everyone is good at and they know when and where to give each other the ball.”
It’s going to be a tough road. Hendricken is Hendricken, La Salle returns a ton of players, the Providence schools are all strong and North Kingstown has one of the biggest teams in the state. The Thunderbolt are aware of the challenges and more than ready to take them on.
“I’ve always tried to instill that mindset that we come in and come with it every night we play,” McDaniel says. “We don’t go in thinking we’re going to lose any game we play.”
Coach: Todd Keefe
Last year: 6-12, lost to East Providence in D-I preliminary round
Key returners: Jevonte Nuang, G, Sr.; Zach Touze, G, Sr. Jon Zapata, G, Sr.
Coach: John Cavanagh
Last year: 9-9, lost to Hendricken in D-I quarterfinals, lost to Hendricken first round of state playoffs
Key returners: Sean Duke, G, Sr.; Ed Denson, F, Sr.; Aniekan Okon, C, Sr.; Henrey Lamar, G, Jr.; Khalil Screen, F, Jr.
Coach: Jim Moretti
Last year: 6-12, lost to South Kingstown in D-I preliminary round
Key returners: Reece Bullock, F, Sr.; Di Cepeda, F, Sr.; Tyler Cicione, F, Sr.; Lucas Garcia, G, Sr.; Troy Osterhout, G, Sr.
Coach: Isaiah McDaniel
Last year: 13-5, lost to La Salle in D-I quarterfinals, lost to Hendricken in state quarterfinals
Key returners: Nelvin Blanco, G, Sr.; Mac Hanley, F, Sr.; Andrew Khvang, G, Sr.; Paul Maguire, G, Sr.; Aireus Raspberry, G, Sr.
Coach: Gary Reedy
Last year: 17-1 Division II, lost to East Greenwich in D-II semifinals, lost to Hendricken in state semifinals
Key returners: Jackson Zancan, G, Sr.; William Andrews, F, Jr.; Dante Aviles-Santos, G/F, Jr.; Brendan Raftery, G, Jr.
Coach: Joe Andrade
Last year: 9-9, lost to Mount Pleasant in D-I quarterfinals, lost to Classical in state playoff play-in game
Key returners: Julian Andrade, G, Sr. Dion Hazard, G, Sr.; Josh Kauffman, G/F, Jr.; R.J. Pina, Jr., G/F.
Coach: Jamal Gomes
Last year: 17-1, lost to Mount Pleasant in D-I final, beat Mount Pleasant in state championship game
Key returners: Andre De Los Santos G/F, Sr.; Bobby Fiorito, G, Sr.; Angel Sanchez, G, Jr.; Cam Hughes, C, Soph.; Sebastian Thomas, G, Soph.
Coach: David Nyblom
Last year: 5-13, lost to La Salle in D-I preliminary round
Key returners: Elias De La Cruz, G, Sr.; Sergio Diaz, G, Sr.; Shelton Smalls, G, Sr.; Jamari Bell, F, Soph.; Juan Severino, F, Soph.
Coach: Eric Simonelli
Last year: 12-6, lost to Hendricken in D-I semifinals, lost to Mount Pleasant in state quarterfinals
Key returners: Cam Heroux, G, Sr., Elijiah Perry, F, Sr.; Lenin Tavarez, G, Sr.; Connor Trojan, F, Sr.; Nate Lussier, G/F, Jr..
Coach: Charlie Holliday
Last year: 16-2, won D-I championship, lost to Hendricken in state championship game
Key returners: Aaron Gomes, G, Sr.; Chaynce Trottman, F, Sr.; Adonnis Acevedo, C, Jr.; Nas Pona, Jr. G;
Coach: Aaron Thomas
Last year: 13-5, lost to Mount Pleasant in D-I semifinals, lost to Middletown in state playoff first round
Key returners: Tristan Curran, G, Sr.; Ben Masse, Sr., F; Dylan Poirier, Sr., C; Nick Quarella, Sr., C; Clay Brochu, Jr., G; Nick Sachetti, Jr., G.
Coach: Joe Bennett
Last year: 4-14
Key returners: Justin Gorgone, G, Sr.; Kyle Haberle, F, Sr.; Matt Lasalandra, G, Jr.; Jarren Mabray, G, Sr.; Cameron Safford, C, Sr.; Justin Tedeschi, G, Jr.
Coach: Tom Sorrentine
Last year: 3-15
Key returners: Avion Bloe G/F, Sr.; Matt West, C, Sr.; Devin O’Malley, F, Jr.; Jayden Garces, G, Soph.; Ameir Gomes, G, Soph.
Coach: Roland Fiore
Last year: 12-6, lost to North Kingstown in D-I quarterfinals, lost to Mount Pleasant in state semifinals
Key returners: Cameron Monroe, G, Sr.; Cole Podedworny, F, Sr.; Lawrence Shepard, C, Sr.; Jack St. Angelo, F, Sr.
Coach: T.J. Ciolfi
Last year: 9-9, lost to Classical in D-I preliminary round
Key returners: Denzel Lyles, G, Sr.; Dwayne Robinson-O’Hagan, G, Sr.; Ousame Kourouma, C, Jr.