The Ruden Report Boys Basketball All-FCIAC Teams And Postseason Awards

Kenny Wright was the key to Stamford being the FCIAC's most improved team. (Photo: Mark Conrad)
Kenny Wright was the key to Stamford being the FCIAC’s most improved team. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

The easy: barring the arrival of spaceships whisking its players away, Bridgeport Central seems destined to win its second straight league title. The Hilltoppers have most of their top talent back from a team that caught fire during the second half of last season.

The difficult: figuring the order of finish behind Central. Take the Hilltoppers out the picture and this would be the most unpredictable year ever. It won’t be surprising if seeds 2-4 have a minimum of three losses. This is going to be a dog-eat-dog winter, with as many as 10-12 teams harboring realistic hopes of reaching the conference tournament, and more than half of them at earning a top seed.

Sound familiar? If you are Ruden Report regulars, you’ve read this twice before, first in the preseason preview, then in the midseason report.

As we put a wrap on what was an intriguing and memorable season, it seemed worth leading off with the paragraphs one last time — not to save a little writing time but in terms of comparing what we thought to what we now know.

Bridgeport Central? Check. Save for a midseason slip up at Westhill, the Hilltoppers were perfect, winning their second straight FCIAC title and third state championship under coach Barry McLeod.

Three-loss 2-4 seeds? Greenwich proved to be better than we expected, losing twice during conference play and reaching the FCIAC final for just the second time and the Class LL semifinals for the first.

Ridgefield, Westhill and Stamford occupied the postseason middle class, finishing with either four or five losses.

After that we had seven teams with between eight and 11 league wins. The final playoff spot wasn’t decided until the last game of regular season play, when everyone was glued to Twitter for the result of the Harding-Norwalk game, which the Presidents won, earning St. Joseph the eighth and final seed.

So Central and Greenwich were a clear-cut 1-2, and after that there was more parity than the league has even seen, which brought greater interest and more schools to the party.

The biggest surprises? Ridgefield and Stamford far exceeded expectations using the same formula: good team ball. Disappointments? St. Joseph should not have been sweating out the final game to earn a league playoff spot, and Trinity Catholic had enough talent to not see its 16-year run end.

CJ Byrd helped lead Greenwich to the FCIAC final and Class LL semifinals. (Photo: Lauren Price)
CJ Byrd helped lead Greenwich to the FCIAC final and Class LL semifinals. (Photo: Lauren Price)

From a writer’s standpoint, this year was great fun. While the overall quality of play was down, the balance more than made up for it. How great was it to see the excitement in Darien after earning a state playoff berth — and then winning a game?

While the dynamic is going to change greatly, the first impression is we could be in for more equality next winter, minus the sure frontrunner.

Sign us up now.

Onto The Ruden Report awards.

Most Valuable Player

Tyler Ancrum, Bridgeport Central. This has been a three-player race all year long. Talk to all 19 coaches and you will get votes for Ancrum, Westhill’s Jeremiah Livingston and Greenwich’s CJ Byrd. I’ll take any of the three to lead my team.

So why Ancrum? He led his team to both FCIAC and state championships. The Hilltoppers almost were defeated by St. Joseph in the first round of the league tournament. Why? Ancrum missed half the game with foul trouble.

The bottom line: Ancrum was the straw that stirred the best team in the state’s drink.

Coach Of The Year

Bill Brehm, Greenwich. First let it be stated that I cannot remember a year when there was better coaching in the league. That’s not to say there are better coaches, but look at the accomplishments this season.

Stamford’s Danny Melzer led the biggest turnaround in the FCIAC. Andrew McClellan took over at Ridgefield and got everything he could out of a team hit by graduation losses. Joel Geriak got Wilton back into the FCIAC Tournament and took Greenwich to overtime in the second round of the state playoffs. I couldn’t argue with anyone stating a case for the three.

And you know what? Everyone thinks McLeod just sat back and watched Central win on auto-pilot, but he did a masterful job as well.

But in the end, Brehm took the Cardinals where they had never gone before. This was as cohesive a team with chemistry as good as any team in the state. Sure there was a lot of talent, but it was maximized to the fullest. Greenwich’s defensive schemes were outstanding.

For Brehm to emerge from this strong a pack is a credit to the job he did.

Best Game

Bridgeport Central 76, Fairfield Prep 73. The Hilltoppers saved their best for last, overcoming an 18-point halftime deficit against the unbeaten and top-seeded Jesuits, an outcome that has taken on a different context because of the unfortunate absence of postgame sportsmanship by Prep that has been the talk of the state basketball world since Saturday. McLeod can tell a few stories that haven’t surfaced.

But we have strayed off point. Central’s comeback for the ages came not just against any opponent, but an immensely talented Prep team.

This game will be recalled for quite some time, an instant classic now permanently etched in state basketball lore. The Hilltoppers summoned the heart of a champion to become champions.

Best Shot

Scott Shouvlin, Wilton. We have to throw a little love to Scottie “Buzzer Beater” Shouvlin, whose game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer took down Hartford Public in the first round of the state tournament. For good measure, he hit a game-tying trey in the final seconds in the next round to force overtime against Greenwich.

All-FCIAC Teams

A public service announcement: I am going to open myself to exposure and pick just three five-player teams. And because of the balance after the first three players, there will be a lot of disputes. And many will be reasonable ones. This is just the way I saw it.

First Team

Tyler Ancrum, Bridgeport Central

Sha’Quan Bretoux, Bridgeport Central

CJ Byrd, Greenwich

Tremaine Fraiser, Trinity Catholic

Jeremiah Livingston, Westhill

Second Team

Eric Houska, Wilton

Roy Kane Jr., Norwalk

Larry McKinney, Brien McMahon

Alex Wolf, Greenwich

Kenny Wright, Stamford

Third Team

Marcus Blackwell, Bridgeport Central

Patrick Racy, Ridgefield

Matt Staubi, Darien

Matt Turner, Trumbull

CJ White, Danbury

Honorable Mention: Two players who deserve recognition. Jonny Dzurenda of St. Joseph. There are really 16 players fitting of honors. Consider him the sixth member of the third team, but not mentioned above so it looks like I stuck to my three five-player teams. And Jonathan Palmer of Greenwich. Anyone who plays lockdown defense like he did deserves to be lauded.

Until next year…

 

24 Comments

    • Let me think about that and get back to you. It was hard enough distinguishing between the first three teams.

  1. no offense to Eric houska or Wilton, but to have him ahead of Matt Staubi in anything is absurd. Staubi deserves 10x the credit that he’s received this offseason. kids a baller

    • He’s had a great season. You can make a fair debate. There are a lot of debates. This was so difficult because there were so many players of very equal talent. I would have been better making two nine-player teams. But there would have been fair debates between players 7-12.

  2. interesting how Wolf was voted Gatorade player of the year, Byrd, Ancrum, Mckinney, and Staubi were voted to the senior CHSCA all star game. Notice the seniors you have listed ahead of them and its confusing. Mckinney should have been very close to 1st team. and Staubi 3rd team? really? That tells me you didnt have the opportunity to watch him play that often during the season. One of the toughest players to guard straight up, teams needed to double him entire year yet he had 20+ ppg and tons of assists. looks like its possible your penalizing him for playing at Darien instead of a prestigious school like Trinity who underachieved .Wolf probably first gatorade player of the year who wouldnt make 1st team fciac in your eyes. Struggle with that as well.

  3. No way SJ goes 2-6 without Arkel Ager. Then finish 10-12 with him. That’s a 360 turnaround without him they don’t qualify for either. With him the WHOLE season they win way more. I doubt he comes back.

  4. Mcmahon fan here, Larry should have been 1st team. dont want to specifically name players, but Dave one of choices on your 1st team seems biased and relationship driven . and j.fciac you are right about that pg from darien. he lit mcmahon up and had no answer for him. 3rd team is a travesty. Dave you got that one wrong too

    • William: Thanks for writing. First of all, I don’t have a relationship with any of the players other than seeing them at games and talking to the ones that know me. I have no reason to play favorites. I’ve heard from coaches. Some agreed with my picks, some didn’t. With a few exceptions, I think the talent level for so many players is close to equal. I have some players on my third team others think should be higher. Many were voted by the coaches to the All-FCIAC second team. The coaches thought second-team players were the 9th through 16th best. My third team would be 10-15. I think there are a lot of choices you can debate fairly. I had a hard time by trying to stick to five players. It is just the way I saw it with no favoritism involved.

  5. Dave,

    This is pretty absurd, I have to agree with most of the others here. How you have broken up these ALL FCIAC teams is very interesting. First thought is like the others. How does Wolf not end up on your first team, but is Gatorade POY? Your standards must be very high, or so one would think. To then have Fraiser up on the first team is very nutty. The whole 2nd team and half of the 3rd team is better than him. It’s hard for a fan to figure out your reasoning, is it because you truly think he is a top caliber player in the league, or is it because Stamford has a higher reader demand on your website then say a school up north? I think this is where people call you bias are justified. It seems that for as good as Trinity has been in the past years, this year was clearly not their best. When you compare that to a year that Darien had, qualifiying first time in 24 years, and winning a first round game, something Trinity and St. joes did not do, the only other FCIAC Class L Schools in the States, how do you put Staubi on 3rd?? How many times did you see him play? In the games I watched he was clearly one of the best players on the floor, he had 32 in their play off win over Guilford, and scored in double figures in 20 out of 22 games. BTW the kid is only 5’9, and faced a Box an 1, and the other teams best defender. Also, how does Chima Azuonwu not end up on one of these teams. The kid is a monster, Avg. double points and rebounds, and clearly was a force and kept Wolf in check with only 10pts when they played each other.

    Clearly, these teams are your opinions and people should recognize that and maybe not put so much stock into them. When you look at how the coaches voted for the ALL-FCIAC and who made CHSCA all-star game, the proof is there. Dave you do a great job of covering parts of the FCIAC and you have been a huge supporter, one would just hope that you start to cover all areas of the FCIAC instead of a few choice schools, that way you can get a full and proper gauge on players rather than just seeing them once, and other players multiple times. It may help you in the future when making these teams.

    • Insider: if you read the whole story, I stated that Trinity was one of the two disappointments. I cover the league, not certain areas. Readership played nothing into these choices.
      Where I think people are having a hard time is my making five-player teams. If I went 8 and 8 like the league did, my picks would be virtually identical. I think the coaches did a great job. My third team is on a par with the coaches’ second team. They chose 16 players and I did 15 (plus added the 16th). I just got a little more specific by making it three rather than two teams and thus opened up a greater debate.
      All I can tell you is not one pick here was made to make someone happy. And it is hard for me to get specific defending individual picks because I don’t want to appear to be critical of a high school athlete.

      • Dave, i think one of the challenges you may have which isnt your fault is the scheduling of games within the fciac. The scheduling prevents you from watching players from trumbull, Danbury, darien and maybe even Mcmahon because you can only see 2 or 3 games a week. Obviously you covered many games that you felt were significant and that gives you a better feel for the more competitive teams in the fciac. you probably only saw the 3rd team players on your list play live once or twice so obviously that hurts your familiarity with them. Overall no one can dispute that your effort to cover the fciac is excellent. But I do think you might not be even capable of commenting on some of these elite players who played for teams who surrounding cast was not up to par of the Greenwich’s , Centrals, Ridgefield’s ,Stamfords, even Wilton . In the end, i do think you had some misses and the comments by many of the readers are accurate, but your effort is commendable.

        • Valid points all. I will admit I didn’t see two of my third team players once this season. But I also spend a lot of time talking to coaches throughout the season and the postseason to get their feedback and have them be my eyes when I need them. Coaches and I have agreed and disagreed a lot on players. This is all subjective. I vote in state polls and don’t see non-FCIAC teams until state tournaments. Covering the league is a lot easier. I feel comfortable with my picks, though I agree there are a lot of reasonable debates on some of them, again because I think there are a lot of players of very comparable talents.

  6. First off Dave, good job covering the hoops season this year. It was a wild one that was very fun to watch. You did a good job on the teams, though I do believe Wolf and Fraiser should be switched. And for anyone saying Houska doesnt deserve second team is incredibly wrong. Did more for his team this year than most I saw with the exception of Ancrum, Livingston, CJ, and Wright. Anyone saying he does not deserve this credit is just plain wrong. No one talked about Wilton before the season, and they shocked a ton of people by being in the playoff race at the end of the season. All in all, amazing season of hoops, excited to follow next years teams.

    • Thanks Sal. I’m not getting more specific with players, but the one change you suggested is the one I labored over the most before hitting the “publish” button. I honestly believe if I had made two instead of three teams, there would be fewer disagreements. Which I don’t mind. Like I’ve said, I truly believe, like the league itself this year, there was a great deal of parity between players. The difference between many of the players I had on the second and thirds teams is not great.

  7. Wilton has an excellent coach and a good team. No way 1 player carried that team. Shouvlin hit many big shots and i remember a game against greenwich that Houska was held to 4 points , yet wilton almost won. Houska good player , but give credit where credit is due to the other players and coach around him. frankly, guys like Livingston, Mckinney, Staubi, CJ white, carried their teams alot more. No way if they had an off game , that their teams would have a chance to compete unlike wilton

  8. Dave:

    Thanks for everything you do for FCIAC sports. I thought that when you left the Advocate, it could be a mistake but obviously I was wrong. You put everything you do where it matters most, the kids. There are more student sections than ever before and the players and coaches love the support (even when you have to go to Ridgefield). I attribute this to your award. As far as your all-FCIAC team, every player you picked should be on it, I have no complaints with any of them. As to where they were placed, it makes for healthy debate which is part of the fun.
    Keep up the good work.

  9. Wolf being the Gatorade player of the year is from having a 4.0 GPA and Community Service work not because he was the BEST player! or a 1st team FCIAC player. There’s a questions about a lot of players making 1st, 2nd, and 3rd team but there’s a lot of people questing the Gatorade player of the year. I could name three kids that do Community Service work and have 3.0 but didn’t get consider.

    • There is an academic component to the Gatorade Player of the Year award that has changed over the years, and Gatorade is doing a very poor job of marketing that aspect. Because of it, winners are getting unduly criticized. Alex Wolf is a most deserving winner of the award.

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