For the second consecutive season, the Daily Gazette All-Area boys’ basketball honors include five debutants on the first team.
Albany Academy’s Bobby Chandler, Green Tech’s Hai’si Mayben, Catholic Central’s Darien Moore, Hudson Falls’ Peyton Smith and Ballston Spa’s Nicholas Verdile led the way for their teams, which include the Suburban Council champions, the Section II Class AA and Class B champions at the Class A Federation runners-up. This year’s first team is made up of three seniors, a sophomore and a freshman.
Here’s a look at the accomplishments of this season’s first-teamers.
BOBBY CHANDLER, ALBANY ACADEMY
Playing for the powerhouse Albany Academy program, Bobby Chandler had never gone into this season with the burden of being “the guy” for his team.
That changed this season, and Chandler embraced his new position on the Cadets with gusto.
“He was more accustomed to being a third or fourth option on the team in the past,” Albany Academy head coach Jim Driggs said. “He became the primary option, and he didn’t shy away from that challenge. He was a guy that practiced hard, he was open to new suggestions from the coaching staff, and he embraced some of the tips we had for him and applied them to his game.”
Stepping into the void created when 2021-22 All-Area first-team selection Keyshuan Tillery transferred to New Hampton School in New Hampshire, the 6-foot-5 Chandler was something of a jack-of-all-trades for a Cadets team that finished the season 14-7, ending with a loss to Monsignor Farrell in the Class A Federation championship game.
Chandler averaged 16.1 points per game on 43.8% shooting from the field, and grabbed 5.8 rebounds per game. The senior led Albany Academy in scoring, rebounding, steals and assists.
“We knew Bobby needed to have a big year for us this season, especially with the departure of a couple guys,” Driggs said. “His year, I think, even exceeded our expectations. He took a huge step in the right direction and helped us win a lot of games.”
Chandler’s presence in the lineup made the first season as head coach for Driggs — who replaced long-time Cadets leader Brian Fruscio — much easier.
“He’s extremely versatile,” Driggs said. “He’s got good size at 6-5, he’s got good length and he can play multiple positions. He can play the point, he can post smaller guys up, and he’s a capable 3-point shooter. He’s a triple threat in that sense.”
Driggs said Chandler’s development on the offensive end of the floor was particularly impressive. The senior developed a devastating 15-foot pull-up jumper, added to his arsenal of post-up moves and proved capable of stepping out beyond the 3-point line, where he was 16 of 57.
Chandler did that while relishing the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best player.
In fact, Driggs said, Chandler was regularly at his best in Albany Academy’s toughest games, like the Federation semifinal against Tappan Zee and key regular-season meetings against Section II Class B champion Catholic Central and defending NYSPHSAA Class A champion New Hartford.
“He played against good teams and had really good guys guarding him, and was able to be the best player on the floor a lot of times,” Driggs said.
“I think his best basketball’s ahead of him,” Driggs added, “but he took a huge step this year.”
HAI’SI MAYBEN, GREEN TECH
Playing on the Green Tech boys’ basketball team that won the Section II Class AA championship last year could do nothing but help Hai’si Mayben.
This season, the 6-foot-1 sophomore guard took that experience and built on it in leading the Soaring Eagles to a defense of their title. Mayben led the way and earned a spot on the all-area first team.
“He was a key to our success, and he knew we were going to go as far as his play took us,” Green Tech coach DJ Jones said. “Losing seven seniors from last year’s team, it was a younger team this year, so he was going to have to work with those guys. We’ve still got a little ways to go, but he’s going to be a top player in this area for as long as he’s in this area.”
Jones said Mayben, the son of known area basketball player Tiki Mayben, is getting interest from prep schools, but he said Hai’si told him he wants to return and win another Section II championship.
Mayben finished the season averaging 22 points, seven assists and four rebounds per game.
Jones said Hai’si had a breakout game in just the team’s second contest, scoring 42 points with six 3-pointers and shooting over 60% from the floor in a win over Maritime (Pa.). He also had a 32-point outing with seven 3’s in a sectional win over La Salle.
Jones said Hai’si improved his defense this past season.
“As a freshman, he wasn’t big on defending guys, but I told him that was going to have to improve for us to do well, and he stepped it up,” Jones said.
Jones said Hai’si is a passionate player who is more of a leader by example. He certainly has all the physical tools.
“He definitely is an all-around player,” Jones said of Hai’si. “Last year, he had a lot of experience on that championship team, playing with all those older, bigger guys. He’ll do the little things, and he’s the utmost competitor, regardless of age, size or position.”
Jones said Green Tech didn’t have a true point guard this season, and that Ramere Brown and Hai’si knew they should feed the post players whenever possible.
“Utilizing the bigs was to their advantage,” Jones said, “it would open things for them.
When Hai’si got his points, it was a mixture of [shooting and driving]. He’s a big IQ player, very unselfish.”
DARIEN MOORE, CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Catholic Central coach Guy DiBacco expects Darien Moore to take a few more steps forward before his sophomore basketball season, just like he did before his freshman campaign.
“He’s already working on his individual skills,” DiBacco said of the lead figure in the Crusaders first Section II championship run since 1981. “He called me this weekend and asked if we could open the gym. He works at it.”
The 6-foot-3 guard surpassed all of his stats from a season ago in the Crusaders’ wonderful 25-2 season that came to an end in the state Class B final. The Division I college prospect scored 29 points in that 66-61 title-game loss to Westhill to continue a string of double-digit scoring efforts in every game he’s played the past two seasons.
“Consistently amazing,” DiBacco said of the Colonial Council and Section II tournament MVP. “He’s got 50 games under his belt with a high of 39 [as an eighth-grader] and a low of 14.”
Moore averaged 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.4 steals per game this season. His scoring high was 37 points in a win over Lansingburgh, while he also had outings with 33 and 29 twice while shooting 58.7% from the field.
“In every category he improved,” DiBacco said. “He led us in points last year with 529 and he had 626 this year. His rebounds went up. His assists went up and his steals went up.”
Moore is an outstanding defender and his work at that end was a huge part of the Crusaders breakthrough season that included six playoff wins.
“He doesn’t take anything off. He defends the ball well, whether he’s on the ball or helping,” DiBacco said. “When we trap, he wants to go and get it.”
While Moore gets his, he’s always happy to help a fellow Crusader get theirs with an assist.
“He’s a great teammate,” DiBacco said. “That’s one of the things you get with Darien.”
When Catholic Central beat Bishop Ludden at the Juggler Classic, the all-tourney pick collected 10 assists to go with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Moore was also an all-tourney pick after the state final four.
“He tries to make the right basketball play,” DiBacco said. “If that’s to give it up, he gives it up. If we needed something he was able to sense it and get an extra steal or rebound.”
Moore snared 13 rebounds and delivered 27 points when Catholic Central beat Glens Falls 73-59 in the Section II Class B final. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds when the Crusaders beat Fonda-Fultonville 59-45 in the sectional semifinals, and he had 23 points and 10 boards when they topped Southampton 65-52 in the state semifinals.
“He has high aspirations, and we’re doing everything we can to help facilitate that,” DiBacco. “He’s doing his part as a student and as an athlete.”
PEYTON SMITH, HUDSON FALLS
It’s hard to miss Peyton Smith, especially after the standout campaign he put together during his senior season at Hudson Falls. The 6-foot-9 forward helped lead the Tigers, not only to a strong performance in the Foothills Council, but to a 17-5 overall record against some of the toughest competition in Section II.
Smith averaged a double-double this season with 24.6 points per game and 12.7 rebounds per game. In addition he averaged 3.4 assists and 2.1 blocks per game.
“He transitioned from being a 6-2 shooting guard as a freshman to eventually becoming a 6-9 interior monster his senior year,” said Hudson Falls’ coach Greg Smith, Peyton’s father, noting how Peyton was instrumental in breaking opposing defenses’ press, an excellent passer and rebounder and the team’s leading scorer.
Another standout aspect of Smith’s season was his ability to lead the Tigers to success against a strong slate of Suburban Council opponents, including Albany, Shaker, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Niskayuna.
“I think it was important for us to play those Suburban Council schools,” said coach Greg Smith, “and to be successful against them, to solidify the type of player he was.”
“His basketball IQ far outweighs his athletic ability,” Greg Smith added of his son, Peyton. “He’s not a natural leaper or fastest kid on the floor, but from watching film from an early age, his understanding of the game makes him such a versatile player for us.”
After completing his senior year on the baseball field, also with his father as the coach, Peyton Smith intends on taking a post-graduate year, after not being satisfied with how his recruitment process went. He is still working on determining where his post-grad year will be.
The most important facet of his game that Greg Smith challenged his son to grow in this season was leadership. It was the 6-9 forward’s leadership that stood out as the Tigers’ season came to a close after a Class A semifinal loss to eventual champion Troy.
“I had not prepared for that yet. I had not prepared for our season to be over. I had very little to be able to say,” said Greg Smith. “But Peyton got right up there and told the guys, ‘We played as hard as we could. We just missed shots tonight and we didn’t shoot the ball well.’ I thought that showed a lot of maturity on his part.”
Aside from his standout performances, this was a season that the Smith family will remember for a long time, with Peyton having received the opportunity to play with his brother, Brady, who is a 6-foot-5 freshman.
“It was absolutely a special season for our family to have both my sons playing together and playing very well,” said Greg Smith. “It was a goal of Brady’s that he set, that he wanted to play with Peyton when he got to high school and it was great to see.”
NICHOLAS VERDILE, BALLSTON SPA
When a player advances to the starting lineup of a Class AA varsity team as a sophomore, he’ll attract some attention. Ballston Spa’s Nicholas Verdile had been doing that for years.
Verdile again had eyes on him in his senior season this year after coming off a junior year in which he was a first-team All-Suburban Council. Despite being the primary player opponents wanted to slow down, Verdile improved his play and became a first-team all-area selection.
Verdile, a 6-foot-0 guard, averaged 21.8 points, 4.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game this season for the Scotties, who advanced to the Class AA semifinals. He made 55 3-pointers and averaged 41.2% on his 3-point attempts.
He finished his high school career with 1,039 points, second on the school’s career list behind 2020 graduate Keegan Zoller. He plans to attend Suffolk University, coached by 2004 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake graduate Jeff Juron, also a Daily Gazette first-team All-Area selection his senior year.
Verdile has always played basketball year-round, but made sure he put the time in after last year’s sectional loss to CBA.
“He remembered his last game at Hudson Valley last year, when he felt that a stronger kid got to him in that loss, so he worked hard,” Eldridge said. “And he was comfortable working under pressure and creating his own shot not just against bigger guards, but the big guys, too. He was crafty around the basket. And he rarely took a bad shot.”
Verdile’s season high was 36 points against Colonie in the Class AA quarterfinals. He scored at least 30 points three times this season.
“It’s such a combination,” Eldridge said of Verdile’s shooting motion. “Some of it is natural and mechanical, but that’s not all of it. He shot so many shots. He worked really hard on making that look effortless.”
Verdile also was a leader on the floor for Ballston Spa, and Eldridge’s staff decided to reward him for that.
“Our 30-second timeouts were his as he wanted. We wanted to empower him with that, and he did take advantage of it. He was like our coach on the floor,” Eldridge said.
Being that kind of leader, he had faith in his teammates and was just as happy when they took the spotlight.
“The kids he played with, at no point in the season, felt that he was in it for himself,” Eldridge said. “Whether he was shooting or passing, he took the shot we needed or found the [teammate] at the right time.”
Bobby Chandler, Albany Academy, 12; Hai’si Mayben, Green Tech, 10; Darien Moore, Catholic Central, 9; Peyton Smith, Hudson Falls, 12; Nicholas Verdile, Ballston Spa, 12
Joey Poulin, Tamarac, 12; Ceasar Thompson, Amsterdam, 12; Sam Booth, Niskayuna, 12; Damari Holder, Schenectady, 12; Jeffrey Mulhern, Duanesburg, 11
Stetson Merritt, Troy, 8; Jaxon Mueller, Stillwater, 11; Matt Thorsen, Chatham, 12; Isaiah Rose, Mekeel Christian Academy, 10; Andrew Stallmer, Saratoga Springs, 11
SUBURBAN COUNCIL: Cam LaClair, Bethlehem, 11; Zach Matulu, Shaker, 12; Brandon Gordon, Colonie, 12; Deavion Springsteen, Albany, 12; Mike Miller, Ballston Spa, 12
COLONIAL COUNCIL: Alex Schmidt, Ichabod Crane, 12; Sei’mir Roberson, Catholic Central, 9; Carson Carrow, Voorheesville, 12; Wesley McIntyre, Lansingburgh, 12; Isaiah Smith, Schalmont, 11
FOOTHILLS COUNCIL: Lukas Sherman, Schuylerville, 12; Kellen Driscoll, Glens Falls, 10; Jhai Vellon, Amsterdam, 12; Trevon Bailey, Queensbury, 12; Victor Dueno, Amsterdam, 12
WASAREN LEAGUE: Isaiah Eckler, Hoosic Valley, 12; Jake Sparks, Hoosick Falls, 12; Lukas Lilac, Stillwater, 11; Logan Reilly, Hoosic Valley, 12; James Blake, Tamarac, 12.
WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE: Jacob Frank, Northville, 12; Jackson Cusack, Fonda-Fultonville, 12; Colten Christensen, OESJ, 12; Antonio Fairley, Canajoharie, 9; Michael Leak, Duanesburg, 12
OTHER: Jacob Baccaro, Chatham, 12; Cyrus Matia, Albany Academy, 9; Jason Chaplin, Watervliet, 12; Caleb Nelson, Granville, 12; Sean Evans, North Warren, 12
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports