A three-time selection, a repeat pick, a milestone maker and a prolific tandem make up The Daily Gazette All-Area Boys' Basketball First Team for the 2019-20 season.
Schalmont senior Shane O'Dell landed a first-team spot for the third time, and Albany Academy senior Andre Jackson made the elite group once again before he joins the University of Connecticut men’s basketball program. They are joined by Gloversville senior Dante Bouchard, who reached the 2,000-point club this season like O'Dell did, and Mekeel Christian Academy senior Ozzy DeJesus and junior Alex Barnhill, a duo that spearheaded the Lions’ charge to a second area championship in three years.
O'Dell, Jackson, DeJesus and Barnhill still had games to play when their seasons were cut short due to cancellations as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s a look at some of the first-team players’ accomplishments.
ALEX BARNHILL (MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY)
A reserve on Mekeel Christian Academy's championship team in 2018, Alex Barnhill was front and center this season during the Lions’ climb to another.
"I love it when work ethic leads to the next level," Mekeel coach Chad Bowman said.
Good as a freshman and better as a sophomore, Barnhill joined Section II's top echelon as a junior with his mix of jumpers and slam dunks, his work on the boards, his defensive play and the constant energy he provided.
"He works hard," Bowman said of the 6-foot-5 Barnhill, who was selected the Section II Class A tournament MVP. "He is a gym rat. He is coachable. He wants to be good."
Barnhill was at his best in terms of scoring in the Lions’ 74-67 Section II title game win over Lansingburgh with a season-high 33 points to go with 10 rebounds. His other scoring highs were 32 in a win over Green Tech, 31 and 30 points twice, and he averaged 21.8.
"In the middle two quarters, he was phenomenal," Bowman said of Barnhill's title-game effort that included 21 points in those two periods and five 3s in all. "He made a couple of big shots when Lansingburgh made a couple of runs. He hit big shots all year."
He wants to make even more.
"He wants to become a shooter and a scorer. Great players do both," Bowman said. "He wanted to be a knockdown shooter, and he added that. He can go left, right, pull up. Next year, he wants to take guys off the dribble more."
Barnhill averaged a double-double this season with 10.5 rebounds per game.
"He loves to play the game, and he loves the big moments," Bowman said.
DANTE BOUCHARD (GLOVERSVILLE)
In the words of his coach Aric Kucel, Dante Bouchard was, "everything you want a Gloversville Dragon to be."
And more than all of Bouchard’s accolades, for Kucel that means the senior guard was, "all about winning."
Bouchard wrapped up his four-year career at Gloversville with 2,085 points, a school record and the 12th-best total in Section II history. Playing for four years alongside teammate Joey Rowback to form one of the section’s most formidable scoring duos — they combined for more than 3,600 career points — Bouchard evolved from a player who made his mark largely as a 3-pointer shooter early in his career to a more complete guard by the time he was a senior.
Bouchard can certainly still light it up from beyond the arc — his 79 made 3s ranked second in the section this season — but he became a more reliable slasher who averaged 8.6 free throw attempts per game this past season to help him score 26 points per game.
"His game has just progressed since he was a freshman," Kucel said. "Just kind of a shooter early on in his career, then he developed the ability to drive and get to the basket, finish with contact, as he got a little bit bigger and stronger."
This season, Bouchard led Gloversville to its first Foothills Council championship since 2009. A Section II Class A finalist in 2019, this year Gloversville reached the Section II Class A final four for the third consecutive season before being bounced by eventual champion Mekeel Christian Academy.
Bouchard set the tone all season despite being hounded by opposing defenses.
"The last two years, he’s really been more of a complete player, making the guys around him a lot better," Kucel said. "When he was drawing those double-teams or triple-teams, he would make the right play."
OZZY DEJESUS (MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY)
When Alex Barnhill fouled out of the Section II Class A title game with three minutes left, Ozzy DeJesus took charge, and took Mekeel Christian Academy back to the top in a 74-67 win over Lansingburgh.
"That was an incredible display of determination," Mekeel coach Chad Bowman said of his 6-foot-1 senior, who scored seven of his 27 points after Barnhill's departure including a huge 3-point play. "He put the team on his shoulders."
DeJesus delivered in all different ways during Mekeel's 20-2 season, yet was particularly impressive at the offensive end with his ability to get to the basket and manufacture points.
"He attacks the basket and puts pressure on opponents like few players I've seen, and he is an elite finisher with either hand," Bowman said. "Get the ball to him around the basket and you know good things will happen."
DeJesus played point guard as a junior, and shifted to the wing early this season when Schenectady transfer Jonon White assumed the point-guard role for Mekeel.
"He [DeJesus] was willing to do what the team needed and played the point," Bowman said. "This year, he was able to move closer to the basket, to his more natural position.'
DeJesus was named the Kirvin Cup MVP in late December, and was also named to the Class A all-tournament team. In a 79-53 semifinal win over Gloversville, he showed off all of his skills with 17 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals.
"Clutch player," Bowman said of DeJesus, who, as a sophomore, helped Amsterdam reach the 2018 Section II Class A final. "Certain kids are born with the clutch gene. He is one of those players."
DeJesus scored a career-high 43 points in a win over Binghamton that was part of Mekeel's 17-game win streak to close out the season. He averaged 18.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
ANDRE JACKSON (ALBANY ACADEMY)
Since arriving at Albany Academy as a freshman, Andre Jackson has dropped jaws with his phenomenal athleticism, leaping ability and highlight-reel dunks.
But Jackson’s true value, Albany Academy coach Brian Fruscio said, goes far beyond that.
"He’s a winner. That’s how he should be described," Fruscio said. "Forget the jumping, forget all the other things. He’s just a winner. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to help his team be successful."
After playing alongside accomplished older players like Hameir Wright and August Mahoney in his first three seasons at Albany Academy, the 6-foot-6 Jackson was the veteran leader for the Cadets this season.
It’s a role that Fruscio said that the UConn-bound star grew into throughout the year.
"He didn’t start out the year as a vocal leader, or someone that wanted to be in that conflict or uncomfortable situation," Fruscio said. "He really grew himself into holding guys accountable, to excel and play at the level of intensity that he does."
Jackson averaged 18.8 points per game as a senior, including 34 points in a season-opening win over Schalmont. He also put up 10.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 3.1 steals and 2.7 blocks per game while shooting 51% from the field.
Known mostly for ferociously attacking the basket, Jackson worked hard to add a more consistent jump shot to his arsenal. This season, Jackson connected on 40 3-pointers, including a career-high six 3s as part of a 27-point effort in what ended up being his final high school game Feb. 22 against Long Island Lutheran.
"That’s just to help his team win. The neat thing about Andre is he just wants everything so that he can help his team win," Fruscio said. "His athleticism is high-major level, his defense is high-major level, his rebounding is high-major level, his ability to finish in transition [is too]. When you have that many high-level attributes, shooting and stretching the defense . . . was the next step. That’s the step he made over the summer and into our season."
SHANE O'DELL (SCHALMONT)
Shane O'Dell will graduate from Schalmont with just about every school scoring record and a load of all-star team nods, and the Section II championship that had eluded him as a sophomore and junior.
"He played pretty focused this year," Schalmont coach Greg Loiacono said of the Section II Class B tournament's most valuable player. "He had one goal in mind, and he got that done."
O'Dell was the centerpiece during Schalmont's first Section II title run in 24 years, and capped it by delivering 22 points and 18 rebounds when the Sabres defeated Mechanicville 53-46 for the top Class B spot after consecutive runner-up efforts. In a 75-63 regional win over Ogdensburg Free Academy that followed, the 6-foot-6 senior piled up 37 points to push his four-year career total to 2,028 and snared 16 boards.
"He's not just a shooter. He's not just a post-up guy," Loiacono said. "He is a mismatch nightmare."
Diligent offseason work enabled O'Dell to attack off the dribble more often this season, and he produced games with 45, 41, 40 and 39 points while averaging 27.9 per outing. In five playoff games, he averaged just over 30.
"OFA had one of the quickest guards we've seen, and Shane was going by him," Loiacono said. "They put their big man on him, and he went by him. He can go by anyone."
Once inside, O'Dell collected numerous putback baskets, and combined with his work cleaning up at the defensive end, averaged 17 rebounds per game.
"He had [his brother] Jesse for two years, and he had Nick Boyd and LJ [Randle] last year. We lost a lot of rebounding this year," Loiacono said. "He took it upon himself to go after everything."
The two-time Colonial Council MVP averaged five assists and five blocked shots per game. Against Mechanicville, his defensive stat line included seven blocks and three steals.
O'Dell was selected to the Section II Class B all-tournament team his sophomore year which featured a 43-point outburst against Hudson, and again as a junior.
Alex Barnhill, 11, 6-5, Mekeel, 21.8
Dante Bouchard, 12, 6-0, Gloversville, 26.0
Ozzy DeJesus, 12, 6-1, Mekeel, 18.5
Andre Jackson, 12, 6-6, Albany Academy, 18.8
Shane O'Dell, 12, 6-6, Schalmont, 27.9
Jackson Atty, 12, 6-0, Fonda, 23.8
Isaiah Knight, 12, 6-1, Lansingburgh, 20.2
Justin Owens, 12, 6-9, Green Tech, 14.3
Jake Reinisch, 12, 6-3, Shenendehowa, 14.2
Joey Rowback, 12, 6-5, Gloversville, 21.0
J.J. Chestnut, 12, 6-2, Watervliet, 25.2
Aidan Holmes, 12, 6-0, Saratoga, 15.0
Jon Kempf, 12, 6-1, Hoosick Falls, 27.2
Sean St. Lucia, 12, 6-1, Niskayuna, 14.6
Keegan Zoller, 12, 6-5, Ballston Spa, 25.7
Colonial Council: Jackson Brown (Catholic Central), Royal Brown (Cohoes), Shawn Gillisslee (Mohonasen), Zaveon Little (Voorheesville), Vinny Tario (Lansingburgh).
Foothills Council: Jonathan Beagle (Hudson Falls), Bryce Bleibtrey (Queensbury), Dante Calderone (Broadalbin-Perth), Nicholas Danahy (Glens Falls), Yandeel Vasquez (Amsterdam).
Suburban Council: Matt Lettko (Averill Park), Andrew Martin (Shenendehowa), Frank Rainville (Columbia), Lucas Seyoum (Shenendehowa), Marcus Shelton (Colonie).
Wasaren League: Josh Germain (Mechanicville), Jesse Kuzmich (Greenwich), Brian McNeil (Stillwater), Michael Talavera (Waterford-Halfmoon), Tristan Williams (Hoosick Falls).
Western Athletic Conference: Noah Foster (Bishop Gibbons), Shane Helmstadt (Schoharie), Nacier Hundley (Bishop Gibbons), Rodney Parker (Bishop Gibbons), Zeke Pulliam (Berne-Knox-Westerlo).
Others: Lavon Fernandez (Catskill), Anthony Girard (North Warren), Marcus Jackson (Albany Academy), Peyton Lufkin (Argyle), Riley Mulvey (Albany Academy), Luke Pelchar (Lake George), Ricky Rollins (Mekeel), Ja'Nyve Smith (Bishop Maginn), Jonon White (Mekeel), Jarret Williams (Granville).
Michael Kelly, Stan Hudy and Adam Shinder contributed to this report.