Young guards try to help the senior stars at Central Catholic

Central Catholic is one of those schools that will seemingly always have talent. They are a traditional powerhouse in the Merrimack Valley Conference and have also won a state title back when Scott Hazleton was the star attraction. Year in and year out, they are at least in the mix for the top spot in the conference and trying to make a run in the state tournament.

There isn’t a Scott Hazleton about to walk through that door, but head coach Rick Nault has good talent and a team that should be able to make a run in the state tournament come the month of March. He freely admits that his team is young in the backcourt, but they also have a senior there who is one of the state’s best players to lead the way.

The perimeter senior is Fairfield-bound Tyler Nelson (6’2″ Sr. SG). While known mostly for his shooting, Nelson has shown he can do more than that. He handles the ball, is content to pass when opposing defense want to converge on him and in their win at arch-rival Andover he made several long lead passes that led to transition layups. Nelson has a good feel for the game and really seems to understand how to take what the defense gives him.

Up front, seniors Nick Cambio (6’6″ Sr. PF-C) and Aaron Hall (6’6″ Sr. PF) are leading the way. Cambio is a solid presence who can rebound and also pass, including interior passing. He runs the floor well, knows how to play and has some range on his jumper, and when you add in his experience playing for the BABC program he should get good Division II interest. Hall plays off his teammates well inside, running the floor and finishing the break well. While not the prospect Cambio is, he will certainly help this team try to make a run.

Where the potential of this team lies is in its talented young guards – specifically, A.J. Pettway (5’10” So. PG) and Kevin Fernandez (5’10” Fr. PG). Pettway has a slight frame and is a baby physically, but he can drive and dish with his quickness. While he can hit from long range, he shoots from about the chest, and at his size that means he could get his shot blocked. Fernandez has a good frame and a relatively mature body for his age, and that gives him an advantage over some right now. Not all of his weight appears to be good weight, so he can improve there, and he certainly plays like a freshman at times, especially in trying to play too fast. His talent is noticeable, however, and he’ll be worth watching over the next three years.

It’s easy for Alex Santos (6’0″ Jr. SG) to fly under the radar on this team, but watch them and you appreciate him. He’s not jet-quick or a super athlete, but he’s a solid complementary player within the framework of this team. He’ll be challenged next year when the go-to seniors are gone, but for now he’s one more factor in this team’s success.

Three of Central Catholic’s four losses have come at neutral sites, with the other coming at home. They haven’t lost on the road all year, which will bode well for later on. They blew out Andover on the road and still have a home date with them remaining, and that’s the one team in the conference they are looking up at.

The young guards will play key roles for this team, and for this team to reach its full potential they will need the guards to grow up. As they get more seasoned, they’ll help the seniors try to make one last run.

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