Travel team profile: Mass Elite

One of the largest travel programs in Massachusetts has not been around for long. Eric Polli started Mass Elite back in 2009, and in five short years has grown the program to over 60 teams and over 600 players at a wide range of ages up through high school. Fresh off a big year last year, the program is surging forward this year to build on more than 15 AAU national bids and four Massachusetts state titles.

While a lot of the success has come from teams in the youngest ages, the program fields competitive high school teams as well and has seen a few of its best players from the class of 2014 make college commitments recently. The oldest group this year, coached by Polli, doesn’t have much size, but they should be a highly competitive team and are built around a good post player. That will give them more of a fighting chance than teams that don’t have one.

That big man is Connor MacIsaac (6’7″ Jr. PF-C, Malden (MA) Catholic HS). Possessing a good frame that can still carry more good weight, he has a nice skill package that includes a good jump hook and good passing ability when facing the basket. He knows how to use his size to his advantage and can get stickbacks from being quick off his feet.

One player who will join him in an otherwise undersized frontcourt is Hasten Kearse (6’3″ Jr. SF, Sudbury (MA) Lincoln-Sudbury Regional HS). A plus athlete, he isn’t lacking ball skills but they can also use some upgrading, as can his body control at times. He is fresh off a big year for his school team and primed to use the spring and summer to break out. MacIsaac’s school teammate, Ryan Smith (6’4″ Jr. PF, Malden (MA) Catholic HS), will also be in the mix as an undersized post player who will bang inside.

From there, the team will have a lot of guards, a couple of whom play bigger. Chris Demartinis (6’1″ Jr. SG, Burlington (MA) High) certainly fits the bill there, as he will go in for rebounds with the big boys while also being able to score some, and his body can still mature more. Brendan Bouthillette (6’0″ Jr. PG, Billerica (MA) High) is well-built with a mature body, and he has a good motor and feel for the game to go with good ball skills and passing ability. Chris Calnan (6’2″ Jr. SG, Wakefield (MA) High) really impressed at a recent workout with his passing ability, as he made several good ones to get teammates shots. He has a good frame, can finish and has some range on his jumper, though his basketball I.Q. and passing are his fortes. Will Caffey (6’1″ Jr. SG, Melrose (MA) High) was active and in a lot of plays in a recent workout, and he has a good body.

Dave Carbonello (6’1″ Jr. SG, Windham (NH) High) is an excellent student who will get backcourt minutes. Jake Chiudina (5’10” Jr. PG-SG, Winthrop (MA) High) will also be in the mix and get noticed more after his team had a tough season. School teammates Mike Hagopian (6’1″ Jr. SG, Watertown (MA) High) and Arthur Navarro (5’10” Jr. PG-SG, Watertown (MA) High) join them.

The program has some younger talent to keep an eye on as well with younger teams. Derek Dipiet (6’4″ So. PF, Watertown (MA) High) and Julian Nyland (6’2″ SG-SF, Melrose (MA) High) lead the way in the class of 2016, while they are also high on Devon Chase (6’4″ Fr. PF, Stoneham (MA) High), Mike Demartinis (6’2″ Fr. SG-SF, Burlington (MA) High) and Cooper Penniman (6’5″ Fr. SG-SF, Lexington (MA) High) from the class of 2017. Demartinis is, as you might suspect, the younger brother of Chris.

Mass Elite has started the spring with the Northeast Hoops Festival. Later, they will play in the Massachusetts state tournament, NEAAU Super Regionals, Providence Jam Fest, GymRat Challenge on Memorial Day weekend (when they also help run a tournament with Mass Rivals). July’s slate is currently TBD, and they are hoping to make AAU nationals part of that with their play in the state AAU and Super Regionals.

The season is young, but Mass Elite has already had good success with a few of their younger age groups. The high school teams will be competitive as well, and after last year’s junior team has seen three players off to college by now, they are hopeful of topping that this time around.

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