by Dan Gardella
Fairfield – It has been another one of “those offseasons” for Anthony Latina.
Coming off of their best season in the 21 year history at the Division I level, Sacred Heart will enter the 2020-21 season with a lot of new faces and plenty of question marks after losing all five starters from the beginning of last season.
Jare’l Spellman – Graduated
Kinnon LaRose – Graduated
E.J. Anosike – Transferred to Tennessee
Cameron Parker – Transferred to Montana
Koreem Ozier – Transferred Louisiana Monroe
Chaylyn Martin – Transferred
Myles Cephas – Transferred
This large exodus of players has led to Anthony Latina having to recruit on the fly, during the coronavirus pandemic no less. However, he has brought in a freshman class that he says is one of the best he’s had in his eight years at the helm.
Quest Harris – The six foot one guard from Lowell Massachusetts was considered underrecruited by some and could be the next “diamond in the rough” point guard that Anthony Latina finds. While playing for BABC, one of the most prestigious amateur programs in the country, Harris thrived as a facilitator and could be the main backup to Aaron Clarke.
Mike Sixsmith – Sixsmith has more of a combo-guard feel to him, but he proved he can do almost anything on the court. In his high school career at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville, New York, he recorded over 1,400 points, 600 rebounds, 300 assists, and 200 steals. He will likely be in the mix for a few minutes here and there
Bryce Johnson – The six foot seven product out of Stockton, California will be a presence in the middle of the Pioneer defense and will see plenty of time immediately. In his senior year, Johnson averaged 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists. Johnson, along with fellow freshman Nico Galette will help fill the void in the middle left by E.J. Anosike and Jare’l Spellman.
Nico Galette – Galette was the first player in the class of 2024 to commit to Sacred Heart back in September of 2019. Like Johnson, Galette is an athletic player with a 6’6 frame. While he only averaged 8 points and 7 rebounds during his senior year, Latina highlighted his versatility to play and guard multiple positions on the floor.
Contavio Dutreil – Dutreil is no stranger to the state of Connecticut. Prior to playing at the University of North Alabama and Harcum College, he was a 1,000 point scorer at Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford, Conn. Last season for Harcum College, he averaged close to nine points and nine rebounds per night while swatted two shots. He will provide depth in the Pioneer frontcourt.
Matas Špokas – Špokas originally hails from Lithuania, but comes to Sacred Heart following a post-graduate year at Prep United in Florida. He fits the mold of a typical euro-league player. He has a six foot six frame with skill inside and on the perimeter. For Sacred Heart fans, the best comparison to Špokas would be Matej Buovac, who played for the Pioneers from 2015-2017.
All of the newcomers will join a few players returning to Sacred Heart who will look to add onto a successful 2019-20 campaign.
Aaron Clarke – Clarke should enter the 2020-21 season as one of the best returning guards in the Northeast Conference. Following Cam Parker’s season-ending ankle injury in the middle of January, Clarke stepped into the starting point guard role and help Sacred Heart finish the season 10-5 while averaging 14 points and 4 assists per game. There was certainly debate that Clarke could have ended up on the All-NEC Third team if he had more time in the starting role. Nevertheless, he gets his time to be the go-to guy next season.
Zach Pfaffenberger – After playing two seasons behind Jare’l Spellman and E.J. Anosike, Pfaffenberger will likely get slotted into the starting lineup for his junior season. Pfaffenberger established a gritty identity for himself and made hustle plays coming off of the bench. Now, he will have to shift his attention toward playing more disciplined defensively (He averaged 2.5 fouls in 12 minutes last season).
Tyler Thomas – Thomas had his peaks and valleys during his freshman year but ultimately was a nice complementary player to the strong core Sacred Heart had prior to 2019-20. The biggest thing Anthony Latina said Thomas had to deal with was that his minutes fluctuated as a result of other players producing on the floor. In 2020, Thomas must take what he learned from a freshman campaign that saw him score in double figures in ten games, and run with extended minutes next year.
Zach Radz – The last time Sacred Heart fans saw Radz on the floor, he was stringing together consistent performances on the court at the end of the 2018-19 season (Averaged 10.5 points over the final four games of that year). Following a redshirt season, it appears Radz will be back with the Pioneers this season. After averaging 15 minutes per game through three years at Sacred Heart, Radz could see more minutes as the veteran on a young 2020-21 team.
Lastly, here is my early prediction at what the 2020-21 Sacred Heart lineup could look like:
G: Aaron Clarke
G: Tyler Thomas
G: Zach Radz
F: Zach Pfaffenberger
F: Bryce Johnson
First off the Bench: Alex Watson, Nico Galette, Quest Harris
Fighting for Minutes: Contavio Dutreil, Mike Sixsmith, Matas Špokas