MERIDEN — Transfers have caused a stir on area courts this basketball season.
Just like local talent. Veterans too. rookies too.
They’re all represented here as we roll out the finalists for Record-Journal Basketball Players of the Year.
It’s a 3v3 game. Grab a man – no zone defenses here – and let’s jump on it.
The peloton is paced by the All-Stater, Platt’s Antoine Nimani.
The 6-foot-4 junior guard led the Panthers to the Division III State Tournament, where they staged their first home tournament game since 2003 and won it, 64-45, over Joel Barlow.
Nimani was the top scorer in the region. With 531 points on the season, he averaged 23.1 per game.
On three occasions, Nimani scored 30 or more points in a single game: 30 against Avon on January 21, 32 against Daniel Hand on February 12, and 34 against Simsbury three nights later on February 15.
He won Avon’s game with a backcourt steal and a corner in the dying seconds. The 34 against Simsbury was the region’s single-game high.
A force all over the court, Nimani was also good for 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals per night.
Nimani received help, and much of it came from Makhai Anderson. A second transfer from Hamden, Anderson averaged 15.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in his first season on the West Side.
The 6-foot-5 Anderson made his presence known right away. On opening night, he had 22 points and 21 rebounds against Bloomfield. The All-CCC South selection signed by scoring 23 points in each of Platt’s two state tournament games, first against Barlow and then against No. 2 St. Bernard.
The other star transferred to Meriden this year, of course, was Maloney’s Jaylice Rosario.
The 5-foot-11 junior came from Wilbur Cross and led the Spartans, a team that won two games the previous year, to a 15-5 regular season. Seeded No. 7 in Class L, the Spartans won their first state tournament game since 1988 and finished 17-8 on aggregate.
Rosario was the region’s top girls scorer with 503 points, averaging 21.87 points per game. She was also the top rebounder with just under 12 boards per game.
The All-CCC South forward’s triple-double of 34 points, 20 rebounds and 10 steals on January 11 at Tolland represents the most dominant single-game performance of the season in the region.
Rosario will be back for one more season. So will Cheshire Jack Markarian.
One of the region’s most consistent players in 2021-22, Markarian was in double figures in all but three games.
The more the season progressed, the stronger Markarian became. The junior striker has scored over 20 points in five of Cheshire’s last six games, including a season-high 29 against Career on February 16.
Markarian must have been good. He was Cheshire’s only returning starter. At the end of the season, he had a team average of 14.5 points per game.
The post player was also a powerful passer and defensive force, constantly blocking or modifying enemy fire.
Oddly enough, Markarian didn’t make All-Conference in the CSC, though Lord knows it was a busy league, home to one state champion (Hand) and one state runner-up (Notre Dame). Expect Markarian’s playoff fortunes to change next season.
As for Southington Lily Cooper, there is no reason to think that its trajectory will not continue its ascent. It is already at a considerable altitude.
Only a freshman, Cooper was selected All-CCC West after guiding the 20-5 Lady Knights to the CCC Tournament Semifinals and Class LL State Quarterfinals. The guard led Southington in scoring with 13.3 points per game.
Cooper’s 47 3-point shots, 97 assists, and 80 steals were also team highs.
And it’s not like Cooper is some kind of crazy suicide bomber. She shot 43% from the field, 36% from 3-point range and 83 of 104 from the free throw line.
His season-high 26 points, against Manchester on February 3, featured seven 3-pointers.
There is one final finalist on our list and, remarkably, it is the only senior: Sheehan center Darla Jagrosse.
Following in the footsteps of former RJ Girls basketball players of the year Liv Robles and Caitlyn Hunt, Jagrosse continued Sheehan’s recent streak of dominant post players.
The 5-11 senior led the Titans 13-10 in scoring at 11.5 ppg and rebounding at 8.0. She shot over 50 percent from the floor and was named to the All-SCC First Team.
It wasn’t easy though. Jagrosse missed a leg injury after amassing 60 points in Sheehan’s first four games.
Back in action, Jagrosse caught the increased attention of her opponents and adjusted, adding a reliable mid-range jumper to complement her strength and speed in the position.
Now it’s off to Stonehill College, but not to play basketball. You get the feeling that this Record-Journal Athletes of the Year series hasn’t seen the last of Darla Jagrosse.