Worcester Academy head coach Mo Cassara is cautious when talking about his talented team. Cassara is taking a page out of former St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca’s notebook. Carnesecca was the master at downplaying his teams but year in and year old the Redmen won over 20 games and made it to the NCAA tournament.
It would be a major surprise if Worcester Academy did not win 20 games this season. Cassara has skillfully built this team at each position. Most observors feel that Worcester Academy has a chance to win the New England Prep School Championship. This is a league filled with great players and top ranked teams.
For Worcester to win this tough title they will need help from top to bottom. In the backcourt, he has Wes Wardrop (headed to Loyola Marymount), Jarrett Jack (going to Georgia Tech), and Steve Hailey, one of the top players in the class of 2003.
“Jarrett (pictured on the right) has looked great,” Cassara said. “He is adjusting well to his move. He is getting along well with his teammates. And he is doing well in the classroom.”
Jack is perhaps a legitimate candidate for the McDonald’s All American game. He has a great competitive outlook and fears no big man when he drives the lane. Wardrop will make a nice combination with Jack. Wes is underrated and does not receive the same ink as Jack. But Wardrop can play high division one basketball. His game has improved a great deal under Cassara. “I am anxious to see how they play together with Steve,” Cassara said. “It will be a very interesting three guard combination.”
Besides the three guards, Worcester has Indiana-bound forward Daryl Pegram (pictured on the left), who is a gamer and a warrior.
Pegram, who can also bring the ball up against pressure, only needs to strengthen his frame and also develop some consistency in his medium range perimeter game.
Pegram's improvement will be watched closely by Indiana head coach Mike Davis. "Daryl is very excited about having the opportunity to play for such a great program like Indiana," Cassara said. "He wanted to go to the highest level and give it a shot. He has always had that type of attitude."
Jason Chappell, a 6-9 forward from the state of Wisconsin, will be playing for the Badgers next season. Chappell will play beside Pegram and be a perfect complement for the rough style of Pegram who likes to battle and push his way to rebounds. “Jason has some growing to do too,” Cassara said. “He is a much better shooter than I thought he was. He is going to score some points for us.”
Worcester also has one of the top juniors at the combo forward position in Nick Stafford, who is receiving heavy ACC and Big East attention. Stafford is very athletic. Once he polishes his skills, he could become one of the best players in the class of 2003.
Worcester also has great depth. Craig Smith, 6-8 and 265 pounds, is headed to Boston College next year. “He has been working very hard,” Cassara said. “Most people don’t know about him. But he is one heck of an inside player.”
Brendan Winters, a very good perimeter shooter, has nice size at 6-5. Winters, the son of former NBA star Brian, will attend Davidson next year. Bob McKillop can’t wait to have this young man in his program. Winters can score and will probably hit some jumpers with Jack and company breaking down the defense.
Cassara is also excited about Sam Kaplan, a junior. Kaplan has grown to 6-7 and 225 pounds. Kaplan is likely to be recruited on the middle division one level. He averaged eight points and five rebounds last season for Cassara’s program. “We also have a 5-10 guard by the name of Matt Ramon,” Cassara said. “Plus having Joe Canty, a 6-3 combo guard. Having Matt and Joe give us some great depth.”
Along with the great depth is Cassara’s hard work outlook and his positive reinforcement he forces on his players. When they leave Cassara’s program, they are better players and individuals. And they are ready for college basketball. It appears that Cassara has laid down a great foundation and continued the wonderful tradition that Worcester Academy has enjoyed for many years.
"This is one of the deepest teams I have ever had," Cassara said. "They are dedicated to each other. They are dedicated to winning. They want to hang a banner."
The people of Worcester may not accept anything less. How is that for pressure?