2017-18 BOYS’ BASKETBALL PREVIEW
Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe
Rivaldo Soares loves his neighborhood.
On the basketball court, the 6-foot-5-inch junior guard at the John D. O’Bryant School is a force attracting the attention of Division 1 college programs. Off the court, he enjoys working at the DotHouse Health in Dorchester and playing in the local YMCAs.
The influence of friends and family in the area has helped him develop as a young man. And that familiarity is why he isn’t too keen on the idea of attending a preparatory or private school.
And these days, that is where someone with his skill set would be.
Enrolling in a prep or private school is where talented, young basketball players gain more exposure from college coaches. The combination of superb athletics and academics is typically the reason public schools lose star players to tuition-based schools.
Soares has decided to buck that trend.
He doesn’t feel the need to depart from the Tigers for a prep school to gain exposure. He’s content and a firm believer that if he’s good enough, colleges will notice him, regardless of where he plays.
“I’m just really comfortable in the city,” said Soares, who is averaging 15 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 blocked shots in O’Bryant’s 3-0 start.
“I know my AAU coaches would want me to go prep. A lot of people would say going prep is key or better for me. I know some things would be better for me if I go prep.”
The last notable O’Bryant player to go to private school was Wayne Selden, a Roxbury native who departed after his freshman season for the Tilton School in New Hampshire.
Selden led Tilton to the 2011 NEPSAC AA Championship and was a McDonald’s All-American in 2013. After starring at Kansas, he is in his second season in the NBA playing for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Soares, a Globe All-Scholastic last season after averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds, believes he’ll continue to get college interest, regardless of the uniform he wears.
“If I’m good enough, I should get looked at anyway,” said Soares.
Prep schools have been keeping tabs on him since for years, according to O’Bryant coach Drew Hughes-Brock.
“They’ve been after him since he was in eighth grade going into freshman year,” said Hughes-Brock, noting his star freshman this season, guard Dasonte Bowen, has been receiving offers since seventh grade. Bowen said his focus right now is all on O’Bryant.
“This is nothing new,’’ said Hughes-Brock. “Last season — I won’t say the name of the school — there was one coach from a prep school, and he literally came to my first six or seven games of the year, consecutively.
“Didn’t say one word to me. Didn’t even introduce himself or say ‘Hi’. I kind of [feel] very undermined. If you’re trying to steal my player away from me, you should at least have a conversation with me.”
The preps haven’t talked directly to Hughes-Brock or Soares. But they have made their interest known through their presence at games and general conversation.
“I have no clue what prep schools are looking at me,” said Soares, the reigning Boston Public Schools Player of the Year.
“Or what prep schools want me. I haven’t been contacted by any.”
But, the thought of attending a private school did cross his mind — and he did try making it come to fruition.
“Things just didn’t really go right with that school,” said Soares, who did not reveal the school.
But he did reveal Shandon Brown, a senior at the New Hampton School (N.H.) who will play at George Washington next season, had a conversation with him on possibly joining the Huskies.
Soares went on an unofficial visit to Northeastern his freshman year, and is currently receiving interest from Rutgers. He and his AAU coach, Jerry Etienne, are trying to schedule a workout with Rutgers.
Recruitment aside, Soares is primarily focused on this season — and helping O’Bryant make another deep run in the Division 2 South tourney. The Tigers were denied by Whitman-Hanson, 64-56, in last year’s final.
“I have expectations,” said Soares. “I know we lost a lot of core guys, but I know the guys we still have can contribute to making it as far as we did or farther.”
Hughes-Brock would like Soares to become more aggressive offensively, utilizing his improved shot from the perimeter, along with his size in the post.
“He has all the tools. We’re really going to be relying very heavily on him and Dasonte . They’re definitely our two best players.”
The 6-1 Bowen (22 points, 5 assists, 2 steals per game) started on the varsity team as an eighth-grader and already has received interest from UConn.
“In the offseason, I feel like I just dedicated myself more to the game,” said Bowen.
“Every day was just something to get better at a new thing. I feel like I just had to lock in more to prepare myself.”
Hughes-Brock received a call on Bowen from the Huskies in early November. The coach made sure they were aware of Soares, too. They were.
UConn asked if the gym could be reserved for the following day. But the high school season was not yet in session, so Hughes-Brock could not oversee the workout.
However, Royce Veal, president of the Next Level Basketball training program, stepped forward to run the workout. So Soares and Bowen not only worked out for UConn — and coach Kevin Ollie — but Boston College, Northeastern and a few Division 3 programs.
“[Bowen] doesn’t play like a freshman,” said Hughes-Brock.
“He has a very confident style about him. Also, very mild-mannered and he doesn’t brag. Him and Rivaldo are special. Kids that are that good kind of talk about themselves, but these kids make a phenomenal play and just sprint back on defense like nothing ever happened.”
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