The top 10 players to watch in local boys high school basketball

Breaking down some of the top local boys basketball players to keep an eye on in Section V

Sean Curran
The Evening Tribune
Hornell's Gennaro Picco blocks a shot during a matchup with Wellsville last season.

The cold, the wind and the consistent fall of snow to the ground can mean only one thing: It’s basketball season.

After an extremely shortened winter season last year where most teams played just 10 games, the Section V High School schedule is back to normal this year, which means the local athletes will get a full opportunity to showcase their talents on the court.

As we look forward to the season getting into the full swing, here are 10 local boys basketball players to watch on the court for the next three months.

Honeoye's Jacob Schaffer, left, locks up with Jonas Kays of Alfred-Almond for a jump ball in the second quarter of Monday night's game.

10. Jonas Kays – Alfred-Almond (Sr.)

Jonas Kays came into the Alfred-Almond basketball program three years ago and had an immediate impact on the program as a steady hand at the point guard position. Since then, Kays has only grown at the guard position, becoming a reliable playmaker, solid defender and the type of player that can score at all three levels of the floor. If the Eagles are going to make a move toward the top of the Steuben County rankings, Kays will have to be at his best in his senior season. The Eagles will not only rely on Kays to control the pace of play on both ends of the floor, but they will need him to take some games over in order to win their toughest games on the schedule.

Jasper-Troupsburg's Colby Cornish (12) power to the hoop against Hammondsport Friday.

9. Colby Cornish – Jasper-Troupsburg (Sr.)

As the 2021 COVID season unfolded, it quickly became clear that Colby Cornish was one of the best scorers in Steuben County. Cornish could be penciled in for double figure scoring nights in every single big game, and even came up with some huge performances in dominating wins over Steuben County Teams. Cornish is listed on the roster as a forward/center, but he is much more dynamic than that. Cornish can certainly make his mark inside of the paint, but his length and athleticism allow him to create havoc from the perimeter as well. With a full offseason of development, Cornish should be able to knock down some more shots from the perimeter and will get to the free throw line regularly. The senior might approach 25 points per game this season, which should help J-T compete with the top teams in Steuben County all season long.

8. Dawson Wadsworth – Dansville (Jr.)

Dawson Wadsworth burst onto the varsity scene as a sophomore last season and worked his way into the lineup regularly for the Dansville Mustangs. Wadsworth had some up and down moments, but when he was up, he was as high as any player in the LCAA. Wadsworth’s biggest moment came in a 30-point win over Warsaw when he went 7-for-7 from behind the arc and scored 23 points to lead the team. While that type of performance cannot be expected every single night, Wadsworth should be much closer to that type of performance on a regular basis as he develops into a consistent offensive force from behind the 3-point line. If Wadsworth can develop that consistency, and produce on both ends of the floor, the Mustangs will be a very difficult team to stop in 2021-22.

Avoca/Prattsburgh's Macoy Putnam drives down the baseline on Friday evening in the Class D2 Championship.

7. Macoy Putnam – Avoca/Prattsburgh (So.)

Avoca/Prattsburgh will once again come into the season as the Class D favorites, and Macoy Putnam will be one of the main reasons why. Much like his older brother, Putnam is at his absolute best when he is finding ways to put the ball in the basket. Putnam is a dynamic scorer that can get it done on both ends of the floor, but in his sophomore season he will look to increase his role in all aspects of the game. A/P plays a defense that relies heavily on speed and pressure, and Putnam is an active and willing participant in making that happen. He’s a willing rebounder and can even find ways to get his teammates some wide-open shots of their own. Even though he’s only a sophomore, Putnam has to be considered one of the best players in the area, and is undoubtedly one of the best Class D basketball players in Section V.

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6. AJ Hoyt – Hornell (Sr.)

AJ Hoyt is the type of player that can change the outcome of a game in just a matter of minutes. Hoyt is a senior sharpshooter for the Red Raiders, and showed towards the end of last season just how potent his shot can be in several games. When Hoyt is knocking down shots from behind the arc, the Red Raiders become an extremely difficult team to guard as Hoyt stretches the defense way out of its normal alignments. His sharpshooting opens up the floor for other players, and his ability to find the open spaces against zones make it very difficult for teams to guard Hornell. As a senior, Hoyt should also be a much more impactful player on both ends of the floor outside of simply shooting, as he looks to become an impactful rebounder and defender. If Hornell can rely on Hoyt in this role on both ends of the floor, the Red Raiders will have a solid No. 2 option that could end up having a season-changing impact.  

Canisteo-Greenwood's Cole Ferris puts in a finger-roll for two of his 16 points in Tuesday's sectional win over Red Jacket.

5. Cole Ferris – Canisteo-Greenwood (Sr.)

Cole Ferris is the epitome of the new-age point guard blended with the old-school point guard. He can control an offense, direct his teammates and have a huge impact on the game without ever taking a single shot. He’s a strong defender that can guard players bigger and smaller than him and provides a versatile look for the Redskin defense. And while that is all hugely important for Canisteo-Greenwood, Ferris can also impact the game with his scoring. Ferris is a solid ballhandler that can get through the defense before finishing at the rim. He is also a sharpshooter from the perimeter that can stretch defenses to their breaking point. If Ferris is in complete control of the game, Canisteo-Greenwood is nearly impossible to beat, as his versatility opens up every possible avenue to success for the Redskins.

Canisteo-Greenwood's Hunter McCaffery (10) looks to take the ball away from Addison in Wednesday night's home win.

4. Hunter McCaffery – Canisteo-Greenwood (Sr.)

Hunter McCaffery is the other end of the dangerous one-two punch that the Canisteo-Greenwood Redskins possess. McCaffery is an excellent player on both ends of the floor that is nearly impossible to contain due his size and skillset. The senior forward has a strong set of guard skills, allowing him to get to the rim against smaller defenders. He is also an excellent shooter from the perimeter, and a quick release means he needs just inches of space in order to get the ball to the basket. While his scoring is impressive, the thing that sets McCaffery apart is how unselfish he is. McCaffery is less concerned with getting his own buckets as he is in making the right play, which opens up a ton of options for the Redskins. At the other end of the floor, McCaffery provides a layer of versatility as he can guard the perimeter but can also guard the hoop as a rim protector. McCaffery’s one of the best players in the area, and he ability to step into any role with success helps bring all of Canisteo-Greenwood’s program up a tier.

Avoca/Prattsburgh's Pacey Hopkins (21) powers to the hoop through Scio's Ayden Faulkner (14) and Cory Bolzan (20) Wednesday night in the Class D2 semifinals.

3. Pacey Hopkins – Avoca/Prattsburgh (Sr.)

The Avoca/Prattsburgh senior has long been one of the most underrated players in the area, as his role on the A/P team has often been overshadowed by some of the top players in Section V. But in 2021, the Avoca/Prattsburgh team will run through Hopkins on both ends of the floor. Hopkins might be the best defender in Class D, and he is certainly a capable scorer on the other end of the floor. The senior can knock down open shots, but one of his best qualities is an ability to finish in the paint. Hopkins can get into the middle of the defense frequently, and he uses a ton of tools in his arsenal to get his shot off from strange spots and strange angles. Because of this, blocking his shot is extremely difficult, and it changes the way that defenses have to play him. He is a very unselfish player, knows how to play within a system and plays as hard as he can at all times. And it doesn’t hurt that he has a ton of talent and skill. Combine all of those things, and you get Pacey Hopkins, who will no longer be an underrated commodity.

2. Drew Morrow – Dansville (Sr.)

Drew Morrow is a man among boys on the basketball courts most nights. He is a walking double-double machine that is one of the best rebounders Section V has seen in the last ten years. He has an incredible knack for securing rebounds, particularly on the offensive glass, and his ability to finish inside is second to none. On the other side of the ball, Morrow is an elite rim protector that routinely turns away shots. But even when he’s not sending the ball into the third row, he is making offensive players change their shots, which results in more misses and more rebounds for Morrow. There will be very few, if any, players that can adequately match up with Morrow on either end of the floor, and his presence inside will lead to a distinct advantage for Dansville all season long. The Mustangs are poised for one of their best seasons in years, and Morrow is the biggest reason why.

1. Gennaro Picco – Hornell (So.)

The secret is out about Gennaro Picco in Livingston County. Picco is one of the best guards in all of Section V right now as a sophomore and only continues to get better. At the start of last season, he was a promising freshman who looked like he might have an impact on a few games. And then by the halfway point, he was scoring 25 points per game and making defenses look silly on a routine basis. All of that is still there, but Picco should also be much better on the defensive side of the ball this season as he settles into the speed and intensity of a full varsity season. He will be Hornell’s main ball handler, and will have to improve his passing if the Red Raiders are going to compete with the top tiers of the LCAA. But Picco has never shied away from this level of improvement, and if he continues to grow in the same fashion that he did last season, he could be an elite two-way point guard that wins games single-handedly by the time the Class B1 playoffs start.