Herrick the guiding force behind Monument Mountain boys basketball surge
GREAT BARRINGTON — Even the oldest members of the Monument Mountain boys basketball team are probably too young to remember the playing career of Hall of Fame power forward Karl Malone. Malone played 19 seasons in the National Basketball Association, retired as the league's second all-time leading scorer and earned the nickname "The Mailman" while in college at Louisiana Tech because he always delivered.
Monument forward Graham Herrick, standing about 6 feet 2 inches, is far from the 6-foot-9 chiseled behemoth of a player that Malone was, but the junior's developed into the go-to scorer on an undefeated Spartans (7-0) team. His play this season has earned him the nickname "The Mailman" from coach Mike Saporito. While Herrick and Malone's playing styles differ slightly, Monument's version is living up to the billing so far.
"Herrick is the closest thing the Spartans have had to a Mailman," Saporito said after Monday's win over previously unbeaten Wahconah, "for as long I've been watching the club, as long as I've been coaching the club, you know what you're going to get out of that kid. He goes about his business in a very blue collar way.
"He's never bragging on himself. He's very humble. He shows up to play, we trust him and he really sets the tone for us. He's not afraid to get on the ground. He battles for rebounds. He always plays the other team's best player."
Herrick leads all of Berkshire County in scoring, averaging 20.85 points per game. He's scored in double figures in every game, and his 32-point performance against Housatonic Valley is the highest single-game scoring total this season. The 32 points came two games after scoring 31 against Hoosac Valley. Mount Everett's Cavan Brady is the only other player to reach 30 points in a game so far.
Similar to Malone, Herrick is an effective post player. He has the strength and footwork to score off of post-ups, especially against smaller defenders. Against other bigs, he has the ability to get to the hole at will, finishing through contact or earning trips to the line. He's also a talented 3-pointer shooter, but he's much more than just a scorer. He leads the team in rebounding and has an eye for setting up his teammates for easy baskets.
Herrick's been a revelation for a Spartans team that lost a large chunk of production from last year's squad. He's embraced a more prominent role, but he's quick to deflect praise toward his teammates.
"I think our teamwork has been phenomenal this year," he said when asked about the team's hot start. "We've all been working together. No one is selfish. No one is trying to do their own thing. We're all working as a team at a final goal and I think it's showing."
Noah Helmke has also emerged as a solid contributor this season. The sophomore has a great feel for the game, and provides another inside-outside presence. Kevin Troiano is the anchor of the front court. His presence is even more crucial with Dylan Brownson set to miss time with an injury. Triston Alston and Caleb Carlson are solid ball handlers. Noel Powell brings high-level athleticism and defense off the bench.
Saporito was also quick to deflect from any one thing sparking the team's fast start. He said the reason for the winning is simple — having good basketball players.
"They're good players," he said. "Herrick is a great basketball player. Helmke understands the game. Powell and Carlson have been playing the game, even though it's not their favorite sport. ... These guys know what they're doing. I attribute [winning] to good players."
Akeem Glaspie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @TheAkeemGlaspie on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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