It’s never too early to look ahead. So here’s a peek into the future at 11 emerging athletes from the Greater New Haven area.
Meet Generation Next…
DOUGLAS HARRISON III
This running back was one of 48 players in the nation selected to play in the Eastbay Youth All-American Bowl.
Harrison is a 7th-grader at Walsh Intermediate School in Branford. He has explosive speed, moves that shake defenders out of their cleats and enough strength to run through them. Harrison (5 feet 6, 175 pounds) rushed for over 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns in eight games playing against 8th-graders in the Shoreline Youth Football Conference.
He was also chosen to play for Football University’s Southern Connecticut team, and Harrison shined in regional play. He scored both touchdowns in a 14-12 win over Massachusetts, including a game-winning 85-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
“Right now, this kid is probably one of the best 7th-, 8th-graders around,” Football University Connecticut regional director Mike Rice said. “He’s proven himself on that platform. I don’t see any reason why we won’t see him playing on Saturdays for a top college.”
This North Haven 13-year-old put his powerful swing on display by winning New Jersey’s Power Showcase home run derby last year.
Soloman belted 22 homers and earned a trip to the prestigious Power Showcase Future Stars event in Florida. Soloman, who attends North Haven Middle School, plays for the Connecticut Bombers, an AAU powerhouse. The shortstop batted .409 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs last spring in helping the Bombers win the Northeast Regional AAU title. He also played occasionally for the program’s 14-U team.
Bombers program director Bob Turcio says Soloman is a future Division I talent with a strong arm and tremendous hitting ability.
“He’s got good size and strength,” said Turcio of the 5-5, 135-pound Soloman. “He’s the whole package.”
Soloman’s father, Frank, played third base and catcher at Quinnipiac. His cousin is Eastern Kentucky infielder and MLB prospect Bryan Soloman.
Expect Findley to help carry on the rich tradition of Seymour High softball in the upcoming years.
A shortstop, Findley makes dazzling plays in the field, boasts a strong arm and a consistent bat at the plate. She led the Seymour Little League team to a state title and hit .562 with three homers and six doubles for the Seymour Tradition travel program last summer.
Findley was playing in the Seymour Little League majors division by age 9. Now 13, she’s an 8th-grader at Seymour Middle School.
“She makes plays the typical kid can’t,” said Neil Swanchak, coach of the CT Charmers travel program. “She’s going to be a future star if she progresses the way people think. She has all the tools to go far.”
HoopRootz.net, which follows youth players up and down the East Coast, ranks Rountree as one of the state’s top prospects for the Class of 2019.
“He has an enticing combination of size, skill and athleticism, and a natural feel for the game,” said AJ Stokes of Hoop Rootz. “He can shoot it from the outside or go attack with the dribble to get to the basket. He can also handle the ball and will lead the fast break and distribute the ball to his teammates for scoring opportunities.”
A 5-10 6th-grader, Rountree attends Hamden Hall and plays for the East Coast Elite AAU program. He’s from New Haven and also plays with 8th-graders in the city’s Farnham league. His Farnham coach, Mike Jackson, says at Rountree’s age, he’s as good as players like Geary Claxton (Career/Penn State) and Casey Hughes (Hamden Hall/Yale).
It’s in his genetics, too. Rountree’s father, Terry, played at West Haven and then Boston College. His older brother, TJ, is now playing at Hamden Hall.
Down at the courts of Nike Site in West Haven, the baskets are double-rimmed. That usually doesn’t favor pure shooters, but it didn’t seem to faze the 12-year-old London this past summer.
London put on a shooting clinic, leading her team to a title in the West Haven youth summer basketball league. Coach Desmond Lymon recalls London once making six 3-pointers in a single game.
London, daughter of former West Haven star Rich London, is known for her silky-smooth jumper, but she’s a well-rounded player. Tanayja is from Branford and is a 7th-grader at Davis Street Magnet School in New Haven. By the time she was 6, she was scoring about 13 points per game playing with 8-year-olds. She plays AAU ball with the CT United Queens.
Hillhouse coach Catrina Hawley-Stewart says London is a future Division I player. Lymon says the same.
“I haven’t seen a girl that can shoot like that in a long, long time,” Lymon said.
Pete Alden doesn’t hesitate to call Dobensky the best 13-year-old defenseman in the state.
Yes, he’s that good. And he has the résumé to back it up. He was one of just a handful of kids from the tri-state area to be selected to play for the New York Peewee Rangers at the Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament. There, he was coached by Doug and Mark Messier, along with Mike Richter. He will represent Team Connecticut at this year’s New England Festival and plays on Hamden Hall’s top line as an 8th-grader.
The 5-9, 147-pound Dobensky has the skating ability, stick skills and strength to make him a promising young talent. The Shelton native plays for Alden with the CT Junior Wolfpack.
“His compete level is off the charts,” said Alden, who sees Dobensky playing in the ECAC down the road, perhaps for an Ivy League school. “He’s very humble and hard-working. He’s definitely a Division I talent.”
The New Haven Age Group Track Club has produced a plethora of great runners.
Expect to add Judd to the list.
Judd, 11, is a 6th-grader at Edgewood Elementary School in New Haven and has shown a ton of potential already.
“If he continues like this, he’s going to be one of the next great runners by the time he gets to high school,” New Haven Age Group coach William Thompson said.
Judd placed fourth in the 3,000 meters with a time of 10 minutes, 45 seconds at the AAU U.S. National Junior Olympics. He also finished fourth in the 3,000 and seventh in the 1,500 at the United Age Group Track Club Coaches Association Invitational. And he took fifth place out of 581 runners at the state middle school cross country championship.
Judd also plays the saxophone, piano and is a straight-A student.
About four summers ago, Washington attended Camp Cedarcrest. She was running races against other kids when a counselor noticed she was beating everyone. When her mother arrived to pick her up that day, the counselor approached her.
“Your daughter is real fast,” he said. “You should put her in track.”
Now a 13-year-old at Amistad Academy Middle School in New Haven, Washington has only gotten faster. She competes mainly in the 100, 200, 400 and the long jump for New Haven Age Group.
Washington placed fourth in the long jump at the 2012 USATF Junior Olympics with a distance of 15 feet, 6.75 inches. She finished sixth in the 400 with a time of 1:04.04 at the AAU Area I National Qualifier meet. Washington also won the long jump and placed third in both the 100 and 200 at the USATF Connecticut Association Championships last year.
Leon-Munoz moved to the United States from Malaga, Spain, about five years ago and brought some European flair with him.
A center midfielder, Leon-Munoz has great foot skills, a hard strike and sees the field well. As a 13-year-old, he is playing with South Central Premier’s 14-U program.
“The potential is there,” South Central coach Tim Stipo said. “If he gets into the Academy, the sky is the limit. For his age group, he’s one of the top players I’ve seen. He has the skills and he’s ahead of the curve. He just has to keep working.”
Stipo added that Leon-Munoz has tremendous free-kick ability and does it all with style. He is a 7th-grader at Walsh Intermediate School.
South Central Premier coach Gary Collins says it’s pretty rare for an 11-year-old to play on the program’s 13-U team.
But then again, Edwards is special.
“She has exceptional talent and ability,” said Collins about the Milford 6th-grader. “She has good foot skills, technique, vision; she’s pretty sound technically. She’s aggressive and her thinking process of the game stands out.”
Collins, who also coaches Hamden High, compares Edwards to a combination of Rachel Ugolik (Hamden/Penn State) and Ahna Johnson (Hamden/Fairfield).
Edwards, an attacking midfielder, just started playing soccer three years ago. Along with playing for South Central, she helped lead her Amity travel team to the Connecticut Cup final in the fall. She also plays for the state’s Olympic Development Program in Farmington.
There are simply too many accomplishments to list when it comes to Boyer. At just 13 years old, her résumé is already that impressive.
Boyer ranked in the Top 10 nationally in eight different events for 12-year-olds in 2012-13. Two of those were the fastest times in the country — the 200 short-course breaststroke (2:19.20) and 200 long-course breaststroke (2:39.88).
She holds Top 10 national all-time marks for 11- and 12-year-olds in the 200 short-course-yard breaststroke (fifth), 200 long-course-meter breaststroke (ninth) and 50 short-course-yard breaststroke (ninth), along with multiple all-time state and Eastern Zone records.
Furthermore, Boyer was one of just a select few 13-year-olds that qualified for the USA Swimming Junior Nationals.
Boyer, from Cheshire, swims for the Meriden Silver Fins program. Look for her to either become a part of the litany of star swimmers to attend Cheshire High or take the prep school route next year.
Either way, she’s a name to remember.
“I’ve seen a lot of great swimmers, quite a few that went on to swim in college,” said Silver Fins coach Eileen Thurston. “But she is special. She’s probably the most accomplished swimmer at that age I’ve ever coached. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the Olympics one day.”