By Bob York
Kyle Kager ’11 put Deerfield Academy boys basketball on the collegiate map this winter. Deerfield’s dot has always been there, but with Kager’s play, that dot grew much larger and a lot easier to see. The 6’8″ forward became the program’s first graduate in quite some time to receive a full scholarship to play Division I college basketball, as Kager will take his talents to American University in Washington, D.C. this coming fall. “Four of our five starters were multi-sport kids … in other words, basketball was not their primary sport,” explained Deerfield hoop coach Conrad Pitcher. “For Kyle, however, this was his focus … this was his love. And all the hard work he put into it to make himself better has really paid off for him.” Despite a 7-15 record, that hard work paid off for the Big Green, too, as Kager, who was one of two players to share this year’s Deerfield Basketball Trophy, led the team in scoring for the second straight season. He averaged 20 points per game, while hauling in close to eight rebounds a game. Jim Bitter ’11, the team’s point guard who will be attending the University of North Carolina, where he will play lacrosse, took home the other half of the trophy that is annually given to the team MVP. He did so after netting 14 points a game and handing out an average of five assists per outing. The highlight of his season came during the 8 School Tournament when he sank a three-pointer at the buzzer to defeat St. Paul’s School in overtime, 64-61. Bitter’s teammate in the backcourt this season was Yianni Grupen ’11, who shared this year’s Most Improved Player Award with forward Seth Stegelmann ’11, and he did so by chipping in an average of seven points a game. “He really emerged this season as a starter,” said Pitcher, “and he ended up being our primary three-point shooting threat.” Andrew Sutphin ’11, who will be moving on to Yale, where he is hoping to secure a spot on the Bulldogs’ football roster this fall, was the Big Green’s center this season and averaged seven points and seven rebounds a game. More importantly, “he consistently played some outstanding defense for us against some much taller opponents,” said Pitcher. “Andrew did an outstanding job defensively for us around the basket,” added his coach. “And despite a lack of size (6’2″) at that position, he more than made up for it with his gritty play … he’s a tough kid.” Luke Smith ’11 and Stegelmann shared time opposite Kager, at the other forward slot and did an equal amount of damage to the opposition during their playing time as each averaged six points and five rebounds per game. Adam Hull ’11 was another member of the Big Green backcourt, averaging five points and three assists a game. While Pitcher is losing 11 of 16 players to graduation, he’s hoping the returning five will serve as a nucleus to build his team around next year, as well as “whatever basketball talent comes through the front door,” said the Big Green mentor. As of this point, a pair of juniors in guard Alex Wagman and 6-5 forward Mac Kelley return, as do sophomores T.J. Randall and Ray Horgan and 6’2″ freshman forward Pat Ononibaku.