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Local high school basketball phenom A.J. Dybantsa heads to California

Rated number one freshman player in the country at St. Sebastian’s

Jimmy Myers
Local high school basketball phenom A.J. Dybantsa heads to California
A.J. Dybantsa (left) with Prolific Prep head coach Ryan Bernardi. PHOTO: Courtesy Ryan Bernardi

The 6-foot-8-inch high school basketball phenom has been rated as one of the best prep players to hit the roundball scene. In a recent conversation, Boston University head basketball coach Joe Jones said, “He is legitimately one of the best high school players in America. And he is just a freshman.”

Breaking down the young man’s game, Jones added, “He has all the requisite skills to be a significant impact player. If he keeps developing his game, he could be an NBA player in the next few years.”

A.J. Dybantsa’s game will not be seen live in New England any longer because he recently transferred from St. Sebastian’s School in Needham to Prolific Prep in California. His new school has one of America’s top prep basketball programs. A.J. will be able to further develop his skills against the other top prep players while being the centerpiece of a talent-laden roster. The scenario is heady stuff for a 16-year-old, but it is a way of life in today’s version of high-level basketball.

A.J. Dybantsa COURTESY PHOTO

Last year, Dybantsa, who grew up in Brockton, wowed the high school basketball world while at St. Sebastian’s. He was rated the number one freshman player in        the country, leading the school to an ISL championship before losing to Milton Academy in the NEPSAC title game.

In a recent interview Jon Bartlett, the athletic director at St. Sebastian’s, told me: “A.J. is mature beyond his years. He exhibited special qualities on the court and in the school during his time at St. Sebastian’s. We will miss him. But this was an opportunity he could not pass up.”

Other basketball people I have spoken with express the similar sentiments.

After watching every high school player from Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, known as Lew Alcindor during his scintillating career at Power Memorial Academy in New York City, it isn’t easy to get overly excited about Dybantsa. True, he is talented. But the central question is: How will that talent develop over the next few years? That is the challenge that faces Ryan Bernardi, his new head coach of Prolific Prep.

Dybantsa does not possess a muscular body like LeBron James did coming out of high school. The sophomore is slender in body type, which does not bode well against athletic, physical players. He will also be playing against better competition than the ISL players he faced in New England while at St. Sebastian’s.

From what I have seen of A.J. Dybantsa to date, he does not have the power or the fluidity of the marquee players of past years. But to be fair, we are talking about a teenage player in the early stages of his development.

So much is made of high school players these days that one has difficulty knowing if a guy like Dybantsa is for real or just another flash in the pan. Time will tell us the real story. I was told many years ago that talent and potential are both very fragile because the window to develop both opens and closes so quickly.

I will watch with great curiosity to see how Dybantsa measures up to the lofty expectations placed on his slender body frame, one that is similar to Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs. The difference is that Wembanyama is 7 feet, 5 inches tall.

A.J. Dybantsa, basketball, high school sports, Sports, St. Sebastian’s