Big Apple Basketball HS Challenge

by December 16, 2008

By Franklyn Calle

New York City, the mecca of basketball, witnessed a massive exodus in regards to their elite high school players leaving to play prep ball on other states or just simply transferring schools this past spring and summer. The reason for their exits varied from player to player. The word started to spread around that this was a down year for high school basketball in the city of New York. Specifically, the Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA), who were already going to lose McDonald’s All American Kemba Walker and Sylvan Landesberg, now suiting up for UConn and Virginia respectively. But no one would predict to see that many young talent moving away from the league and into other parts of the country.

St. Raymond HS from the Bronx lost current seniors Kevin Parrom and Omari Lawrence, who have now committed to Xavier and St. John’s respectively. Both are now attending South Kent Prep in Connecticut. All Hallows HS, also from the Bronx, lost their top two players in Devon Collier and Shane Southwell. Both class of 2010 members are now attending different schools, with Collier at St. Anthony’s in New Jersey and Southwell still in the league attending Rice high school in Harlem. Bishop Loughin HS lost junior guard Doron Lamb, who is considered one of the top shooting guards in the nation on the class of 2010. Lamb is now at national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Mount Wilson, Virginia. Joining Lamb was Virginia Tech-bound, Lamont Jones, who is a senior guard that was suppose to attend Rice HS this season after also attending the Harlem school his freshman and sophomore year before transferring to American Christian( HS program now shut down) for his junior year. Holy Cross lost their top 7 players from last year while Christ the King lost Erving Walker, who is now a freshman at Florida and Ryan Pearson, now a freshman at George Mason. These were just some of the big names that made moves this past summer.

So all of this makes for a down year in New York City high school basketball right?…Well not really…Not at all!!!

The 5th Annual Big Apple Basketball High School Challenge proved that to be the case as the top public school (PSAL) teams went up against the top CHSAA teams. The two day event featured 9 games with bragging rights up for grabs.

On day 1, the PSAL won three of the four games, all held at St John’s University. The day started with a come from behind victory for Thurgood Marshall Academy, in which they were down for almost the entire game. After taking its first lead, 58-57, with under 2:30 remaining in the game, TMA was able to hold off Holy Cross to a 62-61 victory in dramatic fashion. The MVP award went to Jason Givens of Thurgood Marshall after finishing with a team 21 points. The Sportsmanship award went to Joseph Monahan, who finished with a game high 24 points.

Next up were the young St. Raymond squad against Campus Magnet. After being down by 16 points at the half, Campus Magnet came up short from a comeback as St. Rays pulled away in the final minutes of play to a 70-64 victory. There were flashes in which St Rays’ juniors Harold McBride and Steve Whittingham seemed to play like the duo of Christ The King’s Malik Boothe and Erving Walker a couple of years back. We will have to wait and see how this backcourt will turn out to be in the next couple of years. Sophomore Sidiki Johnson took home the MVP honors as he finished with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Whittingham finished with a game high 19 points. The Sportsmanship award went to Chad Coachman of Campus Magnet after finishing with 14 points, 4 steals and 4 rebounds.

Then Wings Academy and St. Peter’s took the floor. This one wasn’t even close as Wings came away easily with an 88-59 win. The MVP went to Wings’ senior guard Ronald Baker who finished with a game high 32 points, which tied the showcase scoring record, set by Charles Jenkins back in 2005. The Sportsmanship award went to Siena-bound O.D. Anosike who scored 20 points while grabbing 20 rebounds for St. Peter’s.

The last game of the day featured Boys & Girls VS. Christ the King, both who are expected to compete for a city championship in their respective leagues. CTK’s Corey Edwards showed that he can be the next great guard to come out of the school’s rich basketball tradition as he was able to control the ball and pace for the Royals although at the end Boys & Girls were able to pull away with a 58-55 victory in a game that was close throughout. Senior guard Lamont Samuels Jr. received the MVP award as he finished 19 points to go with 4 assists. Edwards received the sportsmanship award as he finished with 10 assists, a new High School Challenge record as he surpassed another CTK guard, Erving Walker, and his 8 assists set last year. The sophomore guard also had 4 steals and 4 rebounds, although only scoring a point.

Day 2 was held at Baruch College in Midtown Manhattan. College coaches could have been spotted throughout the gymnasium. Among them were St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts, Siena assistant Andrew Francis, Rutgers assistant Craig Carter and Providence assistant Pat Skerry. This time the CHSAA were able to take four of the five games played.

The first game was controlled by Mount St. Michael as Curtis was not able to stop Mount from expanding their lead in the second half. At the end, Mount came away on top, 78-55. Peter Aguilar was selected MVP as he finished with 22 points and 5 steals. The sportsmanship went to Halil Kanacevic after scoring a game high 25 points to go with 7 rebounds. Nigel Mitchell contributed 18 points for Mount while their starting point guard finished with 11 points and 7 assists.

Game 2 was more of a shocker as All Hallows came away on top and defeated JFK, who came into the game undefeated and are expected to compete for the Bronx Borough title, by the final score of 45-43. Michael Alvarado took home the MVP as he finished with a game high 22 points and grabbed 9 boards. The sportsmanship went to Rob Vizcaino after finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds for JFK.

The third game between Xaverian and Thomas Edison was close but Xaverian was able to put Forest Hills away in the last couple of possessions and pull off a 47-40 victory. Xaverian’s senior guard Jamel Fuentes received the MVP honor as he scored a game high 15 points to go with 5 boards. Stephen Nwaukonii took home the sportsmanship award as he was a beast for Edison in the paint finishing with 10 points while grabbing 16 rebounds. Xaverian ‘s big man , Yandel Denis, also had his presence felt in the paint as he added 10 points while holding on to 15 boards.

Next up were Bishop Ford and Forest Hills. Ford, who were last years’ CHSAA Class ‘A’ City Champions , caught a break after Forest Hills, down 44-41, called a timeout after not being able to inbound the ball with 10.7 left in the game. The timeout call would back fire into a technical foul for the Rangers as they no longer had any timeout left. Forest Hills would come up short of a comeback and Ford came away with a 46-41 win. Hofstra-bound Chaz Williams won MVP as he finished with a game high 23 points. Sportsmanship award went to Maurice Harkless after posting up a double-double, finishing with 17 points, 11 rebounds as well as 2 blocks. Bishop Ford’s Kamari Murphy had an impressive performance as he finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks.

The last game of the event featured Thomas Jefferson and Bishop Loughlin, both of which are expected to make runs for the city title in their respective leagues. The game lived up to its hype as it was a close match through the game. But in the end, Jefferson was able to stop a late rally by Loughlin just in time, as well as hit crucial free throws in the last second to squeeze out a 63-61 victory. The win gave the PSAL their only win of the day. The MVP went to Davontay Grace, one of the city’s best sophomores, as he scored 21 points and finished with 5 steals. Loughlin’s senior guard Antoine Brown received the sportsmanship award as he finished with a game high of 26 points to go with 5 rebounds. Jefferson’s leading scorer was senior guard Keith Spellman, who finished with a double-double, scoring 25 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

After losing three out of the four games in day 1, the CHSAA was able to win four out of the five games in day 2, to win the overall event, 5-4.

The event proved to those that looked at this year as a down year in NYC hoops that it will be as competitive and talented as any other. There is never such a thing as a down year in New York City High School basketball.

Congrats to Big Apple Basketball’s President of Operations, Jason Curry, and his staff in putting together a great event!