Big Apple Bash

by April 23, 2008
by Jay Mumford
April.Uncle Sam’s payday, warmer weather, entering the NBA Playoffs/Going fishing, NY Yankee fans being arrogant again. This month can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but to many high school seniors that happen to be student-athletes, April is a month of urgency. With graduation approaching and Spring AAU basketball in full swing, many seniors have no time to reflect on their senior swan songs as athletes. The Kemba Walkers’, Darryl “Truck” Bryants’ and the Brandon Jennings’ of the world have their college route mapped out, it’s simply a matter of getting in gear. But for many Metro New York area seniors, where they will play ball and receive their education at the next level is still a mystery, and the clock is ticking.

For 40 of these aforementioned athletes, a game at Baruch College on the third Sunday in April could serve as a moment of clarity. The 5th Annual Big Apple Scholarship Games are the place to be for those that have both the academics and game to catapult them to the next level of play, but for whatever reason have flown below the radar of college scouts and coaches. Big Apple founder Jason Curry has held this annual event to assist deserving players in need of exposure and college scouts (of all levels) in pursuit of talened student-athletes that meet eligibility standards. Not to mention, the NYC basketball fans looking to see the best of the locals- some of whom lingered in obsurity for a laundry list of reasons- and get their hoop fix.

“Any city event where all of the best get together is a pleasure, but this is my first time here as a scout”, said Lance Thomposon of Polytechnic University. “I used to come here all the time as a fan, so this tournament is always worth it, whatever your reason for being here”.

It’s not easy to make this stage either. Prior to the main event, there are tryouts that contain a number of workouts, games and drills from which the Big Apple coaching staff evaluate and select talent. And your academics better be in order, those count too. After all what’s the point if you’re ineligible?

“We had 226 participants for this year’s workouts”, said Curry. “We select the top 40 student-athletes based on both talent and academics”. 10 players on each team, 4 teams, 2 games, equal playing time. On your mark, get set, ball.

Therefore grades, game and a $5 entrance fee can earn you a shot. The sound of that is music to the ears of Charlton Koripamo, a senior at Roosevelt High in Yonkers. After moving to the US from his native London with only 18 months of organized basketball experience under his belt, Koripamo held down the post, helping to propel Roosevelt from a sub .500 record in 2007 to the third ranked school in Westchester’s Section 1 in 2008. But being in the scene -and not to mention the country- for such a short period of time, saying he is underexposed is an understatement.

“I’ve never played any AAU ball at all, so to play with the top 40 unsigned seniors is great for me in terms of getting some exposure. I’ve never played in anything like this before, so it’s a success. My coaches from Roosevelt and back in London taught me things (to prepare for this), so it feels really good to make it to this tournament.”

Unlike most talented student-athletes, Khalil McDonald’s reputation for academics is known above that of basketball. The Campus Magnet (located in Cambria Heights, Queens) senior starred at power forward, helping his team to the NYC Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) quarterfinals. However, he did this whilst starring in the classroom with a 3.4 GPA.

“I have an 86 average. Since I do so well in school, I’m recognized more for academics than basketball”, McDonald joked. But following a solid performance in the game, McDonald is looking to expand on his rep. “This (tournament) is for me to showcase my talent as a student-athlete.”

The underrated and overlooked are not the only that need apply. Shooting guard Brandon Romain is no stranger to excelling with highly publicized programs. After starring for Xaverian HS, The Panthers (AAU) and leading Boys & Girls HS (Brooklyn) to the PSAL Championship game against Lincoln as the team’s second leading scorer, Romain is still wondering where home will be next year.

“This tournament is very important to me. I need to raise my stock and give more colleges a chance to see me. Plus, I like the workouts they have and I get to play with some of the top seniors.”

The senior season is already a distant memory, so no matter the predicament or the past experience, 40 student-athletes are in the same boat looking to take the next step. Hype and history are void for a day. The theory of this tournament is much like the city that hosts it and shares its nickname. If you can succeed in the Big Apple, you’ll be OK wherever fate lands you next.

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