The city was down this year, but the season was exhilarating nonetheless. There was parity, selfless play, Cinderella runs and favorites getting pushed to the limit. As expected, Lincoln and Rice won titles, but it wasn’t easy. The Raiders were nearly upset in the CHSAA Class AA intersectional semifinals by All Hallows and Lincoln had a tough time with Transit Tech and Boys & Girls.
Curtis became the first Staten Island team to win a PSAL title of any kind and Brooklyn College Academy won the Class B crown as the 28th seed. Bishop Ford fell in the CHSAA Class A title game to Iona Prep and Scanlan lost in the ‘B’ championship to Blessed Sacrament.
Again, it was a season marked by stars – Lance Stephenson became the all-time leading scorer in New York State history; he finished with 2,946. Durand Scott, though, beat him in Glens Falls and led Rice to its first state crown since 2002.
The future remains bright, led by a group of dynamic sophomores, such as Mike Taylor of Boys & Girls, Corey Edwards of Christ the King and Jermaine Sanders of Rice. The junior class is pretty good, too, particularly when it comes to size, namely Bishop Loughlin man-child Jayvaughn Pinkston.
New York City Boys’ Basketball Player Of The Year: Lance Stephenson, Lincoln
More than any slam dunk, crossover or 3-point shot, Lincoln coach Dwayne (Tiny) Morton was most impressed by Stephenson’s new found maturity. He lifted teammates up instead of putting them down. He encouraged and cajoled them in tough times. It is why, Morton said, Lincoln was able to get through a ridiculously tough non-league schedule against half-a-dozen nationally ranked opponents.
“He’ll do anything to win,” sophomore guard Shaquille Stokes said.
Sure, Stephenson set the all-time New York State scoring record, finishing with career 2,946 points, but it was the four city championships he was most proud of.
“I wanted to do this since I was in the eighth grade,” he said after winning the historic crown. “I wasn’t looking for scoring records. I wanted four cities more than anything.”
Stephenson, who averaged 31 points and 12 rebounds this year, wrote his name into the record books, winning as many city crowns as fellow Coney Island phenoms Sebastian Telfair and Stephon Marbury combined. As far as all-time greats go, he is right there with Telfair, Marbury, Lenny Wilkens, Dwayne (Pearl) Washington and Connie Hawkins.
“You can’t say anyone’s better,” high school basketball talent evaluator Tom Konchalski said. “He’s won four championships and set the state scoring record. What else is there to conquer?”
New York City Boys’ Basketball Coach Of The Year: Mo Hicks, Rice
He never had a problem getting quality players into his program, but that’s not the only reason why Rice won the CHSAA Class AA intersectional title last month. It’s because Hicks always finds a way to get the most of out of his kids. The Raiders play in-your-face, hard-nosed defense. It’s the Rice way, but that comes from Hicks’ tutelage.
When Rice defeated Christ the King at Rose Hill Gymnasium, Hicks became the first coach in league history to win six CHSAA Class AA intersectional titles. And Hicks and the Raiders show no signs of letting up, either.
“They’re a very good team, they’re aggressive, they’re tough, and they’re well coached,” Christ the King coach Joe Arbitello said in the days leading up to the title game. “Mo Hicks is the best coach in the league, no question about it.”
All-City First Team
G Durand Scott, Rice
When the game is winding down and a big bucket is needed, Scott has come up huge time and again for Rice. The Miami-bound senior guard averaged 13.6 points per game during the regular season, but it’s more about the quality of his points than the quantity. Scott knocked down a game tying 3-pointer to send the Raiders into overtime against Newburgh Free Academy, a game Rice would eventually win. And even in a seemingly meaningless championship game of the 35th annual Wheelchair Charities HS Basketball Classic at LIU, Scott did the same to help Manhattan earn bragging rights against Brooklyn.
That insatiable desire to win – and his ability to deliver in the clutch – is the biggest reason why Scott is the lone local player in the Jordan Brand All-American game Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
“He’s a takeover player,” said Wadleigh’s Mike Crump, who coached the Manhattan squad. “When you have him on your team, anything is possible.”
G Chaz Williams, Bishop Ford
Simply put, Williams is one of the greatest players ever to come out of Bishop Ford HS. The 5-foot-9 lightning bolt was impossible to stop when he decided to get to the basket and his 25.9 points per game is the second highest total in the entire CHSAA. He didn’t go out on his terms, a dislocated AC joint in his left shoulder sidelined him late in the CHSAA Class A intersectional title game, but Williams will take his speed and tenacity to Hofstra where he’ll play alongside Charles Jenkins on the Pride.
G Sean Johnson, Christ the King
Perhaps no player’s stock rose more in the city than Johnson, who went from relative obscurity last year, playing behind Division I players like Erving Walker (UConn) and Ryan Pearson (George Mason) to becoming one of the most feared offensive threats in the city. The 6-foot-2 guard from Queensbridge was third in the CHSAA ‘AA’ in scoring, averaging 22.4 points per game, many coming in bunches. He wasn’t just the Royals’ top scorer, though. Johnson was also the undisputed leader of a team that advanced to the Class AA intersectional title game for a fourth straight year.
G Naquan Pierce, John F. Kennedy
The lone PSAL’er on our first team, Pierce is the best guard returning next year. This year, he was pretty good, too. He emerged as the Knights’ top scorer while also serving as a point guard when senior Jeffrey Arzu struggled. He played far bigger than his slight 5-foot-9 frame. His true value was obvious in the city playoffs, whether it was his 37-point performance in an overtime victory over McKee/Staten Island Tech in the PSAL Class AA quarterfinals or his 23-point effort in the semifinals, when he beat Thomas Jefferson with a jumper from the right elbow.
“We’ve always got confidence in him,” Arzu said.
Said Mathis of Pierce, who has started to receive interest from Big East schools: “The best for him is yet to come.”
F Jayvaughn Pinkston, Bishop Loughlin
When motivated, there was no better post player in the city. The 6-foot-6 junior lived up to his man-child billing, finishing second in the CHSAA ‘AA’ in scoring, averaging 24.6 points per game. Realizing he needs to expand his repertoire for the next level, Pinkston increased his range as a junior. After missing six games because of academic difficulties, Pinkston played his best basketball in the postseason, scoring 31 points in a quarterfinal victory against St. Raymond’s and 39 points in a semifinal loss to rival Christ the King.
All-City Second Team
G Lamount Samuell Jr., Boys & Girls
The strength of the Kangaroos this year was its senior leadership. While this was Samuell’s first year in Bedford Stuyvesant, he fit in perfectly as a tough, defensive-minded, unselfish upperclassman. He took over as The High’s starting point guard early in the year, willing to defer to others for the better of the team. He still managed to score 11 points per game, but his greatest strength was rebounding like a forward, distributing the ball and hounding the opposition’s top perimeter threat.
G Russ Smith, Archbishop Molloy
A human-highlight film, it was worth the price of admission to watch Smith score in the open court. The senior guard averaged 29.6 points per game during the regular season to lead the entire CHSAA. But the sinewy Smith saved his best for the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan tournament, scoring 40 points against Holy Cross before tying a career-high with 47 in a semifinals loss to Christ the King.
F Joel (Air Jamaica) Wright, Thomas Jefferson
Aside from a few technical fouls, Wright left little to be desired in his three years at Thomas Jefferson. He wasn’t expected to crack the starting lineup as a freshman but quickly became one of the best low-post players in the city. As a junior, he averaged 23 points and 17 rebounds per game, leading the Orange Wave to the PSAL Class AA semifinals. After spending a year at prep school, the 6-foot-5 forward, who can score with his back to the basket and by facing up his defender, will head to Fordham University. “He wanted to be the best at everything we did,” Pollard said. “He was 100 percent 100 percent of the time. He’s always trying to find something to improve on. He never takes a day off.”
F James Padgett, Lincoln
There were rumblings early on that Padgett was over-recruited. They quickly disappeared when the Maryland-bound power forward outplayed every big man in the PSAL, helping Lincoln to a record fourth PSAL Class AA city championship. Soft spoken and workmanlike, Padgett was easy to overlook. Those who did often paid the price dearly. He saved his best for the stretch run, averaging 16 points and 13 rebounds.
“He’s solid and steady,” said Jefferson coach Lawrence Pollard. “On most teams he can be a go-to guy. … When he’s asked to make big plays and step up, he does it.”
Said Morton: “I’m just happy Padgett wanted to come over and play for us.”
F O.D. Anosike, St. Peter’s
The 6-foot-8, Siena-bound forward was one of the best post players in the city, averaging 17.8 points per game during the regular season, but it was in the SIHSL Tournament that Anosike raised his game to another level, averaging 24.6 points and 17.3 rebounds per game to win an unprecedented second MVP award as St. Peter’s captured a third straight championship.
All-City Third Team
G Mike Taylor, Boys & Girls
His point total doesn’t scream out superstar – 13 points per game – but the sophomore sharpshooter was at his best against the very best. He faced constant double teams and box-and-1 defenses. Yet, he almost always seemed to come through, besides the PSAL Class AA semifinal loss to Lincoln. His finest moment came in the consolation game of the SNY Invitational when he beat rival Thomas Jefferson with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“Mike is a gamer,” Boys & Girls coach Ruth Lovelace said. “He’s a special player. Every school, every team, is keying on him. A lot of people don’t face what he faces on a daily basis.”
Said junior forward Leroy Isler: “He’s young, but he’s very mature.”
G Tyreak Johnson, St. Raymond’s
St. Raymond’s coach Oliver Antigua put a lot on Johnson’s plate this year. As the lone returning senior starter, Johnson was asked to be the Ravens’ leader on the court, to be the team’s top defender, floor general and, oh yeah, score a bunch, too. The 6-foot point guard responded in a big way. He averaged a team-high 12.6 points per game and was named a second-team All-CHSAA selection in a vote of league coaches.
F Halil Kanacevic, Curtis
Kanacevic didn’t win a Staten Island High School League championship in his four years at Curtis – he did even better. The Hofstra-bound 6-foot-8 forward, who scored over 1,000 points in his career and led the Island in scoring this winter at 17.9 points per game, brought home the first PSAL championship of any kind, leading the Warriors to the Class A crown. He was a man among boys in the playoffs, averaging 17.5 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
“It’s big, it’s real big,” he said after winning the historic title. “We made history.”
F Sidiki Johnson, St. Raymond’s
St. Raymond’s boasted a team stacked with young talent and the 6-foot-7 sophomore was the best of them all. Johnson averaged 11.3 points per game during the regular season, but as he got more and more comfortable with the league, Johnson was unstoppable in the paint, regularly registering double-doubles.
F James Stukes, Rice
Durand Scott might be the guy going to Miami next year, playing in the Jordan Brand All-Star game and getting all the accolades, but this 6-foot-5 senior forward quietly was just as instrumental in leading Rice to the Archdiocesan title, the Class AA intersectional championship and the New York State Federation crown. Stukes, who averaged 13.4 points per game – just behind Scott’s 13.6 average – will take his game to South Kent (Conn.) next year in hopes of improving his stock.
All-City Honorable Mention
G Dashaun Wiggins, Wings Academy
G Justin Exum, Xaverian
G Corey Edwards, Christ the King
G Mike Alvarado, All Hallows
G Darwin (Buddha) Ellis, Lincoln
F Lowell Ulmer, McKee/Staten Island Tech
F Jermaine Sanders, Rice
F Maurice Harkless, Forest Hills
F Trevon Hamlet, Bishop Loughlin
F Rhamel Brown, Transit Tech