By Marc Raimondi
Wings Academy is set to fly.
Coach Juan Gonzalez feels that his team is a legitimate contender for the PSAL Class A girls basketball title. The Wings showed why in a 132-11 romp over Jane Addams in Bronx A action Tuesday night.
Wings is deep at every position, has a few Division I prospects and, after last season’s third-place finish in the division, the players are very motivated to come back strong. The Wings hung with perennial ‘AA’ powerhouse Manhattan Center in a preseason scrimmage.
Leading the way will be senior shooting guard Latasia Ward, a pure scorer who has improved since last season. She’s getting interest from Iona College, among other Division I schools.
Wings’ gem, though, could be junior Aquillin Hayes, a long, versatile 5-foot-9 point guard. She didn’t play last year after transferring from Norman Thomas in Manhattan, but made the Metro Classic all-star game in open tryouts. Gonzalez thinks Hayes projects as a high Division I player. She has flown under the radar, though, because she didn’t play last year.
Wings also had Monique Samuel, a 6-foot-1 senior transfer from New Jersey. Gonzalez said there was a player at Evander Childs with the same name last year, but this is not the same girl. Junior Rykema Stone, a 6-foot-1 forward, is nursing an injury, but she should also be in the starting lineup along with senior small forward Riana Ward (no relation to Latasia). The latter, Gonzalez said, can really fill it up.
Gonzalez really likes his bench this year, too – a vast difference from 2008-09. Sophomore Tyler Moses (5-9) reminds him of Charles Oakley, junior Ashley Goodlow (6-1) is a bruiser down low and freshman Anisa Pagan (5-0) is a tiny sparkplug who will back up Hayes.
Wings’ sixth man could be another freshman: Karen Bellamy. The 5-foot-9 wing is long, can do a lot of different things and attacks the basket well.
“By the time she’s a senior, she’ll have raised everybody’s eyebrows,” Gonzalez said.
That’s also the plan for Wings this year.