Panthers fall, but enjoy solid Reebok run

The New York Panthers were ousted in the Reebok Summer Championships Open Division quarterfinals in heartbreaking fashion Sunday morning.

Franchize All-Stars guard Rasheed Suliaimon hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime and Franchize held the ball almost the entire extra period (there was no shot clock), waiting for the final shot. They got it, converted and basket and ended up beating the Panthers, 68-66, at Foothills HS.

The kids from New York were in a state of shock afterward, but it was hardly a poor performance. J.J. Moore of Brentwood (L.I.) continued his incredible summer, averaging 16.7 points per game this week. Seton Hall (N.J.) Prep guard Sterling Gibbs averaged 14.8 points, including 18.7 per game in the playoffs.

Two Bronx guards really raised their stock, too: Winston Graham and Dashaun Wiggins.

Graham, who spent his junior year at Lee Academy in Maine, showed off a sweet shooting stroke. He averaged 9.5 points and almost two 3-pointers per game. Graham’s best performance came against the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the Panthers’ bracket semifinals Saturday night. He drained four 3-pointers in the first half en route to 15 points, helping to lead his team to a victory.

“He improved his shot a lot,” Panthers point guard Reynaldo (Junior) Walters said. “He was always a shooter, but now he’s more consistent.”

Graham started off his high-school career at Roosevelt in Yonkers and he’s looking for a new prep school for next year, too. The 6-foot-3 sharpshooter, who is getting interest from MAAC schools, said Panthers director Gary Charles is trying to hook him up with Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts or a school out in California.

“That’s something I would need,” Graham said. “It would get me focused, make me work harder.”

He said he’s been working on playing defense and his ballhandling. Graham credits Panthers coach Rafer Alston with his improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Alston also said Graham needs to diversify his game offensively. Unlike most New York City guards, shooting has never been a problem for him.

“I told him to mix it up,” Alston said. “Told him to use the pump fake, drive more, don’t be afraid to take the hit, get to the foul line. He could be a pretty good player.”

Wiggins, like Graham, could also be on the move. Whether or not he’ll remain at Wings Academy is up in the air, he said Sunday.

“I don’t think so,” Wiggins said of staying. “I think I’m going to prep school.”

He just doesn’t know where yet. One thing he does know is that he’s beginning to heat up. Wiggins averaged 9.2 points per game in uneven minutes off the bench. When he was in, he showed an innate ability to get to the rim and get fouled.

Wiggins said he’s receiving interest from schools like Florida State, South Carolina, Arkansas, Seton Hall, Hofstra and Binghamton. He’s hoping to make that list this longer and the Reebok Summer Championships might have gone a long way into helping him with that.

More from Around NYC