Pee Wee Kirkland and his streetball legend father now have another thing in common outside of their game, lightning quick handle and silky smooth jumper. Both have led Dwight to the New York State Federation tournament.
Kirkland, a Bronx native, scored 23 points to send fourth-seeded Dwight past No. 7 Riverdale 74-55 in the NYSAISAA Class B boys’ basketball final at Fieldston last Sunday. His dad, Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland, coached the Lions to titles in 1997 and 1998.
“For us to win a state championship is something special,” the younger Kirkland, a senior, said. “It’s basically changed my life. We made history because of this year.”
His father was on hand to watch his son and backcourt mate Kieran Hamilton lead Dwight, a private school along Central Park West, to the crown. The elder Kirkland was beaming from ear to ear and calling them the city’s best backcourt. Hamilton, the son of former Iona guard Kevin Hamilton, also dropped in 23 points.
“We are two guys who are unbelievable happy with our sons,” Kirkland said or he and Hamilton.
Dwight coach David Brown, who was the center on Kirkland’s first championship team, sees a lot of the father in the son. When the younger Kirkland came into the school he saw a raw individual talent who was taught to play the game by a dad who a prolific scorer at Norfolk State and was a Rucker Park legend. He had great individual skills that needed to translate better to a team game.
“It’s almost like coaching Pee Wee because he taught him to be the type of players he believed he was,” Brown said.
The coach enjoyed seeing it all come together for his point guard this season. His play at the point allowed Dwight (23-6) to jell and the players around him gain chemistry together. Kirkland is especially adept at breaking down defenses off the dribble, something he did quite well in the second half against Riverdale in transition.
“He has the ability to go by [defenders] and make people look a little bit silly and finishing around the rim,” Brown said.
Kirkland is still working on his college destination. He’s had numerous Ivy League coaches come to watch him play this season, according to Brown, but he could end up at St. Thomas More, a Connecticut prep school as a fall back. He’s gone about growing his game on his own and not paying any attention to those who want to compare him to his father, even after sending Dwight back upstate.
“I don’t think about it,” the younger Kirkland said. “I just play my game and just listen to my coach.”