Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kennedy Showing Early Strides

Four months after picking up the biggest off-season transfer on this side of Jordan Tucker, Kennedy Catholic is teeming with confidence and bolstered by a collective determination to vault the program back into relevance.

Beacon transfer Elijah Hughes, a bouncy 6-foot-5 junior with playmaking capabilities at both guard spots, will provide immediate punch.

Vowing to become more of a vocal leader, Hughes will have the ball in his hands early and often.

 Hughes will create for a beefed up front court and simultaneously call his own number more.

He'll also shoulder the burden of end game, taking the high-pressure shots when crunch time sets in.

The Gaels' dose of Division-I material doesn't stop there.

They feature a big bodied 6-foot-7 forward in Hastings native Dom Christiano and another sky-riser in 6-foot-4 guard and Ivy League target Sean Delaney.

Both players authored All-League seasons last year and will inherit the leadership reins.

Containing Christiano proved to be a handful last season.

The big fella erupted for multiple 30+ point games.

Christiano possesses the mobility and wide receiver hands. He's developed a knack for jetting ahead of the pack and finishing with authority in the open court.

Playing for New Heights on the AAU circuit, Christiano has shaped himself into a more reliable defender.

He's morphed into the necessary rim protecting presence the Gaels need him to be.

He'll have help from 6-foot-7 Kevin Buron, who has the essential ingredients to evolve as a sturdy double digit rebounder.

Delaney, an All-State honorable mention, collected several double-doubles last season, including a 16-point, 10-rebound performance in a 71-47 thrashing of St. John's prep.

He showed promise as a supplementary scorer to Christiano, including a 21-point performance against Pelham.

If scrimmages against Iona Prep and vaunted Christ The King are any preseason yardstick, Kennedy is looking to restore the firepower of program OGs Donnie McGrath, Dan Gumb, Peter Courtney, Dan O'Connell,  the late and legendary Tyrell Thompson and more recently sharpshooter Frankie Kelly.

The Christ The King scrimmage featured an intriguing plot as Hughes matched up with the city's most highly-regarded recruit in man-child Rawle Atkins.

 An explosive 6-foot-4 slasher who elicits more and more Lance Stephenson comparisons each day, Atkins now has high-major interest across the country.

Kansas, Arizona, Florida, and Louisville are all expressing considerable interest in the nation's 16th-ranked junior prospect. Going eyeball to eyeball with Atkins revved the engine of Hughes, who dropped 26 points in four quarters.

Hughes' true affinity for quarterbacking an offense surfaced last season at Beacon. At the same time, his nose for they rim grew.

The then-sophomore kicked feast-or-famine tendencies, gaining a new focus after he shredded RCK to the tune of 31 points on 12-for-21 shooting.

After attending Syracuse camp, where he played before the likes of Jim Boeheim and Gerry McNamara, Hughes picked up his first Division-I offer from Fairfield last week.

"The thing that makes him so special is that can score the ball  when he wants to but I think his passing is what separates him," said Delaney of Hughes.

"That's what makes him a Division-I prospect."

Playing above the rim, Hughes will form a radiant aerial game with the aforementioned Delaney and Christiano.

All three can lean on a dependable 16-18 footer, with Hughes expanding his game beyond the arc.

The luxury of this trio is they can constantly convert turnovers into transition leak outs and routine fast break dunks.

Kennedy will press often and apply pressure across the court, helping spur a speedball attack.

The Gaels will look to employ an inside-outside look with Hughes and Christiano.

In the half-court set, Kennedy will lean on an offense jarringly similar to the 2012-13 NY Knicks, when Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace imparted a calming veteran influence.

Angle-to-angle ball movement, plenty of picks and extra emphasis on kicking in the extra pass for the best look possible will consume the clock.

Brandon Parker, the team's most reliable on-the-rock defender, is flushed into a prominent role.

Though he flirted with the idea of returning to Beacon and entertaining County Center aspirations, Hughes bolted for JFK.

He willsavor the freedom to pilot a well-oiled offense and emerge into a focal point with an arsenal of offensive weapons.

 The move also reunited Hughes with Delaney, a childhood friend. The two registered a rapport while entrenched in AAU battles.

"He has the freedom to space out, get a screen and go to work," said Delaney.

"We can play off our talent. In the full court, fast breaks is where mainly our baskets are going to come from. Knowing where each other is on the fast break and knowing where to find each other allows us to run pretty easily."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Late-Game Heroics Stave Off Rally as Bedford Holds On

All pre-season, Bedford Academy's coaching staff implored Trevis Wigfall to develop a killer instinct and sustain it for four quarters.

A wiry 6-foot-2 combination guard with length and athleticism, Wigfall emerged into a late bloomer on the Division-II recruiting market.

The senior understands, however, the onus is on him to play with a scholarship-hungry savvy and show out during high-pressure junctures.

The focus can't falter.

Wigfall met his coaches' demands at the most opportune moment of Bedford's pulsating 62-58 win over much-improved Banneker at Thomas Jefferson's season-opening showcase tournament Saturday afternoon.

With under four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Wigfall took one demanding dribble, climbed the ladder and crunched a mean two-handed dunk amid contact.

The loudest play of a wild two-hour battle, Wigfall's dunk helped tame Banneker's furious second half rally.

The game intensified with plenty of extracurricular activity, shoving, trash talk, cold staredowns and increased physicality throughout the second half.

Junior guard Romello Ford drew an offensive foul at the other end, a crucial stop.

With 10.3 seconds remaining, Anthony Gibbs emerged with the game-sealing steal. The junior guard knocked back 1-of-2 at the free throw line, the final jab of a dizzying affair.

And to think it's only November...

Banneker clawed back from a 21-point halftime deficit, reeling off a 14-5 tear to kick-start the second half.

They killed off an early case of jitters, tying the game at 48-all on a long 3-pointer from Paris Roberts (17 points). Roberts, a senior captain and lead guard, was instrumental in sparking an improbable comeback bid.

Yet it was the perseverance of Bedford's guards which ultimately closed the deal.

Anthony Munson, displaying a sheer nose for the ball and athletic finishes, scored a game-best 20 points.

Munson navigated the pressure cooker, knocking back a pair of clutch free throws that gave Bedford a 56-54 lead.

Following a banker from Bannker's Tyrone Adeyeye, Bedford's Julius Blake drove baseline for a traditional 3-point play and a 61-58 lead.

It was only fitting the most thrilling game of a day-long event came down to Gibbs' pick-pocket.

The flaring tempers reached a breaking point with 3:53 remaining in the third quarter.

The refs and coaches from both squads squashed the rising tension.

 And while the beef simmered down, it all gave birth to a new rivalry.

Banneker emerged from the early rut by not only killing off early jitters but applying the same ingredients Bedford used to gain a 33-12 halftime bulge.

There was hiked up defensive pressure that closed the passing lanes.

There was pressure across all 94 feet of hardwood. There was pressing and trapping throughout.

A new-look Banneker team, under a first-year head coach who groomed an identical squad on J.V. two seasons ago, loosened up enough to creep back into the game.

The trio of Roberts, Adeyeye and 5-foot-9 junior guard Arnold Agard pumped resilience into a lineup that struggled mightily scoring the ball in the game's first 10 minutes.

 Roberts helped turn the game around with leadership leading the break. Banneker cranked up the pressure by triggering a spate of late turnovers.

The squad mastered the meshing experiment by competing as a team in various tournaments, including Bedford's own Scrimmage Wars at the Brookyln Dome this fall.

Bedford erupted in the first quarter. Munson found a seam and finished a high inbounds lob pass at the rim.

He followed that up by swooping in for a stick back.

Then, senior guard Ian Roach drained a corner 3-pointer as Bedford seized a 14-4 lead.

Bedford's lead ballooned to the 20s as Ford stuck a nifty floater off the dribble and Sam Mbaye converted a steal into a simple layin.

 Roach, now flushed into the role of senior leader, scored 18 points. Wigfall, who saw time at the point guard and is versatile enough to play 3-4 positions under head coach Rob Phelps, added 13.

Of course, none were bigger than an emphatic dunk that stuck a stake through the heart of Banneker's rally.

JEFFERSON 101, Edison 40: Bolstered by an uproarious home crowd, Jefferson shot an overmatched Edison club under the table with an early onslaught. Class of 2016 guard Shamorie Ponds scored 20 of his 22 points during an explosive first half.

 The crafty lefty, showcasing considerable range and a deft touch, canned six of Jefferson's 19 3-pointers. The Orange Wave overwhelmed Edison early, instigating a torrent of turnovers and piecing together a quick-paced catch-and-stick game.

They hit five of their first seven from beyond the arc. With the second team manufacturing offense at a torrid pace, the lead grew to 83-27 by the third quarter. Jefferson has perhaps the most across-the-boards talent since the likes of Joel "Air Jamaica" Wright, Keith Spellman, and Davontay Grace triumvirate of the 2008-09 season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lofty Aspirations For Guard-Geared Bedford in 'A'

The primary question surrounding Bedford Academy this off-season?

How well they'd cushion the losses of since-graduated Darren Thomas and Layte Workman.

Thomas was a game manager, four-year starter and scoring guard who had the handle on a string.

Workman was an interior presence who averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds. An undersize 6-foot-4 forward, Workman leaned on a short-range jumper, steering rim protectors away from the paint while muscling his way inside.

At Bedford, losses must be filled by committee. There's no highly-touted transfer swooping in at the 11th hour. Sticking to the original system, Bedford built around a group that improved during a whirlwind summer and fall schedule, one which gauged its grit against high-caliber opponents.

The theme will continue this winter. Bedford has stacked the out-of-conference schedule with quality opponents. They'll play Boston power Brighton High School during a Springfield, Mass. tournament in late December.

Paced by hard-nosed rim-to-rim defense and a swift-passing attack, Bedford will be headlined by a slew of gritty guards.

Senior two-guard Ian Roach's extended range and new assassin's instinct has been promising. This much was evident during Scrimmage Wars, the annual fall tournament at the Brooklyn Dome.

The 6-foot-2 Roach, who bettered his game with a quicker release and a newfound stroke from NBA 3-point territory, has interest from Division-I programs such as Columbia and Monmouth.

 Roaming the perimeter and coming off picks ready to pull-and-pop, Roach has the essential tools to become Bedford's dagger man. Shooting off the bounce and creating his own looks have shaped the senior into a legitimate scoring threat.

The playmaking duties are now funneled down to Anthony Munson, a 6-foot-2 guard and three-year starter. Head coach Rob Phelps has challenged Munson to score at will this season, a role he deems necessary with Bedford's small-ball lineup.

A knack for surging to the rim coupled with a pull-up game has prepared Munson for a new role that entails more heavy lifting. The Division-I prospect must be more aggressive creating and scoring off the dribble on a workaday basis. Bedford utilizes both a go-go transition game and a half-court offense with numerous sets and options.

A three-year starter, Munson's defensive toughness has helped Bedford navigate into championship territory March after March.

 It's his scoring and ability to shred apart a defense that will gauge just how far this Bedford team goes. If he can adapt to a 20-PPG area scoring role, with Roach's dependable jumper guiding spreading out defenses across the city, Bedford has the potential to meet and shatter expectations.

Expanding his all-around offensive package, Munson will also take on a jack-of-all-trades role as well.

He'll have the ball in his hands more. He'll play both guard spots during different sequences of the game. He'll create. He'll handle the chore of sticking the opponent's top scorer.

With a year round focus and constant commitment to the team concept, evident through in-house camps and open gyms which sidestep the AAU route, the chemistry established.

 It's all the intangibles which don't appear on the stat sheet--leadership, late-game toughness, sustained relentlessness and focus--that will determine just how much this team will attain.

Bordering Roach and Munson in the backcourt will be guards Anthony Gibbs and Romello Ford, both of whom gained bulk in the off-season. Both are fundamentally sound and will provide pressure across the court. They'll each be tasked with operating offense, getting Munson off the ball and finding Roach on kick outs and corner treys.

Swingman Trevis Wigfall, displaying length and finishing ability, is flushed into a prominent role. Wigfall has become somewhat of a late bloomer as an NCAA prospect at the Division-II level. If he can get into the driving lanes and score as a dependable third option, more and more scholarships will be heaped on the 6-foot-2 senior.

Phelps' system is built on discipline and accountability. Four quarters of focus is demanded. Turnovers and spurts of sloppy play aren't tolerated. With that high standard set, everyone on the floor can expect a thin leash at all times.

Much to the entertainment of the fans, Bedford's rivalry with Brooklyn Law and Tech will be renewed. The two teams have been heated foes, the rivalry adding luster during last year's tense moments. As an uptick barbs and battles on NYC Basketball forum indicates, the competitiveness of this burgeoning rivalry has only grown in the off-season.

Law and Tech graduated 6-foot-3 Matt Scott (now at Niagara), a high-efficiency 28PPG scorer who defied all stereotypes regarding 'A' competition. They return a young, diminutive backcourt headlined by two promising guards in freshman Larry Moreno and returning sophomore sharpshooter Mikko Johnson.

 Johnson, like Munson, will expand from a supplementary scorer into a go-to option this season.

Like prototype New York point guards such as Stephon Marbury, Kenny Satterfield, and Rafer Alston before him, Moreno has a beyond his years savvy. At 5-foot-7, Moreno's left-handed stroke and slasher's mentality are rare for a 14-year-old. With a penchant for going to the rack against big rim protectors, the tough-as-hell guard has already surfaced as one of the team's better rebounders.

Since Bedford Academy is a highly-competitve Screening School, academic success is expected. All players are required to maintain at least an 82 average under Phelps, who doubles as the Dean of the school.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Williams To Finish What Legendary Dooley Started At Delone

You may remember Lawrence and Terrance Williams as two of the most transcendent athletes of their time during illustrious careers at Gettysburg High.

You may remember Lawrence Williams, a one-time NFL prospect out of Lehigh University, thriving as a cornerback at Gettysburgh High. You may remember Terrance Williams piloting a Jim Dooley-coached Gettysburg basketball team with a quick-release jumper and hawking on-the-ball defense.

The late and legendary Dooley helped shape both players into dependable double-duty players at both guard spots. Though scoring in a variety of ways and accelerating the transition attack, the Williams brothers were both known for the defensive harassment emblematic of Dooley's Gettysburg teams.

And while most understand Lawrence Williams' journey from homegrown talent to the man now vowing to keep Dooley's legacy alive at Delone Catholic, the first-year Squires head coach attributes his mental toughness to way earlier.

Rewind the clock to the late 1990s. It was a clear night in West Philadelphia. The electricity had gone off in the Williams brothers' house on 52nd and Larchwood, near Malcolm X Park.

The boys' mother, Anita Whaley had sent her then middle school-aged sons to call for help. Their neighbor, the sole operator of an in-house drug emporium, was nowhere to be found.

So, Terrance and Lawrence shuffled into a nearby public pay phone, as this was before the days of cell phones and social media. Suddenly a horde of grown men, all standing above 6-feet and muscle-bound, enveloped the two.

"That's my phone," one of the men shouted, ripping the phone set from Terrance's grasp. "You don't use it unless I say so."

Lawrence, who had earned street credit as a quick-hit scrapper, answered the man's cold stare without a trace of trepidation. He immediately rushed to his younger brother's defense.

The man then whipped out a revolver with a long skinny barrel, shoving the pistol directly into the young kids' faces.

An intense rush of panic engulfed the Williams brothers, as they recall.

"I almost peed myself," Lawrence Williams recalls with a chuckle.

The panic was temporary.

A voice instantly boomed through the fracas.

Whaley, the bulwark of the family, confronted the men in ferocious fashion. The armed man suddenly tucked the piece away, the Williams brothers said.

"If I ever see you giving my sons trouble again, you're going to have to deal with a lot more than just the cops," they recall Whaley yelling.

"You're going to have to deal with me coming back here and whipping all you're sorry asses."

Lawrence and Terrance, who've committed their lives to shaping at-risk youth, break into smiles when they recite this anecdote.

"From that point on," Lawrence said, "we never had problems on that block. Whenever those guys saw us, they asked us if we needed anything. Money, clothes, a ride to school."

"They knew we had a strong, strong woman raising us and trying to provide a better life for us. I don't think there is a stronger woman out there."

If it weren't for that courageous move, you may have never heard of Lawrence Williams, who fortified Lehigh's secondary during a dazzling 20-game win streak. You may have never heard of Terrance Williams, who has posted a 4-0 record as a professional boxer under Lincolnway coach Julio Alvarez.

The incidents that followed--the gangs, the shootouts that frequently jolted them out of sleep and the drug-addled neighborhoods--ultimately caused the family's exodus from Philadelphia's meanest, most unforgiving projects.

Whaley made the decision to uproot her sons in Gettysburg, where they have an immense family. They were reunited with their older cousin, William "Charles" Warren.

Warren, a cornerback at Dickinson College, is in the Adams County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

It was Warren who introduced his cousins to basketball when they spent their summers in Gettysburg as youngsters. The three would play in the grass-dotted of their grandmother's home. Using a regular sized ball, they shot on an apple crate rigged up on the clothesline that their grandmother, Mary Livingston, had set up.

There was some creative role playing in those games. A teenaged Warren and young Terrance and Lawrence simulated the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s.

"Charles would be (Michael) Jordan, Lawrence would be (Scottie) Pippen, and I would be (B.J.) Armstrong," recalls Terrance Williams, a deft long range shooter a la the less heralded Armstrong.

They managed to do this while tearing Livignston's backyard grass to shreds, with constant surges to the apple crate and plenty of skirmishes for loose balls.

"The games would get pretty physical at times," Terrance recalled.

"Chuck would be the Detroit Pistons, instantly bringing the toughness and ultra-physical defense that those 1980s 'Bad Boys' Pistons teams were known to enforce. It would turn into a 2-on-1, both of us versus Chuck. Then, we would go to Franklin Township and launch jumpers until our arms got tired. So, that's really where it all started.

Reunited with Warren, they had a role model and advisor on whom they leaned for advice and coaching. They had an equally important mentor in Dooley, whose motivational tactics helped mold them into coaches themselves.

Unrivaled Legacy

Dooley, a venerable and iconic head coach known for unbridled sideline energy, died of renal failure in the aftermath of a fight with aplastic anemia in the fall of 2013.

The Bronx-bred Dooley amassed 702 career wins, including 187 during his stay at Delone Catholic.

The system is funneled down to one of Dooley's favorite disciples.

"My excitement level is through the roof, especially since I'm stepping into a place where a man I loved for and cared for like a father coached," Lawrence said.

"I've personally been waiting for this opportunity to come for a long time. So, I feel like I'm as prepared as can be."

Williams was quick to acknowledge local coach Jeff Baer and Brian Schmoyer of Dover as two sources who helped ready him for this position. While Gettysburg varied as far as pace and offensive sets during Williams' day, the young head coach vows to continue Dooley's style of adjusting based on the scouting report.

Under Dooley, preparation and amplified pressure throughout the court were both bedrock staples.

"Defense will have to be our bread and butter," Lawrence explains.

Losing Dooley was not an easy process for Williams, who recalls breaking down several times after speaking with him and visiting him at Johns Hopkins hospital.

He still has the endless supply of memories.

There are memorable Saturday morning trips to Harrisburg for the Ujomi Summer League at Reservoir Park.

There are open gyms that lasted all day, Dooley coaching each and every last run in full throttle fashion. There are mentor-pupil conversations that Williams said prepared him for the rigors of life.

"My fondest memories of Coach Dooley would have to be the passion, energy, and the love for the game he always had," Williams said.

While Delone had a rough off-season with injuries to high-scoring guard Devon Moore and Jake Wiles, Williams said it won't hamper the team's progress.

The key is to build up the secondary players so that when both players return, they won't be relied on too heavily.

"There's no adversity with not having Devon or Jake," Williams opined.

"Don't get me wrong--they are both great players and will definitely be missed, but the show must go on. We have guys that are willing to step up and fill in, which is exactly what we need. I've experienced a lot in my life. So something like this, I personally wouldn't call it adversity. I have big shoulders."


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Deceptively Athletic Jurzynski Ready For New Challenge

On the first night of tryouts at Croton Harmon High for the 2014 Hudson Valley BCANY team, several had already etched a name and niche for themselves. This year's team possessed the most pure talent, evoking comparisons to legendary Empire State Games teams of the early 2000s. Scholarship players were spread across the roster.

There was Rickey McGill, an electrifying 6-foot-1 guard known for quick surges to the rim, a beyond-the-arc game and a propensity for fracturing ball movement and relentlessly swiping at an unprotected Spalding.

There was Salim Green, the high-rising RCDS guard.

An Ivy League target, the elevation on Green's jumper has rendered him hard-to-guard.

There was Jamil Gambari, a long and athletic 6-foot-3 guard who bagged First Team All-State honors in 2013-14. Gambari guided Woodlands deep into the state tournament following a frenetic-paced Sectional Championship defeat of Putnam Valley, the upset underscored by a hailstorm of 3-pointers and a wild 22-1 run.

There was Tom Capuano, a well-built defensive pest with a full arsenal of offensive tools and varsity experience stemming back to his 8th grade year at Hastings. Capuano, a high-Division II and Division-I prospect with interest from Harvard and Bucknell, deposited six 3-pointers in Hudson Valley's 103-63 dismantling of Central in the Gold Medal championship game.

With a gaggle of area talent competing for just 12 roster spots, the "who's who" factor was evident.

The less heralded in the sea of ballers was Mike Jurzynski.

Sporting farm boy strength and a less-than-intimidating look, the floppy-haired 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward registered his imprint during that first tryout. While running through plays and simulating game situations, the Masters guard/forward drilled his first five threes. His high-arching set shot meshed with the angle-to-angle ball movement, picks, and perimeter hand-offs Bill Thom's offense was predicated on.

And though Jurzynski's dependable outside shot catapulted him to a roster spot on a team that won by an average of 33 points, his deceptive athleticism has re-planted the basketball seed at the prestigious Masters School in Dobbs Ferry.

Rewind the clock to August of 2014.

Hudson Valley is devouring the BCANY tourney competition in Johnson City in shark-sized bites, dumping off one foe after another by double-digits. The team seizes a 15-point lead against familiar foe Adirondack, the reigning national champion and HV's fiercest summer rival. Trash-talk is sprinkled all over the court.

It starts when D'Yaire Holt and Hudson Valley's Matt Ryan engage in verbal warfare. It intensifies when a cheap shot is thrown at Connor McGuiness following some chippy moments. You could feel the tension--rising, rising, rising.

 As Juryznski darts down court and hauls in a baseball pass from McGill, traces of anticipation emanate from Hudson Valley's bench.

Jurzynski elevates, climbs the ladder and crunches an extravagant two-handed dunk. Rife with hang time and a rim-choking finish, the flush has sent the gym into a frenzy.

Jurzynski defies all basketball stereotypes. While his appearance is a bit more Bill Gates than Bill Cartwright, he ensures that you don't need a pair of Jordans and an And1 cut-off shirt to get recognition. Though Jurzynski's game is free of playground flash, his knack for permeating the driving lanes and throwing it down has become theatrical.

"My athleticism came from me always wanting to jump higher and higher as a kid," said Jurzynski, a Pearl River native who was enamored with the dunking of Jason Richardson, Lebron James and Michael Jordan as a child.

"I loved the feeling of gliding through the air while my hips were at the defenders eye level. My toughness came from me being trained as a post player in my younger years. Then eventually, I was the center for my high school team because I was the tallest kid."

Now he can play multiple positions. Vowing to shed any limitations, Jurzynski knows his dribble-drive game must expand for the next level. He made strides this summer, shedding 20 pounds and gaining basketball shape.

Playing against the likes of C.J. Miles (Indiana Pacers) and Scott Machado (IONA/Houston Rockets/Overseas) and former WCC and South Florida star Jarrid Famous at House of Sports' open runs helped his confidence grow.

At the same time, his work ethic spiked. Working off the shooting gun and firing 1,000+ jumpers a week at House of Sports, which doubles as his living room, Jurzynski knows how necessary the uptick in labor is.

As the program's leading scorer as a sophomore and a junior, he'll assume some ownership of this year's team.

Not bad for a guy who looks like he should be studying marine biology and not orange spheres.

"The issue for Mike is people want to stereotype him and try to fit him into a specific position," said AAU coach Andy Borman, now with the NY Rens.

"Look, he's just a good basketball player. Does he look it? He can score inside, he can finish above the rim, and he can shoot
the hell out of the ball. For the next level, he'll have to work on his dribble-drive game."

Borman continued, "The question for Mike isn't what level he'll play at, the question is what is a coach looking for in him? If a coach is just looking for someone who is going to make your team better and do whatever it takes to win, then Mike Jurzynski is going to be a perfect fit for that program."

Division-I programs such as Marist and Tulsa have expressed interest. He has interest all across the boards, with Division-III programs such as Dickinson College, Hamilton, Scranton, Hartwick, Carnegie Mellon, and Randolph Macon (Va.) are in heavy pursuit.

While every kid at this level longs to play Division-I ball, Jurzysnki has learned about local products such as Nick Nedwick (Irvington/Western Connecticut State) and Adam Honig (Horace Greeley/Dickinson), both overseas professionals who were Division-III All-Americans.

Buoyed by a 30-point outburst from Jurzynski, Masters disposed of the two-man foundation of (since-graduated) 1,000-point scorer Tyler Fernandez and the aforementioned Green, en route to a 64-48 FAA semifinal win last season.

The shooting onslaught against RCDS was rejuvenating. A

ll season, Jurzynski's coaches implored him to relish a killer instinct. Suddenly playing with the mentality that he can take a game over and pick apart a defense is a necessity at this level. Taking advantage of several mismatches catered to Jurzynski, allowing him to roam freely beyond the arc and let it fly.

"If they left me open at the three, I pulled it," Jurzynski said.

"If they came out at me, I went by them. If they wanted to bump me, I would put them in the post and just float over them for an easy jumper. I tried to clean up every loose ball possible."

It's these words and cocksure style that Jurzynski's inner circle hopes he takes with him every game. Masters hopes to repeat as FAA champions. With the addition of 6-foot-7 Australian import Matt Grossman, who will flank Jurzynski in the post, he'll have the freedom to pop out on the perimeter.

"My goals for this season is to be the first team in school history to have a record with over twenty wins, win the FAA championship again, and also compete in the NEPSAC tournament," Jurzynski said.

"The roughest part about last season was the perception we weren't going to play well after one of our starting forwards (Tim Reitzenstein) broke a bone in his wrist and was out for the season. We had to pick up the pieces and focus on rebounding since that was a major contribution of his game."

Is Jurzynski ready to become one of Section 1's elite scorers and bring the ruckus on a nightly basis?

Flash back to a month ago.  In a Stepinac/Masters game underscored by the Jordan Tucker v.s. Jurzynski factor, the level of competition was amplified. Every shot was contested. Every loose ball was chased with a full head of stream. If Tucker pulled up and buried a three, as the Indiana and UConn target is known to do, Jurzynski would match it.

 Every rebound was fought for, as HOS morphed into a County Center-like proving ground. The fall foliage outside didn't dissipate, albeit the feeling of early March resonated around the arena. Jurzynski shocked Stepinac with deceptive hops and four dunks.

Draining five 3-pointers during a 15-point fall league victory over Nyack, opening eyes across the gym, Jurzynski caught the hot hand. The basket suddenly looked as large as the one at St. Aeden's church and Pearl River Middle School, where Jurzynski and childhood friend Kevin Degnan (MSG Varsity Player of the Year in 2013-14, now at Fairfield) would battle for sweat-drenched hours.

Drake's "No New Friends" anthem and adage has become a staple for Jurzynski. Though he bolted Pearl River for St. Joe's 9 (N.J.) and then Masters, his tight bonds with childhood friends such as Degnan, Tim Fusco, Brian Chiarello, and Mike Imbarrato.

Jurzynski's nickname "The Scientist,"  dual meaning.

 Not only does he sport the scholar-like look of a scientist, Jurzynksi is always in the lab. Playing every day that ends in Y at gyms all over, Jurzynski always culminates his workouts with a few tomahawks and windmills and ferocious two-handed sledgehammers.

Like Tom Chambers and Kurt Rambis, both of an Office Clerk look and NBA lore, Jurzynski is defined by an old axiom:

Looks can be deceiving.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Crafty Redendo Is Gym Rat Beyond His Years


It happens every day, like clockwork.

Oozing of unbridled energy, displaying flashes of prodigious handle, and bagging a barrage of off-the-dribble jumpers, NY Pride guard Brandon Redendo puts in hours and hours and hours in gyms all across the Eastern Seaboard.

Basketball consumes his livelihood.

He's a scorer by trade.

With a fusillade of pull-up jumpers and a fearlessness surging to the basket against guys that outweigh him by 50-100 pounds, Redendo made varsity at Immaculate (Danbury, Conn.) as a freshman.

Now the sophomore guard, who masquerades a diminutive frame with a thirst for scoring, Redendo's understanding of the game has sped up his production rate.

Redendo spent the entire summer gauging his grit against guys 3-4 years older than him, going at it with several Division-I caliber prospects on a workaday basis.

 He relishes the ramped up competition. Adding range on a deep 3-point shot was the kick-starter for Redendo, who showcased the touch at Gym Rat Challenge.

"No doubt about it, the kid can play," said Matt Ryan, the Iona Prep 3-point ace and Notre Dame-commit, who will pen his letter of intent with the Irish on Wednesday.

"He's got the handle on a string. He's got the range."

The Carmel native grew up emulating the likes of Steve Nash and sharpshooter Steph Curry.

He was always the lone smurf-sized kid on playgrounds across Queens and Manhattan, vowing to play against the big dogs.

With a newfound love for orchestrating offense, Redendo has developed a knack for one-handed passes on the run.

What separates the young gun is the know-how of a player who plays a lot older and bigger than he is.

At only 15, there are so many directions one's game can go in. With a flair for the game, Redendo has pulled off passes few at his level are capable of. That coupled with a workaholic-esque schedule reeks of promise.

After playing as a 5-foot-8, 125-point water bug guard on Immaculate, Redendo's game flowered this summer.

Adding on strength, speed, and the immeasurable intangible that is IQ has prepared him for the bigger stage. In the process, he extended that range past the 3-point arc. Because of his lack of size, he has to prove himself every day.

 He's cognizant of when he needs to score and put leadership matters on his shoulders.

 Accelerating a breakneck transition game has become his forte.

During various AAU tournaments, Albany Gym Rat Challenge, Regional Championships at Island Garden, and Providence Jam, to name a few, Redendo's passing and ball handling opened eyes.

Redendo has a knack for the pick-and-roll game, the style imparted on him by his father, NY Pride founder and now House of Sports director of AAU Aldo Redendo.

Shooting 23-for-37 from beyond the arc and totaling 35 assisnts in five games at the Gym Rat tournament ingrained a new mindset in the gritty little guard.

From that point on, Redendo took it upon himself to ply his trade against high-profile players. Playing at Harlem United allowed him to embrace the contact and shed the tendency of settling for jumpers.

He follows a strict regimen, including over 4,000 shots per week.

He's constantly patterning ways to free himself and catch-and-stick, and a steady dose slashing makes up his workout. With the focus of a hawk sizing up his fresh prey, he launches jumpers until his toothpick arms are worn out.

In today's world of social media and video game obsession, it's rare to find a gym rat of this caliber.

"Passing and how I see the floor are the two most important aspects of my game," Redendo said.

"That's really what I cherish the most. My Dad was my biggest inspiration growing up, he's the one who taught me all this, starting at Club Fit in Jefferson Valley when I was five years old."

Lou DeMello, the Athletic Director at House of Sports, has seen more and more of Redendo as he camps out in the gym.

"He can really get a bunch of points in a hurry," said DeMello, never one to heap praise.

 "He's got a very good understanding of the game at a young age. He's got pretty good range, but his IQ and his passing ability is what stands out. He's been working at his body and getting stronger. He needs work defensively on the ball and off the ball. He's a gym rat and continues to want to get better."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Livingston Propels Rye In Title, Jubilant Fall Concludes At Yorktown


Rye High senior QB Andrew Livingston was everything he was billed to be, and then some, in last Saturday’s Section 1 Class A championship. The Brown-bound Livingston lit up the Mahopac sky, connecting on 8-of-11 passes for 257 yards and three TD passes in the No.1B Garnets’ 35-14 title triumph of No.1A Yorktown High.

Livingston also rushed for two TDs and moved the chains whenever he needed to with clutch completions and tough yards on the ground. In between, he set the Section 1 record for career passing yards (5,469) and won state-ranked (No.9) Rye (9-1) its first Section 1 title since 2008 when the Garnets moved from Class B to Class A.

He set the record on a 54-yard bomb, one of two heaves that would hit his WR Tim DeGraw in stride. Yale-bound DeGraw went for 183 yards and three scores.

Yorktown could not simulate this dynamic duo in practice unless they had brought in Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, so the Husker secondary was stunned by Livingston’s accuracy and DeGraw’s precision routes.

"Losing in last year’s championship (to Somers) was all the motivation we needed to come in and do our jobs this year," Livingston said after winning Rye’s 11th  Section 1 championship.

State-ranked (No.8) Yorktown (9-1) seemed to be cast as the star in an episode of Breaking Bad, because just about everything did break bad for Coach Mike Rescigno’s Huskers, including the opening kickoff, which, when launched on-sides, bounded off a Yorktown player and into the hands of a Garnet, giving Livinsgton the first of several short fields to work with. Little did anyone know it would be a portent of things to come.

"Some things happened that you can’t draw up," Rescigno admitted. "You can’t simulate what we saw tonight."

Rye would build a 21-0 halftime lead, which ballooned to 28 points when Livingston came out gunning to open the second half. The Huskers, stunned and battered, fought valiantly for four quarters, cutting the deficit to 28-6 after a five-yard TD rush from FB Tim Forbes. Husker QB Ryan Baker (12-of-27, 150 yards) later hit Forbes for a 24-yard scoring strike. Husker receiver Dan Delbene caught three passes for 51 yards

Yorktown junior RB Nick Santavicca, who plays with the heart of a lion, finished with 32 carries for 220 yards and three grabs for 45 yards, putting the finishing touches on a record-setting season.

"It’s tough going out like this," Santavicca said. "Livingston's got some arm. He really does. You can't really defend that."

Yorktown, which had its finest season since going 10-1 in 1998 and advancing to the NYS semifinals, will now turn its attention to what it does better than almost anyone in the country; preparing for lacrosse season.

With its almost impenetrable close defense having graduated, including standout All-Section goalie Austin Graham, All-American Austin Fusco and All-Section pole Chris Cunnington, the Huskers will simply reload and retool one of the finest defensive units in Yorktown history in an effort to repeat as NYS Class B champions. The 2014 football season, the best in 16 years, was the icing on the cake of what was an exceptional start to the 2014-15 school year.

Yorktown was buzzing this fall, having the kind of post-seasons we normally see each and every spring. Girls’ soccer and field hockey made deep runs into the playoffs and the boys’ soccer team and girls’ volleyball program made riveting runs to the Section 1 Class A finals before losing heartbreakers to Byram Hills and John Jay, respectively.

Slice it, dice it no matter how you spice it; Yorktown had it going on with yet another strong senior class leading the way and a core of underclassmen doing more than just blending in.