Thursday, August 28, 2014

Taekwondo Culture Blossoming In Yorktown

Taekwondo is not just a martial art--it's a way of life.

At W.S. Jeung's Taekwondo on 1889 Commerce Street, Instructor Seung preaches the essential components of the trade while instilling life values. The discipline, the cerebral mindset necessary in the heat of battle are vital.

If you are looking to morph into Bruce Lee's understudy overnight, a bolt-quick machine who will overtrain and know no limitations on work ethic, this is probably not the place for you.

If you want to develop an advanced skill-set and work diligently, absorbing this mixed bag of potent kicks, massive strikes, stamina, flexibility, endurance, gear-changing quickness and mental savvy.

The major difference separating a Taekwondo fighter from others of his/her ilk is they can execute a strike that is likely to be the final say in a sparring match.

Remember the classic 1990s-era video game, Mortal Combat? Remember how at the end of every matchup, the fighter has a "Finish Him" move?

That's what Taekwondo offers, a method of punishing the opponent with an end move. While Taekwondo is a far cry from a violent, street fighter-styled video game, there are benefits and positive draws to being able to defend oneself in the highest order.

Self-effacing others helped create the sport in the 1950s and 1960s in the South Korean military, a method of warding off intruders in eyeball-to-eyeball, one-on-one fashion.

Without it, many would not be alive. While the traditional Taekwondo was purely an art of self-defense, Sport Taekwondo increased in popularity, with a stronger emphasis on the competition aspect. Disciples of the imitable Choi Hong Hi carried out International Taekwondo.

 Another form, inherited from KUKKIWON, set the wheels in motion for an Olympic event.

Under Jeung, the respect and discipline aspect of the trade is ubiquitous. Every day, hordes of young men train and expend their defensive repertoire.

Since becoming established here in Yorktown, W.S. Jeung has cultivated a product that works.

Those who arrived lackluster and lackadaisical have walked out the door motivated and focused. Students once indifferent to training and unrealistic about Taekwondo have learned the basic tenets of the sport/self-defense, competing in high-level tournaments across the country.

This past spring, W.S. Jeung's launched locals such as Kiran Treacy-Hind, Hein Kim, Peter Kim(Somers), Dom Sanfardino(Yorktown), Matt Kim(Somers) to the World Class Division, where they were flanked by elite young talent.

Jueng continues to not only groom a steady boatload of grass-roots talent, but sell amateurs on Taekwondo and instill a tried and true toughness in would-be warriors.

This is a pressure-free environment designed to make one better and more proficient while serving as a dependable form of exercise.

 It's a little more exhilarating than jogging on a treadmill and pumping out weights, with more engaging competition and a better chance of increasing flexibility.

For more information on WS Jeung's Taekwondo and the Back To School Special, kindly visit their website and check out the company facebook page at www

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Uno En Uno With: Richie Campanaro

Yorktown has the most depth and wealth of experience in the trenches. Plenty of returners, such as Richie Campanaro, Justin Vega, and Logan Peters will enforce a hard-hitting brand.

 Yorktown's fleet of foot returns with a shifty, well-built back in Nick Santavicca, he of the potent local football bloodline.

The Huskers are also spearheaded by a mobile quarterback in Ryan Baker, who proved he can scamper during his junior campaign. Baker rolled up 539 yards on the carpet, bolstered by an offensive line laced with adequate tools for protection.

The manpower returns to provide ample space for Baker and several weapons in Mike Rescigno's arsenal to go to work.

We caught up with Richie Campanaro, a veteran captain who shoulders a high-order commitment to the family concept paralleling Yorktown football.

He's experienced signature, enthralling wins, as well as devastating, soul-sucking losses.

Now, the venerable Campanaro wants nothing more than to finish his final season with a bang, helping Yorktown stamp its imprint with hardware and team success that eclipses all expectations.

Campanaro ultimately wants to be remembered as a rugged group that will surely play hard--they know no other way under Rescigno...

ZS: How would you describe your role on this year's team and how do you embrace a captain/leadership position?

RC: My role on this year's team is to bring leadership and experience to the line. As a captain, I embrace the role by leading with example and helping the younger, up-and-coming guys with the plays and whatever else they might have questions about.

ZS: How about the guys in the trenches? How does the experience help shape a group of returning starter's? Where is the focus with this group?

RC: Our line is looking strong this year. We have returning players such as Logan Peters, Justin Vega, and myself. Our previous experience will help us become better this year and complement new guys that will play big roles on the line such as Joe Blume, Joe Costella, and Steven Veteri. Our line's focus is to just come out every game, mash people and make holes for our running backs.

ZS: What do you enjoy most about your position and what do you pride yourself in most on the field?

RC: My favorite part of my position, Guard, is knowing the importance the line plays to the game. On the field, I pride myself most in pulling, blocking, and making holes for our backs to run through.

ZS: What are the team goals and aspirations and what does this year's squad hope to accomplish?

RC: Our team goals for this season are to come out every game, mash people, and win every game. We take everything week-by-week, but one of our ultimate goals is to compete for and win a Section 1 championship.

ZS: How much camaraderie does this senior class have?

RC: Our senior class is definitely a very tight one. Our coach, Mike "House" Rescigno, preaches family and we really buy into it. We're a group of kids that have been playing together for a while now and we're really tight on and off the field. We practice and play hard together on the field and after we're just as close off the field.

ZS: What's the energy been like at practice, knowing this season is right around the corner and knowing this is it for the seniors?

RC: The energy at our practices have been great this week. Everyone is excited for the season. We've been counting down the days for a while now and not counting today, there's only 11 left.

ZS: THE CROP gives you a major advantage at home and even on the road. Do you expect this giant, traditionally-spirited group to go full throttle again this season?

RC: It's always great playing under the lights in front of a crowd as awesome as THE CROP. It really does give us a home field advantage, anywhere we go. I expect them to bring their best every game this year, like they always do.

ZS: A few rough ones last season. High-flying Rye and of course a thrilling overtime loss to Tappan Zee stand out. How eager are you guys to exact vengeance on TZ this season?

RC: Yeah, we still have a bad taste in our mouth from those games. The older guys especially, did not forget how it felt losing to them. We're looking forward to playing them again this year and getting a different outcome, but at the same time we are trying to take things week-by-week and are 100 percent focused on Eastchester in Week 1.

ZS: Favorite class at Yorktown High and why?

RC: If it counts, I'd have to go with lunch because we get to eat there but I'd say global history because my boy, Mr. Egan, teaches it.

ZS: Who has been the your inspirational figure throughout your career here?

RC: There hasn't been just one person it's been more of a combination of my teammates, parents, and all of my coaches who helped me become the player I am today.

ZS: Any future plans/aspirations as a student-athlete, if you can look that far ahead?

RC: I don't really have any plans yet. I'm living in the now and completely focused on football season, especially because it's my last.

ZS: What's the identity of this year's team?

RC: Our identity this year should be a hard-hitting team that can hurt you on the ground and in the air. Our QB, Ryan Baker definitely has improved his arm strength and will have good targets to throw to such as Dan Delbene and Max Costello.

Our backfield is also strong and filled with experienced players such as Tim Forbes, Nick Santavicca, Mike Dedvukaj, and Ryan Brandt who should be able to run the ball successfully with the help of the line.

ZS: Favorite spot to eat in Yorktown?

RC: Edwin's Deli, easily has the best chicken cutlet sandwich in all of Yorktown.

ZS: Favorite football movie?

RC: Friday Night Lights. It's a classic.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Hastings Native Capuano Under The Radar

Even as a third grader, Tom Capuano's overall basketball package seemed well, well, well beyond his years.

Feasting on meager competition, Capuano was in need of tuning up against the big dogs.

 Discovering the early strides in Capuano's game, the late Tunney Maher introduced him to Riverside and Gauchos AAU programs.

Maher died of cancer in 2010, leaving a legacy which saw him vault Hastings' St. Matthew's CYO program into the Rivertowns area's unrivaled factory for skill development, always grooming local grass-roots talent..

During the 2010-11 campaign, Capuano made Hastings' varsity as an eighth grader.

Typically in Section 1, varsity roster spots for eighth graders are reserved for elite company such as Jonathon Mitchell (Mount Vernon/Rutgers), Mike Colburn (Mount Vernon/Rutgers), and Melquan Bolding (Stepinac/Farleigh Dickinson).

Capuano immediately proved he wasn't in over his head.

During his first-ever varsity game, the then 13-year-old dropped 14 points and pick-pocketed three steals, operating as a knockdown shooter who took pressure off 6-foot-5, 265-pound man-mountain Ali Marpet.

That summer, Capuano was a staple in Hastings' Open Gym runs, training with program legends such as 6-foot-6 forward George Skrelja and 5-foot-11 point guard Jim Sugrue.

Skrelja was a First Team All-State selection in 2003, authoring one of the best single-seasons in program history as a senior. Skrelja would prolong his career at C.W. Post under Tim Cluess.

Sugrue, a Fourth Team All-State selection in 2003, is the all-time 3-point percentage leader at SUNY New Paltz.

Having rarely ever played age-appropriate, Capuano was again the youngest cat, plying his trade against grown men.

Iona Prep coach Vic Quirolo's ability to cater to players' strengths, his emphasis on spacing and ball movement, and relentless style helped lure Capuano in.

"I knew Iona Prep had a great basketball program and would give me the challenges in competition," said Capuano.

"Coach Vic doesn't let up at all on coaching us and teaching us the game. He also allows us to be free to play to our strengths and help the team the best way that we can."

He's formed a radiant troika alongside Notre Dame-commit Matt Ryan and hotly pursued, cerebral point guard Ty Jerome.

He of the flair for the end game, Jerome has budding interest from Columbia to Virginia to Davidson, his supreme handles and long-range shooting spurring his ascension of the Division-I food chain.

Ryan, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound 3-point assailant who chose Notre Dame over Duke, Michigan and North Carolina, missed most of the 2013-2014 campaign due to impingement with torn labrums on both sides.

Ryan had a similar beyond-his-years development as Capuano.

Deft, long-range shooting ability torched the nets at the Brewster Sports Center when Ryan was in fifth grade, rendering him a child prodigy. By the time Ryan reached seventh grade, he was the starting point guard on Hen Hud's J.V. team.

Forced to shut it down for the season, Capuano knew a larger role was expected of him.

"Matt going down forced me to be a lot more aggressive offensively and take more control of games," said Capuano, who scored 21 points and ripped six boards in Hudson Valley's end-to-end 103-63 trouncing of Central in the 2014 BCANY championship.

"I was called on to score a lot more and take control of games."

Did the experience make him better?

"I'm always looking to get better, I'm always working on all aspects of my game because I always need to improve. I have really improved shooting the ball off the dribble and finishing at the rim."

Division-I programs are beginning to take note of Capuano, the least acclaimed recruit bordering Ryan and Jerome.

Though he's yet to land a Division-I offer and many project him as a high D-II recruit, Capuano's recent work may have several programs re-evaluating.

Bryant, of the Northeast Conference, has watched him play throughout August. Harvard has also been in steady pursuit, with plans to attend workouts and games during Capuano's senior season.

Against Central in the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival's opener, Capuano used his strength to force George Washington-bound, high-scoring guard Jordan Roland off screens.

He got into Roland's chest, providing little breathing room and rendering him a pin drop quiet factor during that second half. This helped Hudson Valley run away with it, en route to a 12-point victory.

 Capuano forced Roland, who scored 10 first half points with relative ease, into errant and off-balanced shots.

The game plan was to kill the head, which typically results in the body dying down with it.

 Capuano's straitjacket job on Roland, one of New York State's elite scoring guards, set a loud, overwhelming tone for a Hudson Valley conquest. Hudson Valley won the tournament, shellacking foes by 33-point average margin of victory.

Capuano went on a 3-point shooting spree in the championship game, depositing Rickey McGill's dishes with straight-away and corner sniping.

A basketball bloodline allows Capuano to keep a monstrous work ethic intact.

His father played on Hastings' memorable 1980 squad, as the Yellow Jackets swarmed into the New York State Final Four as a sleeper team.

His cousin, former Hastings assistant coach Pat Capuano, was a deadeye spot-up shooter at Hastings High from 2003-2005. His other cousin, Joe Tino, was a key cog in the paint for the Yellow Jackets several years ago.

"Pat's always pushing me to be better and keep working on my game no matter what," said Capuano.

Nurturing Capuano's production tree has been Westchester basketball instructor Chris Ward, who has churned out a steady wave of local talent and helped form a virtual launchpad for NCAA-bound players.

Ward, who works extensively with Capuano and coaches him throughout the AAU circuit, has spurred his growth.

Capuano walked in as strictly a knockdown shooter.

 Now he's jack of all trades style enforcer, placing staunch emphasis on his defensive energy and ability to get his teammates involved.

Capuano turned in a workmanlike 20-point performance against plenty-tough Bishop Loughlin, back-boned by top-tier guards in Rutgers-commit Mike Williams and Khadeen Harrington, who will join playmaking Isaiah Whitehead and sky-riser Desi Rodriguez at Seton Hall.

Capuano led an injury-smeared Gaels with 21 points during a loss to Stepinac, with Jerome and Ryan relegated to the role of spectator while draped in street clothes.

Ryan didn't meet Jerome until he was 16. Capuano and Jerome, however, have a tight bond stemming back quite a few years.

"I knew Ty since third grade and he was one of my close friends," Capuano said.

 "It helped having that chemistry on the court with him and we both know how we play, very well."

On the court, Capuano is laser-focused and strictly business. You'd be hard-pressed to find a word or two of trash talk.

Off the court, he's a clown wearing Nikes and basketball warmups.

"He's one of the funniest kids I've ever been around," said Ryan of Capuano.

Jerome, Ryan, and Capuano will be back next season, with the goals so crystal clear and obvious they nearly fall off the page.

"Winning the championship is our goal," Capuano said.

WCC's Montero A Marked Man During Summer Sweepstakes

When Dominican wunderkind Luis Montero arrived at Westchester Community College during the second semester, head coach Tyrone Mushatt gave the 6-foot-9, 190-pound guard/wing as colossal a green light as any player he's had.

Employing an offense akin to Tex Winter's fabled Triangle, Mushatt threw in a wrinkle enabling his top three players to operate on one side of the rim.

This entailed Quinnipiac-bound Gio McLean to subscribe to more of a facilitator's role, locating Montero off the ball and engendering a high-low game as he fed 6-foot-8 St. John's-commit Keith Thomas inside.

The offensive shift helped catapult McLean to the upper percentile of the nation's assists and assist-to-turnover leaders. It also helped Montero roam freely off the ball, dicing defenders off the bounce and pulling up from NBA 3-point territory.

Montero, who has high expectations and hype mirroring Felipe Lopez and Luis Flores during their heyday in the Dominican Republic, lived up to his lofty billing.

He erupted for 31 points during a thorough 113-86 thrashing of Rockland Community College back on Feb. 11.

He piled up 58 points during the final three games of the season, helping lift the Vikes to a 28-4 record and a berth in the JUCO national tournament for the first time since 1996.

Montero dropped 19 points during Westchester's soul-sucking and exasperating OT loss to Wallace State in the national tournament. While the loss made for a brutal trip home from Hutchinson, Kansas to Valhalla, N.Y., Montero's stock exploded.

He earned an uptick in interest from the army of high-major coaches in the building, several of whom were doubling and tripling up on their interest with Thomas and McLean.

"He (Montero) changed us completely when he arrived this season," Mushatt explained. "We were good. He made us great. Everyone wants a guy similar to Luis' style because he can play like a guard. He's a better defender than people think."

Now he's a more heavily hounded recruit than most people thought and envisioned.

Alabama has been there from the very start and is on the prowl.

West Virginia has been calling Westchester's coaching staff at a frantic and furious pace. Mountaineers assistant coach Larry Harrison is busting out every recruiting tool in the shed.

St. John's, which recently penned Thomas, is also going guns-a-blazing to draw the rising sophomore.

SMU and well-traveled former NBA coach Larry Brown have now jumped in the mix, providing a late sales pitch.

Montero is wide open. Schools in most aggressive pursuit of Montero, including Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State and South Florida, are eager to get him on campus.

There is no clear favorite in sight yet.

South Florida head coach Orlando Antigua, who supplanted Stan Heath following the Steve Masiello firestorm, was a finalist for the 23-year-old Thomas.

Antigua has been a close friend of Mushatt's since they were 13 years old. Both coaches played at Bronx power St. Raymond's, under then-coach Gary DeCesare.

Thomas, who averaged a 15.3 points, a JUCO-best 15.7 rebounds, and shot a blistering 65.4 percent from the field, chose SJU for its proximity and the opportunity for an instant impact in the front court, a jarringly urgent gap for the Johnnies following the 2013-14 campaign.

The triumvirate of Thomas, McLean, and Montero helped put Westchester Community back into the realm of JUCO relevance.

The Vikes hadn't had this level of national visibility and mega-interest since 2008-09, when heavily-courted 6-foot-11 Center Jarrid Famous chose South Florida over Seton Hall, PITT, Arizona, and countless others.

"I think learning how to play with each other was key," said McLean, who averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 assists (third in NJCAA) and five boards, including a 34-point game on 13-of-20 FG during the aforementioned Wallace State loss.

"Sometimes you are going to have arguments and bumps and bruises down the road. We kept that to a minimum. The chemistry allowed us to play the way we did."

Ferocious and acrobatic finishing, an adroit left hand, prodigious handle (especially at 6-foot-9), as well as shot creation and an innate scoring engine promises to make Montero the focal point of scouting reports in 2014-15.

Mushatt said he's toyed with the idea of having Montero run the point.

Ultimately, he doesn't want to sap any life out of his scoring.

That's the issue Montero will create during his final season at Westchester; he can wear multiple jerseys without getting too enamored with one area.

A late growth spurt helped spur Montero' ascension of the national recruiting food chain. He went from 6-foot-7 to 6-9, without shredding a trace of his flashy guard instincts.

"He thinks he's 6-feet," Mushatt deadpanned.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Uno En Uno with: Ryan Baker

ZS: How do you describe your excitement and emotions heading into this season, being a senior now having that varsity experience factor under your belt?

RB: I honestly can say that I’ve never been more excited for anything in my life. Most people would think that my favorite sport is lacrosse, but they couldn’t be more wrong. It is 100% football. Knowing that this is my last season strapping my pads up, it really helps myself and the other seniors to really get fired up and lead by example for the others.

ZS: Last year, you were among three potential candidates for the starting QB job. You had to fight your way through, you had to platoon at one point. What aspects of your game have improved. In which ways have you prepared for an enhanced role?

RB: Knowing that I’m the number one guy really has boosted my confidence. My throwing game is definitely the aspect that has increased drastically. So, be prepared for some deep balls thrown.

ZS: You’ve been airing it out a lot more. Even during lacrosse season, when you guys were in between state playoff runs, you found some time to sling it. How much time did you commit the off-season to sharpening up your arm and developing into a deep ball threat and what steps did you take to make the transition?

RB: My boys and I would always be throwing during lacrosse season. Whenever we had time off on the weekends, or even after practice, we would go out to the turf and just throw. Getting a little bigger is definitely a reason why my arm has increased as well.

ZS: Of course, the focus is always on the opponent that particular week. Still, the beef will be cooking for Week II, when you guys renew the border town rivalry with Somers. What’s your thoughts/emotions on that game, if you could think that far ahead now?

RB: Obviously our focus has been Eastchester all summer, but the atmosphere during Week II will be insane. Ever since we were little, we’ve had beef with Somers in all sports. They’re the two time defending Section 1 champs, coming to our house. It will get rowdy.

ZS: Who is expected to step into more pivotal roles, filling the gaps? Who will seize the leadership reins for this youth-laden squad?

RB: Recently we named two more captains, Ryan Brandt and Mike Dedvukaj. So now the captains are those two, Richie Campanaro, Dan Delbene, Tim Forbes, and myself. All of us have really taken on the leadership roles but all the seniors are respected.

ZS: You guys survived on speed last year with yourself, Eric Meyreles, Nicky Bonitatibus, and Kris Alvarado. Should we expect much of the same this season, hellfire speed from small but shifty backs?

RB: No doubt, you should expect the same exact thing. Nicky Santavicca, Scott Weaver, Jose Boyer, and myself will bring the same exact speed if not more. We also have Ryan Brandt who will absolutely crush you if you try to tackle him. He will be feared by all defenders. Even with all this, we have guys like Timmy Forbes and Mike Dedvukaj, who bring both sped and the ability to bulldoze you.

ZS: Any particular pre-game traditions or methods to get hyped?

RB: I have to have my Subway sandwich before every game. All of us pretty much just get in the locker room hours before the game with our food and just let the DJ’s of the team do their thing.

ZS: Any good beats blaring through your IPOD before the game? You in there bumping the Eminem and Lil Wayne on full blast or what?

RB: Oh, no doubt. I’ve always got that going. Personally, I listen to a variety of music before each game. They could range from Biggie smalls to a country song…

ZS: Who has been the most inspirational figure for you, athletically? Who has played the support role for you these last few years, which saw you become a starting QB and win a state championship and commit to a Division-I lacrosse program in UMBC?

RB: I don’t know if I could choose one person. There are so many people that have made me who I am today which include all my coaches and my parents.

ZS: You had your fair share of doubters last year, folks who said you were too small and wouldn’t be able to withstand the punishing hits. Did that affect you at all, did it supply any motivation?

RB: Of course. Even some college coaches, for lacrosse, wouldn’t give me a chance because of my size. I believe that my toughness and athleticism makes up for it. I probably had the season I did last year because of all the people that said I couldn’t do it. Proving all them wrong definitely felt really good.

ZS: Your parody Twitter account, “Not Ryan Baker,” is quite the entertainment. What’s your thoughts on that? Does it sound like this guy could be mistaken for you in a parallel universe?

RB: It’s probably been a year since that started. Nobody still has any idea who it is running the account. Whoever it is definitely knows me really well and even tweets during some games from The Crop (laughs).

ZS: Yorktown, like many places up North there, has a lot of football players who double as LaXers. How much does that help you guys mesh on the field, especially after winning a state championship together in June?

RB: All of our coaches preach that we should play multiple sports. Winning the state championship was an awesome experience and it really motivates me to experience the same success with my football team even more.

ZS: If you were magically able to pick and choose this team’s legacy, what would you want this team to be remembered for?

RB: Definitely the toughness of our team. And our ability to never give up, facing adversity.

ZS: Goals and aspirations for the season?

RB: We expect nothing less than a section title. Everyone has bought into it and we know that we have to work to achieve it. One thing about our team is that we’re not afraid to work because we know that good things happen in the end.

Smoovment Continues On Mamaroneck Ave.

The "Smoovment" continues tonight, as 914's newest brand name DJ hits Mamaroneck Ave.

Executing his grand plans to churn out soul-enriching music, Smoov is armed to the teeth with a library-load of beats.

Go ahead and request your favorites, your go-to jams.

Come with the play list handy, request those classics, originals, club bangers, everything ranging from Hip Hop to House to Rock N' Roll to rasta music. Anything and everything in between.

Don't get it twisted. DJ Smooth is the homegrown product, the glossy young spinner hell-bent on redefining the once-ailing White Plains nightlife.

He's taking those popping party pads back to the memorable epoch, the good ol' days.


It starts tonight.

Come through.

THOSE OF AGE, cleanse the soul and cut off any lingering stress with rapid-fire shots of FIREBALL, only $3 a pop at Copper Face Jacks on 166 Mamaroneck Ave.

You can bet your bottom buck Smoove will be electrifying the joint, altering the landscape of the nightlife in ways only household emcees/Deejays like Jimmy Soul are capable of.

Consider Smoov the newest, not an "up-and-coming" prodigy but a "right now" mainstay.

Raised by the ROADHOUSE, Smoov is a musical operator--  tasked with engineering a new era of music and ramped up entertainment that few can simulate.

Join the Smoovement Tonight! Don't get left in the dust tracks.

Blockbuster nights (yawn), staying in (yawn), and little "get togethers" are the social lives of the old, frail, and lonely.

Live a little. Come up for air. Accept a release from your Thursday night Cave.

Come through White Plains tonight, where the Roadhouse-bred SMOOV will kick off Black Bear. The Smoovement will not be complete without the entirety of the crew, so bring the whole clique thick.

Bless your eardrums to the vast array of beats now permeating SMOOV's walls, a new flavor tailor-cut for a new era.

The Smoovement will not be televised. Come through and experience it live. Bring White Plains back to its Pax Romana, an unrivaled period of prosperity.

Epic times await.

Twist it up, drink it up, savor the Thorough Thursday nightlife. If you can't pull something here, well.....A re-evaluation is necessary!

More importantly, join our man DJ SMOOV at Black Bear and Copper Face Jacks on Mamaroneck Ave tonight. #Itson #Bout2getpopping #smoovement #Comethrough #DEEJAY

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quinnipiac Should Retire No. 0

DeMario Anderson sported the number 0 as an ode to Gilbert Arenas, the furious-scoring Washington Wizards guard.

 The facilitator who sped up  Quinnipiac's ascension from lowly, underachieving Northeast Conference stomping mat to reputable MAAC program with a ramped up recruiting base, Anderson's respect is much due. 

Quinnipiac must do the right thing.

 Don't argue with history.

 Retire his jersey. 

No questions asked.

 No political process. No walls to permeate. No long, arduous process to ensure it happens. No stockpile of paperwork to sift through. No committee meetings with University power brokers or lame voting system. Unnecessary. Look at the numbers, look at the tape. Look at the ESPN top ten plays, the week of Feb. 28, 2008. 

Get it done.

Anderson became a household name synonymous with Quinnipiac basketball during an era of unexpected urgency. 

The Bobcats had just moved from a creaky, shoebox-sized gym into a dazzling and delectable 3,500-seat arena, undoubtedly the most effectively seductive recruiting tool a program of that caliber has to offer.

And therefore Anderson's No.0 must be retired, hanging from the rafters of the building he helped  plant the seeds for while doling out tickets on name recognition alone. 

Buoyed by Anderson's play-making, paced by Anderson's veteran savvy and nose for the rim,  Quinnipiac's freshly-minted coaching staff and callow squad of maddeningly inconsistent underclassmen granted him some ownership of the Bobcats. 

Anderson was the poster boy for a program entertaining much-needed culture change. Quinnipiac had been thirsting for a conference championship, leaning onto  a long shot of an NCAA tournament berth. 

 Anderson was on the cover of an I-95 billboard for the $52 million TD Banknorth Sports Center. You can't alter a program's perception without a star piece. 

Retire DeMario Anderson's jersey. 

Turning a blind eye to this would be a complete disservice to an unrivaled University  legacy. 

Anderson helped lift the Bobcats out of a 2-9 slide to start the 2006-07 season, surfacing as a scorer who could survive and thrive with hustle points, jumpers, and electric displays of high-rising athleticism. 

Bolstered by Bronx-bred Adam Gonzalez, a tactical point guard stoked with a calming poise and knack for big shots (37 points on Sacred Heart, deep game-tying 3-pointer in tight loss to UCONN at Storrs), Anderson engineered a late-season push.

 Alongside crafty 6-foot-7 lefty Chris "Six" Wehye and bruising undersized 6-foot-5 Center Vic Akinyanju, Anderson's ascension ended an era of disinterest. Basketball was finally on the same plane as nationally-recognized hockey, years after meddling in obscurity and severe disinterest.


True story.

 DeMario Anderson sauntered into a restaurant on Whitney Ave. in Hamden, CT, sporting a black fitted hat with “D.C.” emblazoned on the front. Suddenly, the Oxon Hill, Md. native encountered two model-slender and alarmingly pretty young women.

“Can I just shake your hand?” asked one woman, her eyeballs blazing a la mini-fireballs.

Anderson, “D.A.” to the blossoming basketball culture at Quinnipiac, responded with his hallmark ear-to-ear smile. Taken aback, Anderson trickled into laughter.

 When Anderson asked why they sought his permission (he would later explain no one ever asked to shake his hand), one of the smoke-shows was quick to answer:

 “Because you’re like… famous.”

Innate scoring and an uncanny ability to thrive in the fiend-like face of adversity. These two factors helped Anderson skyrocket to small-school stardom.

Anderson was that dude. He’s 6-3 (maybe 6-3 and change) with a penchant for losing defenders off the dribble and scoring buckets by the bunches.

 Because of this, Anderson—who cooked opponents to the recipe of 21.7 points and 6.5 boards per game his senior year—should have the same relevance of other program legends such as Burt Kahn.

Anderson’s collegiate career began at Central Connecticut, included a pass through in New York City, and ended in storybook style at Quinnipiac, Central’s traditional blood rival.

Anderson averaged 15 ppg for Spotter Leuven in Belgium’s professional basketball league. 

Senior Standout

Despite his function as the Bobcats’ clear go-to-guy, a wing whom they featured nearly every game, Anderson peddled a team-high 91 assists as a senior in ‘07-08.

Tom Moore, the former UConn assistant (Moore served as the Associate Head Coach during his final two years under iconic NCAA tyrant Jim Calhoun), was sold on Anderson’s upside since he opted to take the $350,000 Quinnipiac job in March of 2007.

Moore wanted, from the jump, to revolve the system around getting the well-built guard/forward off the ball, capable of attacking and hunting for his shot.

“You become mercenary and see what type of hand you’ll be dealt if you do decide to take a job,” explained Moore in an interview with the New Haven Register.

 “I knew what I was getting from him. I wanted to give him some ownership of this team, that’s how much I thought of him. He made this year seamless for me, and I’ll always be indebted to him for that.”

Ready to erupt with his arsenal moves off the dribble and slashes to the cup, Anderson created matchup problems for nearly every team in the Northeast Conference.

“DeMario is a better than a lot of Big East players,” opined then-Robert Morris Coach Mike Rice, who was pink-slipped out of Rutgers for abusive behavior. 

 Bobcats on the Map 

Quinnipiac, a hockey hotbed flooded with El Aziza hot young females (always has been), was striving for national visibility since the University shelled out A-Rod money on the TD Banknorth Sports Center. The 3,500-seat arena dwarfs those of conference foes and would be fitting for an A-10 or MAAC school. 

It sits atop a hill, offering scenic views of New Haven and Long Island Sound.

Moore, running on his recruiting credibility established at UConn (see Butler, Caron or Gordon, Ben for more details) became the first coach in Anderson’s traveled five-year career to fully utilize the talent which cracked the surface.  Anderson went to Global Institute in Manhattan for a year, sitting out to circumvent an NCAA rule that prevents a player from transferring schools in the same conference.

Former coach Joe DeSantis’ system featured a motion offense that emphasized crisp ball movement and perimeter shooting. 

Under Moore, Quinnipiac was catalyzed by defense. Netting Justin Rutty, a 6-foot-7 professional out of Newburgh, helped guard the rim.

Anderson played in the wake of grief his junior year.  Just a few months after arriving on campus via Central, Anderson’s mother, Lisa Duncan, died of cancer.

Anderson struggled getting acclimated to the new system. His initial impact was not what was projected. He was better than he was showing, clearly.  Through the first 10 games, he was locked in an unusual role of cast member.

“We still haven’t seen the real DeMario Anderson,” QU radio commentator Billy Mecca would say.

Then one Saturday in December of 2006, Anderson hung 20 points on Vermont. Getting hot in spurts and using that blend of aggression, hustle and surefire hops, Anderson took off.

The then-junior averaged 22.3 points over the final six games of the regular season. The image was suddenly altered, for the first time since 2002. 

 Anderson's evolution as the Bobcats’ feature player had the slowly growing basketball culture buzzing. 

He managed to do all this despite popping off the bench as the team’s sixth man. 

During Anderson's senior year, Moore swooped in and ripped the straightjacket off D.A.’s back. The Bobcats’ offense allowed Anderson to execute the freelance moves that makes Anderson such a hard-to-guard, go-to-the-bucket threat.

 It was under Moore that Anderson’s game truly flourished, as he fled from a cloud of obscurity.

The University got what it wanted at the near-conclusion of the season.

Anderson avenged a loss at Central Connecticut by propelling the Bobcats to an overtime victory in pulsating fashion. With the score deadlocked at 73, Anderson launched a buzzer-beating, half-court prayer that splashed through the net, sending the gym into a frenzy. 

He then ran out of the Detrick Gymnasium, his teammates giving chase, to celebrate the glory.
The game-winner would shoot to No. 1 on Sports Center’s “Top Ten Plays” that Feb. 28 night. It later became a finalist for Pontiac’s Game-Changing performance.

Not bad for a kid who didn’t play organized ball until his junior year of high school, when he was employed as an energetic spark plug off the bench.

 At Oxon Hill High, the alma mater of former professional Michael Sweetney, Anderson re-wrote the record books. He immediately surfaced as one of Maryland’s top prep players garnering an All-County selection and an invite to the Capital Classic.

And so  basketball junkies around the country were voting amongst game-changing plays made by first-class schools like North Carolina, Memphis, Indiana, Stanford, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, and suddenlyQuinnipiac.

Elite company for a school that didn't turn Division-I until the 1998-1999 campaign and once played in a middle school gym.

Anderson’s eye-popper allows the school situated in the suburbs of New Haven County to be recognized for more than just the aforementioned political polls, prestigious Physical Therapy department, and nationally ranked hockey team.

Enhancing the Image

When a school has grows by leaps and bounds as quickly as Quinnipiac—once the tiny, Division-II liberal arts school—high expectations, hype and hearsay tend to brew around campus faster than a freshman beer fest on MAY weekend. 

In an 85-63 dumping of Dartmouth back in December of 2007, Anderson used a compilation of mid-range jumpers and quick slashes to the hole to help blood-letter the Big Green.

 He finished with 27 points in 27 minutes. Against Cornell, Anderson turned in a 20-point showing—in the second half.

Against Sacred Heart mid-way through the season, Anderson scored 30 and had a hand in virtually every play. It was a down-to-the-wire clash that culminated in video game fashion. When the Pioneers’ Drew Shubik drained a trey, Anderson would answer with a trey of his own. 

When Shubik got free for a lay-in, D.A. would knife through two defenders and complete a reverse layup. In the end, however, the D.A. Transit ran out of gas as the Bobcats suffered a dizzying one-point loss.

“I’m not even going to vote for Player of the Year,” said Moore after that game. “I’m just going to send the [game] tape in. If he doesn’t get [Player of the Year], that would just be criminal.”

Dickenman Saga: Squashing the Beef

Anderson emerged into Central Connecticut’s leading scorer as a sophomore, averaging 14 points. He turned in a Godzilla-like, 32-point eruption against, oddly enough, Quinnipiac.

But Anderson’s career as a Blue Devil would hit a major pothole after a scholarship dispute with head coach Howie Dickenman was thrust to the forefront.

 At the end of his sophomore year at Central, Anderson asked to be released from his scholarship. Dickenman, who, like Moore is a Jim Calhoun disciple, refused to meet his wish.

“There isn’t really any hard feelings between us [anymore],” said Anderson, who’s still tight with former Blue Devil guard and 2007 NEC Player of the Year Javier Mojica, who played professionally in Puerto Rico.

“He (Dickenman) just never let me out. That got real personal because it not only changed my basketball future but my academic future as well. It made it real difficult. I thought it was unheard of. Me and my family now understand what type of coach he was.”

Dickenman maintains that there’s another side to it. He explained to the New Haven Register that Anderson didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to appeal the decision. 

“I don’t think [Anderson’s decision to transfer] had to do with him bumping heads with coach really,” said Justin Chiera, the former three-point assassin for Central Connecticut. 

“He just wasn’t happy [at Central], it was a personal decision of his. That’s the real reason why he left. As far as how his career went, I honestly think he would have done his thing either way, had he stayed at Central. Just having him on the court was such a luxury, because with D.A., there’s just so much he can do when the rock is in his hands.”

Handling Adversity

You’ll find that few facts of life, no matter how scathing, can infect the fun-loving Anderson.

He was forced to be extremely self-reliant in the months following his mother’s death.
He was 22 at the time, getting acclimatized to a new environment, a new coaching staff, and a new situation.

 Just like when he was a teenager occasionally ducking bullets on the hardscrabble playgrounds from which he materialized, Anderson soldiered on.

He knows he was blessed.

 “She just gave me this gift,” Anderson said. “I got to pursue it as hard as I can.”

His senior year, he carried a photograph of his mother with him every away game. Anderson has also been instrumental in the upbringing of his younger sister, Parris. He has her name inked on his right arm.

His senior season, Anderson lost his grandfather and was forced to miss a pair of games against Wagner and Monmouth. 

After returning to Connecticut from the funeral, Anderson responded in the wake of grief (once again), pouring in 25 points while inhaling 11 boards in a loss to Sacred Heart.

D.C. Pipeline

Anderson, along with then-teammates Louis Brookins (who’s since graduated), Jeremy and Evann Baker, all hail from the DC-area.

 Former Quinnipiac forwards Akinyanju and Kevin Jolley, also from Maryland/DC areas, are having prosperous careers over the waters.

Exactly when DC became the Quinnipiac pipeline is still open to question. 

Most people can date it back to Rob Monroe, the trigger-happy 5-10 guard. Monroe, who occasionally went off for 40-spots his senior season, became one of the NCAA’s elite scorers. An legitimate all-around offensive threat, Monroe also cracked the nation’s upper crust in the assists-per-game category, in his final season (‘04-05) with the Bobcats.