Friday, June 16, 2017

Larry Ready To Leave A Legend at Brooklyn Law & Tech

Larry Moreno’s skill-set and mental fortitude has always been a bit ahead of his time. 

As a smurf-sized 5-foot-6 14-year-old high school freshman at Brooklyn Law & Tech, Moreno flashed promise with an adroit, consistent left-handed 3-point stroke.

If there was an ounce of hesitance or jitters from the then-freshman, they weren’t visible.

Thrown into meaningful varsity minutes from the jump, Moreno attacked the rim and snaked his way along the baseline. He went right at the rim-protecting frontline, enduring the contact. The results weren’t nearly as pretty as his jumper. It was clear Moreno had some strength to gain and a long ways to go as a slashing threat.

Impressed with Moreno’s mental moxie and four quarters focus, Law and Tech coaches Micheal Levy and Kenny Pretlow mapped out lofty aspirations for the then neophyte.
 Moreno was unassuming.

He was invulnerable to challenges not suited for all 14-year-olds. Though pin drop quiet, Moreno made it clear he wanted the pressure. He wanted the ball during tense moments. Waiting his turn, so to speak, did not seem like a viable option in his eyes.

And that's exactly why this year means so much to the senior.

Now 6-feet-1 and dunking routinely with either hand, Moreno is the team's longest-tenured and most battle-tested. Moreno's most notable scoring spree occurred his sophomore year, when he averaged 30 points per game in the post-season.

 As a junior, Law & Tech ripped of 14 straight wins to kick-start the season. Finally the hunted ones and possessing the upper hand on the PSAL “A”, an embarrassing 58-57 loss to Walton in the championship left the program incensed.

Law and Tech connected on a fusillade of outside shots and interior buckets in the first half, building a 17-point lead. Walton whittled the deficit down to seven in the third quarter. During a sheer fourth quarter battle, Walton capped the massive comeback on a buzzer-beating putback. The dramatic game-winner sent Baruch College into a frenzy.

Mounting frustration has morphed into a mountain of motivation for Moreno, who has scored 1,300 points heading into his final season.

“He’s a gym rat, a basketball junkie, and he actually goes by the nickname 'The Dominican Mamba' because of his tenacity and toughness,” Levy said.
“The kid absolutely loves the game. He has an affinity for Kobe Bryant. He carries the trait of explosiveness and toughness."

He also carries a desire to atone for the monumental championship upset loss.

“As a senior, of course my focus is bouncing back from that terrible loss in the championship game," Moreno said.

"The focus, as always every year, is to win the chip. Now that I’m a leader, now that I’m a senior, it’s my job to do everything I can to not let my team lose. It’s something I’m preparing for every day.”

Squandering the double-digit lead, frittering away the championship they all but had tucked away in their Nike gym bags has lingered. It has Moreno in the gym.

When Moreno arrived at Law & Tech as a spindly and hungry (he was 135 pounds at the time, so he was hungry in both a figurative and literal sense) freshman guard, the team had lost significant scoring.

They had just graduated 6-foot-4 Matt Scott, a high-scoring and do-it-all lefty guard. Scott averaged 17 points, seven rebounds, and three assists at Niagara this past season. They also needed to fill the outside shooting void left by Juan Ramos, a quick-strike 3-point trigger man.

This memorable tandem was on its way out the door while Moreno was on his way in. Now facing the final chapter, Moreno will shoulder the scoring load and true point guard responsibilities. The veteran has scoring help from promising 6-foot-5 transfer David Grady, who has the tools and skill-set of a Division-I prospect.

“He’s a 6-foot-5 point forward who really knows the game, so he’s going to help us,” Moreno said of Grady.

“I’ve been playing with David for years now. Having him as a teammate for my senior season, man it’s just a blessing. Right now, he’s still getting more comfortable with the offense and how coach wants him to play.”

Moreno said the toughest challenge the past few months has been confronting the fact that he can’t always play in top form.

“Something that people don’t know is that I played the entire post-season despite a fractured finger,” Moreno said.

“After the championship game, I damaged it even more. The pain was a lot more than what it felt like originally. I was playing with my fingers taped together for the whole month, so the fracture was pretty bad.”

Having waited six weeks to take the cast off, Moreno’s finger is still in the process of healing. He’s incapable of bending it. It has a tendency to swell up when it gets hit.

Still, the injury has done nothing to deter his summer hoops jones. Though he had to avoid weight room work and was limited to putting mileage on the treadmill, Moreno readied himself for the off-season quickly. In addition to AAU, he’s played with Law & Tech in the Beacon. He will soon compete in Dean Street and MTG in Queens this weekend.

“When he first came in as a freshman he was a little weak, he couldn’t really go to the basket strongly or as strongly as he does now,” said Pretlow, who also coaches at Thomas Jefferson High School and has long been one of the most widely-respected coaches in New York.

“He could shoot it. But the one thing about Larry—his heart is actually bigger than he is. Between his freshman and sophomore years he really worked. He started doing some pushups. He was running, shooting, learning how to develop a tight handle. He came back as a sophomore stronger, able to really drive and finish. His jump shot really came along. He averaged 24 points as a sophomore, so it was a huge jump from his freshman and sophomore year.”

For Pretlow, who has known Moreno since he was 10, a major point of emphasis was converting him to the true quarterback role while utilizing both scoring and creating aspects.

“You see, Larry had always played off the ball,” Pretlow explained.

 “He had never really understood the whole stopping at the foul line, driving in and kicking out. He started picking up on it and he learned at a great pace. By learning to drive and kick and by adapting to a role where he’s setting his teammates up, he’s positioned himself to run the point next year.”

Pretlow said the addition of Grady gives Law and Tech an additional leg of offense.

“(Grady) gives us another guy who can handle the ball and supplement the fact that really, to stop Larry from scoring you have to double team him. Because he gets by people. So (Grady) will be another scorer. He’s going to add another rebounder, as we didn’t rebound the ball as effectively last year. Hopefully, he’ll be a double-double.”

Pretlow can still recall seeing Moreno as an eager 11-year-old in the middle school gym in which he ran a team.

They get to know each other when Pretlow showed him what he was doing wrong and pointed out a few flaws in his game and how to correct them.

When Moreno arrived at Law and Tech years later, Pretlow envisioned him playing a big role. He started to make contact with him. Soon enough, he helped Moreno get acclimated to the physical demands of the varsity.

While Pretlow can be demanding, in his ear relentlessly and tough, Moreno says this particular style of coaching has enabled him to thrive.

“Coach Kenny is a father figure to me and he always wants the best out of me,” Moreno said.

“Without him, my game is not where it is now. When I’m not performing at my best, he tells me about it. He always tells me when I’m on the court, I have to be the best basketball player on the floor at all times. That’s basically the mentality I need to have this summer.”