Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thursday December 27th

Good morning to all the serious hoops fans reading this blog. Lots of basketball stuff coming our way in the near future.

I would love to be in Charlotte NC for the 8th annual Bojangles Shootout sponsored by a local youth group headed up by Dell Curry and others. I think the name is Athletes for Youth or something similar. This great event has some very good local sponsors helping to cover the costs. The field includes Lincoln HS from Brooklyn and St. Benedict's from Newark. If all goes as planned the championship will be those two teams. If this happens I might just fly down for that game enjoy my future home area for a few days.

Who would win that game between two very good teams? Lincoln has great talent and an All American. St. Benedict's has great talent and an All American. Both have good leaders and coaches. Who would I pick as the winner? They both are winners based on the outstanding job that's done each year in the two schools. Both graduate kids and get them into nice colleges. Both are programs and not teams. Both play against the best so they are not running or hiding. So who wins the game? I would think St. Benedict's would win in a close one based on a better presence inside. But Lincoln will fight to the end and those tough Coney Island kids might surprise you.

Nice to see Hackensack HS is doing fine. Scooter Whiting has done so much in the past 15 years to help youth it's a pleasure seeing him getting it done at his old HS. Scooter was a shorter center playing for legendary Bergen County Coach Mel Henderson at Hackensack. All he did was WIN!!! He outplayed bigger, taller, and more talented players all the time. It's no surprise that he is doing well. I am sure Mel Henderson is very proud. I always wondered why a place such as Hackensack, with great facilities and a large student enrollment, did not have a PROGRAM. They won and were well coached in the past, but did not really have a program that sent kids to the D1 level. Teaneck, which is 1 mile away, sent over 7 players to Division 1 over a 4 year period to Hackensacks 1. That will all change now and the Williams kid going to Iona next season is just the start. Scooter understands how to build a program. FYI Scooter is also the Head Football Coach at Hackensack, HS as well. Not sure if any other school in NJ has this arrangement. That would be my only concern in regards to him making Hackensack hoops large.

In New York City it seems Rice HS just keeps rolling along. Now a little history on Rice HS. Rice is located in central Harlem on what was called Lenox Avenue and 124th Street. I know this area well because I grew up 7 blocks away. Just one avenue away (i block really) was where The American Gangster Frank Lucas, who lived in Teaneck, often hung out.

Rice HS when I was growing up was very diverse. Still remember all the different kids from all over NYC and even a few from Westchester getting off the subway at 125th street going to school. They turned out some great teams and players. Still remember the big guy who went on the Georgia from Rice many years ago. Also remember the first great player I ever met from my neighborhood who seemed different off the court based on his great gift of speaking and interacting with people from all walks of life. I could not believe this guy was the same player who made All City in NY (at a time they choose 5 guys city wide as opposed to the 30 or so they do now) 3 years in a row. Yes that person was Dean "The Dream" Meminger who along with Charlie Yelverton (Fordham great) led Rice into the championship with LaSalle Academy who had stars such as John Roach and Tom Owens, who both played at South Carolina for legendary coach Frank McGuire. There were many at Rice that went on to play D1 basketball including Billy Gilbert who now lives in Teaneck, NJ. Billy led the city in scoring and was 1st team All City before attending St. Johns to play for Lou Carnesecca. Billy now runs the Teaneck Biddy Program that has sent very good players to St. Benedict's, Paramus Catholic, and now Patterson Catholic. Though Teaneck is good imagine how good they would be with the players from Teaneck who play for those schools.

Rice continues to be great under Maurice Hicks the current Head Coach. Maurice might have attended Rice, but I am not positive. But he sure coaches there. And does a tremendous job. Maurice first became famous for winning a championship with Brandeis HS of the PSAL many years ago as a young coach who had recently graduated from Loyala of Baltimore. Everyone raved as he did something very unusual. He changed his defense 3 times in one crucial possession that confused the opposing team so much Brandeis stole the crown.

At Rice Maurice has done so well that Nike became a sponsor of the team. Each year they, like St. Patrick's , get new uniforms and lots of sneakers. Only the better teams nationally have real sneaker sponsors. The big 3 in NJ, a few in NY, Oak Hill, etc. Maurice continues to attract kids to Rice despite the fact the gym is the size of a large classroom. They have to find places to practice and play games. Yet, like St. Anthony's, they just continue to win.

Maurice now is the head guy of the NYC Gaucho's from what I understand. Not a coach there, just the administrator of the various programs. Because of this Rice plays games at The gaucho Gym, which when I last visited, was beautiful with the old NY Knicks floor.

No less that 25 D1 kids have played for Maurice Hicks at Rice. He continues to coach and guide his players the correct way while winning championships.

What Happened to Teaneck, Shawnee, Piscataway, Trenton and others who were good?

What happened to these teams? Some say the Catholic Schools are taking all the great young talent. I say ummmmmm! I think in a few cases the coaches seem somewhat burned out. The Teaneck Coach was a great one. He had his team play in NYC during the summer, and ran his club as a program. Teaneck, and the others were household names in NJ Hoops. Teaneck even went to the NJ Group 4 Championship around 6 times in 8 years. But the fire seems gone. I could only imagine how it would be with those kids from Teaneck, which is a small town, who attend Patterson catholic, and St. Benedict's. But than again, years ago kids dreamed about playing for Teaneck. I know my son did. I am sure it was similar at Piscataway when John Celestine played there or Shawnee when they had Malik Allen.

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