Perhaps the best player in the borough is Molloy's Wendell Gibson, who is already signed to attend Hofstra next year. Though it made the NCAA last year and might again this season, Hofstra is hardly big time basketball on par with the Dukes, Michigan States and Kansases of the world.
Not to denigrate Gibson's choice, for surely he will get playing time and recognition, but if Hofstra is the biggest school to pick up a Queens player this year, that alone says a lot about this crop.
There are good players, some of whom, like Molloy's John Sikiric, Francis Lewis' Damian Herard and Cardozo's Darryl Hill, seem to have their best days in front of them, but, as I said, no one is that dominating force of nature Queens basketball has become so accustomed to.
Lamar Odom, Erick Barkley, Omar Cook, Kenny Anderson, etc. - you name the best player in recent years and he would be head and shoulders above the field this season. Right out of the blue I can name several players from last year's graduating class who are playing major Division I ball, like Cook at St. John's University, St. John's Prep's Taliek Brown who is now at Connecticut, and Zack Williams, the former CK big man now with Ohio State. Those are big time schools and all three are starting this year as freshmen.
Of course, last year was an excellent year, above average in talent in my opinion. And this year's more level playing field probably means closer and more competitive games, and that is never a bad thing.
In the Catholic league this year Molloy looks like the best team talent-wise and Jack Curran is more than an able coach, but that doesn't mean the Stanners are going to run away with the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan crown. With Bishop Loughlin and Christ the King competing for the prize as well, nothing is a guarantee.
And all the way down through the division are teams seemingly capable of beating one another on any given night. Last year the Cook and Williams-led Christ the King team lost to Holy Cross, which boasted not a single Division I player, in the Brooklyn/Queens Tournament, an upset, in reality, which should not have been much of a shock.
For while certain teams seem to dominate the standings, the scoreboard tells another story. When there are no dominant players, games are closer, giving a team with somewhat lesser talent the ability to score the upset if things bounce their way.
It always seems to be like that in the CHSAA, where the last place team can be the first place team on any given day.
I like the look of this season because every team seems to be strong in a different position. The Princeton of the CHSAA, St. Francis Prep, has a very good big man in Rashad Bell, but is weak at the guard position, while McClancy has a solid point guard in Tremaine Stevens and Kevin Bishop down low. Christ the King is talented and well-balanced, but not overly big and neither is Cross, which also will rely on its point guard, Chris Fileti. Molloy, well, it has two standouts and the rest are supporting players.
The same cannot be said of the Public School Athletic League, which year in and year out seems to be dominated by a few schools. But this year things seem to be a little more even throughout the borough, thanks in part to the lack of standout players.
Cardozo is consistently among the best teams in the city and by default should get the nod to repeat as division champion, but it will not be easy. Van Buren is looking solid and Lewis is led by the 6-foot-6 Herard, making a repeat all the more difficult for Ron Naclerio and his team. And time will tell which of the other teams - Campus Magnet, August Martin, Bayside, Far Rockaway, Beach Channel or Lane - will challenge for a playoff sport.
Bryant leads the pack in Queens A-I thanks to the presence of Dashawn Warren, a legitimate Division I player with the likes of Iona and Quinnipiac taking a look. The Owls seemingly have the edge over several schools that are perennial Queens powers.
Newtown lost its best player Charlie Villanueva, who transferred to Blair Academy in New Jersey, thus hurting coach Pat Torney's team, though don't count out the Pioneers. Hillcrest should also be strong, leading the rest of the field which includes Forest Hills, Springfield Gardens, Jamaica, Edison and Cleveland.
Right now it's just too early to say which teams will win their divisions or which players will emerge as stars, but I did my best to handicap the Queens high school hoop scene. By season's end I hope to pull up this column and laugh at how wrong I was.
It certainly wouldn't be the first time I failed to pick a winner and probably won't be the last.
©2000 Community News Group
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