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Bosco’s Corner: Queens well represented in Division I

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And this team, comprised of players such as Anthony Mason, Lamar Odom, Mark Jackson, Ron Artest and Kenny Anderson, is a team I think can do pretty darn well in the professional ranks, certainly better than the current Chicago Bulls or Los Angeles Clippers. Cambria Heights native Rick Pitino would be coach, by the way.

But this year, more strikingly than in year's past, there seems to be a bevy of players with Queens roots currently toiling away on the Division I level in college basketball, both on the men's and women's sides.

There are no fewer than 49 men's players and at least 19 women's players competing in college basketball's elite division. That's quite a number considering the geographic constraints of the borough. Of course, separate Queens unto itself and you have one of the nation's largest cities, but that still doesn't take away from such a staggering number of players.

And we here at the Times-Ledger do our best to keep up with all of them in our weekly feature called College Round-up, a task made phenomenally easier thanks to Al Gore's invention of the Internet.

At our fingertips are the results and box scores of just about any Division I game you can mention. If I want to find out how Molloy grad Reggie Brown is doing with the Richmond Spiders, it's just a click away, as is Flushing's David Hilton latest game with Hawaii or Dona Nando at Miami.

But sometimes that isn't even necessary. Being that we're talking about Division I, not D II or D III, a lot of these games, even some of the smaller, lesser-known schools, are televised regularly. While we may not be able to catch August Martin's Leon Piper running with Delaware State on the tube, we can catch a lot of the locals and some of the bigger national programs.

Christ the King grad Zach Williams, now at Ohio State, will get plenty of air time here in the East, as has Royal Ivey of Texas by way of Cardozo, who has been on TV no less than three times already this year.

Of course, the job of hunting down a local hoopster on television is made a lot easier when said player attends a tri-state area school. St. Francis Prep's Drew Samuels, now of Marist, for example, or Holy Cross alum Yves Kabore at Wagner, can be seen quite a bit.

Just last weekend you could have caught four televised games with Queens players. For starters on Saturday, St. Peter's, which boasts three players and its coach from the borough, played Manhattan, followed by Fordham and St. John's, in which both rosters include former Queens stars. The next day Siena battled Marist, featuring the Red Foxes' Samuels, and South Florida hosted Texas, which featured Ivey. South Florida, by the way, has former Bayside standout Brian Yankelevitz as an assistant coach.

But as much as I might like to, making a dream team of these players is next to impossible. Because Division I is so diverse, from the Duke's of the world all the way down through schools like Quinnipiac and Wooford, the talent level is also very wide.

If I simply comb through the major schools or big-time D I programs, you have a great assortment of Queens players, like Molloy's Uka Agbai at Boston College, a 6-foot-8 sophomore who hits the boards hard, or Mark McCarroll at Pittsburgh, the 6-foot-10 Christ the King alum in his first year with the Panthers.

If you want bona fide Division I stars, well, Queens has them, too. Brian Woodward was simply tearing it up for Rhode Island before a knee injury sidelined him just a few games into his first season. Zach Williams is starting for the Buckeyes in just his freshman year and I barely need to mention what Omar Cook has done with St. John's.

(Just to clarify, Cook is from Brooklyn, but went to high school in Queens, which qualifies him and others for this list).

But perhaps the player from Queens with the best chance of winning a national championship this year on the Division I level plays for a women's team. Sue Bird, the former standout at Christ the King - where she hardly ever lost - is playing for the University of Connecticut Huskies, a team like her old one that almost never loses.

The majority of the women's players in Division I schools come from the high schools you would expect to produce top players - Christ the King, St. Francis Prep, Cardozo and August Martin - and most are playing at solid schools like Delaware, Cornell or Harvard. But there are exceptions, too, like Martin Luther's Rebecca Thompson, currently at Manhattan.

And I can't forget the coaches. Former Sunnyside resident Bob Leckie is at St. Peter's, Flushing's Eddie Fogler is at South Carolina, Ridgewood native John Kresse is at Charleston, Long Island City's Ray Martin coaches the Blackbirds of LIU, Steve Shurina of Woodside is at Western Carolina and Holy Cross grad Dennis Wolf coaches Boston University. And there are assistants as well, probably too numerous to list.

So the next time two college teams you never heard of are squaring off well past midnight on ESPN 2, stop and watch for a while. You might just see someone who lives up the street.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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