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Coaches locked out again at Wheelchair Classic

They are two of the best high school basketball players in Queens, but Holy Cross senior Miguel Gonzalez and Diego Aguiar, a senior from Bryant, have yet to lock up a coveted college scholarship.

Both players blossomed in their senior seasons; Gonzalez, a 5-foot-11 guard, led the CHSAA in scoring, averaging 22.1 points per game for a Holy Cross team that struggled, and Aguiar, a 6-foot-7 forward, helped lead the Owls to the Queens Borough Championship, averaging 24 points and 13.5 rebounds per game.

Neither player have received serious Division I offers and each hoped to showcase their talents in front of what is normally a bevy of big-time college coaches who attend the annual Wheelchair Charities High School Basketball Classic each spring.

But for only the second time in its 29 years, there were no college coaches in the stands at Long Island University Schwartz Center in downtown Brooklyn Monday night.

Because the New York State Public High School Athletic Association didn’t approve the classic and because the game was played during what is known as the dead period, when coaches are not allowed to watch recruits, it would have been an NCAA violation for coaches to attend.

“It's sad. There a lot of good players [here] and the NCAA is preventing coaches from seeing the kids they can help,” said Holy Cross coach Paul Gilvary, who also coached the Queens team with Newtown coach Pat Torney. “A lot of kids get hurt by the NCAA, but the McDonald’s All-Americans, nothing hurts them.”

Niagara, St. Peter’s and Chicago State expressed interest in Gonzalez during the year but barring a minor miracle, Gonzalez, who also led the Knights with five assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game, will be going to Southern New Hampshire University, a Division II powerhouse and the only school to offer a full scholarship.

“I’m kind of disappointed, but I still have a couple days to figure things out,” Gonzalez said. “It’s tough to be in school waiting for that call for a scholarship.”

Aguiar says Division I schools like Rutgers, Rider and Quinnipiac top his list, but he is still unsure where he will go to school. The Brazilian-born forward, who will take the SAT again May 4, also may attend junior college in the fall.

“I’m a little upset,” he said. “I wanted to play and showcase my skills when I have the opportunity.”

This isn’t the only time college coaches have been banned from watching the classic, which helps raise money for Coler-Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island. Two years ago, because of a paperwork snafu, coaches were turned away at the doors of St. John’s University’s Alumni Hall.

“I’m not thinking about [the college coaches]. The most important thing is helping the people in the wheelchairs,” said Hank Carter, Wheelchair Charities founder and CEO. “But we want [college coaches] in the building for the kids and the people in wheelchairs. To see someone like [Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski], that's a star to them.”

The City Game. The 32nd annual City Game, for high school basketball players with at least a 2.0 GPA, an 820 SAT score and who have yet to commit to a college, will be Tuesday at Hunter College. The girls game will tip-off at 6:30 p.m. and will be followed by the boys game at 8:30 p.m.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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