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Bosco’s Corner: Fans start clamoring for Naclerio

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Ron Naclerio has become a hot topic lately among St. John’s University basketball fans. The head coach of the successful Cardozo High School boys’ basketball team has become the write-in favorite to be the next assistant coach on the men’s hoop team among posters on one Web site dedicated to SJU athletics.

Of course, that doesn’t mean much, not in the grand scheme of things. First, there is not a coaching vacancy. Kevin Clark, Mike Jarvis II and Dermond Player are all still at the school and, despite several rumors hinting to the contrary, they will likely all be back next season.

Second, head coach Mike Jarvis doesn’t take cues from anyone when it comes to hiring. He will hire whom he wants, someone he thinks will benefit the program both in terms of basketball knowledge and the ability to recruit.

Naclerio fits that bill. Whether or not you like the man — and there are detractors out there — Ron Naclerio knows basketball. He played the sport at Cardozo when he was a student and later on the St. John’s junior varsity team, when there was such a thing.

Naclerio was also a heck of a baseball player, leading the NCAA in steals one season at St. John’s, a team that also included Frank Viola and John Franco. He later played ball in the minors before an ankle injury cut short his dreams of playing in the major leagues.

That’s when he turned to teaching. For years Naclerio taught at one of the toughest junior high schools in all of New York City, IS 8 in South Jamaica, all the while coaching basketball at his alma mater in Bayside.

But that is just the surface stuff. Anyone with the right kind of research materials can tell you that. Naclerio’s influence on countless inner city youths is incalculable, as is his knowledge of every strip of asphalt with a rim on the five boroughs.

If you want to know just how ingrained city hoops are with Naclerio, track down a copy of the book he co-wrote with John Valenti called “Swee’ Pea and Other Playground Legends,” which chronicles the up-and-down basketball saga of the legendary Lloyd Daniels. And if you have never heard of Daniels, get the book. It’s worth the read.

The basketball team at Cardozo has become one of the elite public school programs in the city under Naclerio’s tutelage, producing two NBA players, Duane Causwell and Rafer Alston, not to mention dozens of Division I players, including Duane and Brian Woodward and current Texas University standout Royal Ivey.

Cardozo also won the PSAL city championship in 2000.

Naclerio also works as a contributing editor for Hoop Scoop magazine, a publication dedicated to assessing high school and college talent.

Every now and again Naclerio’s name has appeared on the radar when various coaching positions have become available. In 1996 Naclerio’s name surfaced as a possible assistant at St. John’s when Fran Fraschilla took over the coaching duties. That obviously never happened, but he has somehow kept his name in the running for a position, so much so that fans have taken up the cause.

On the Web site www.Redmen.com, Naclerio’s name has been appearing more and more frequently lately as the next in line for an assistant’s position. Fans have been citing his ability to recruit the top metropolitan area players, as well as his love of the school and program of which he was once a part.

I know Naclerio personally and have been tight with him for more than a decade. He is a constant presence at St. John’s games — when his Cardozo Judges are not playing — and will probably be an even greater fixture in the coming years.

One of Naclerio’s prized pupils, Daryl “Showtime” Hill, is slated to replace Marcus Hatten as the team’s top two-guard next year. And if Hill’s exploits on the playground in gyms across the city are any indication, he may turn into the centerpiece of the team for the next several seasons.

Another Naclerio progeny, Ryan Williams, is also expected to land, someday, at St. John’s. The scuttlebutt surrounding Williams and SJU has been going on for years, but it has increased in recent months. Still, it is not a lock he will be with the team next season.

Another indication that Naclerio might really be in line to join the Red Storm staff is that he is coaching a team packed to the hilt with current Storm stars, including Hill, Kyle Cuffe and Grady Reynolds, at the annual Rucker tournament in Harlem. Naclerio, who may be the only white man in the zip code beside Bill Clinton, also plays on the team, if you can believe that.

So while it seems Naclerio is certainly in line to make the leap from the high school to the college ranks, it probably won’t happen unless one of the current SJU assistants moves on to greener pastures. Then Jarvis has to sign off on him, too.

But I’ll hope for Naclerio that a post does become available. For while some may dislike the man, I don’t think many could make an argument that Naclerio would hurt St. John’s. If anything, he would be an asset.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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