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Kingsmen lead season’s charge - Impressive squad pulls off a spectacular turnaround season

Experience, teamwork and a well-balanced group, led by the backcourt duo of returnees Marquis Lee and Len Smith, are some of the key ingredients carrying the varsity basketball team at Nazareth High School. Because of their main strengths they are making a complete turn around from last year’s squad. Through 21 games the Kingsmen from East Flatbush are having a tremendous season and already passed the number of victories that they put together last year when they posted an overall 5-19 mark. They showed a record of 11-10 by mid-February in the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association they are playing around .500 ball in Class ‘A.’ Why this turnaround? Last winter Lee played mostly the shooting guard position. This year head coach Todd Jamison moved him primarily to the point guard spot. He has adjusted and is setting up his teammates very well. Point guard is his natural position. “We made a big improvement,” Lee said. ”Last year we were young and couldn’t finish games. We didn’t know how to close them out. This year we are closing games out. Teamwork, led by me, has been doing it for us.” Lee is a 5’8”, 140-pound junior leading the way. He can do almost everything a coach wants in the backcourt position. He is averaging 13 points and five assists a game. And he is doing the little things on the court, as well. Marquis still has to work on his game and he’ll do so once is season is over and during the summer. Meanwhile, he is concentrating on the playoffs. Lee’s partner in the backcourt is Smith, who at 6’1” can also play the forward position. In addition, Smith is playing extremely good defense, an aspect of the game he is concentrating a lot on. Teammates last season, both want their Kingsmen to go deep into the playoffs. “Coach told us that defense wins games,” Smith said. “And we have to rebound and take care of the ball. Coach also said that if we win and play competitive basketball we’ll be all right. So far, we’ve been trying to win and we are.” Included in Nazareth’s victories was a crucial one at Xavier. “It was a big win for us,” Smith said. “Lee hit two big three-point shots with 10 seconds left to give us an upset win.” The boys are working much harder this year than they did last year, starting the season off with a 1-5 record and winning nine of 14 games. “A couple of the losses we could have won,” Jamison said. “The kids are playing better. We’re getting ready for the playoffs. We have a good bunch of kids who work hard. I love them all.” The turnaround can also be tied to the team’s defense. “We made a commitment to play better defense,” Jamaison added after his team lost to Ford in a thriller and key division game that dropped the Kingsmen record to 3-5 at the time in the league. “I have a couple of seniors who are really leading the team. We’re just playing better basketball lately.” The lower classmen have also been key in the wins. “We have a lot of guys from the junior varsity level such as Shaquille Cunningham, Gabe O’Neil, and Franklin Foyle, on this team to help turn it around for us,” said Smith. “We’re trying to help them become leaders who when the seniors [Avalon Adams, Stan Hamp, Stephen Grant, Brian McKenzie, Ricardo Ali, Mark Pierre and me] leave they can take over our role and play the game the way coach wants them to play.” Jamison’s best team that he had coaching in his 13 years at the helm was his 2000 squad when the Kingsmen went to the quarter finals of the playoffs only to lose to St. Edmund’s. “Now we have to see what happens in the playoffs,” Jamison added. “We don’t recruit. We coach kids who walk through the door. It takes a couple of years before we can have a decent team. It’s not right away.” The last time Nazareth tasted a title came in 1988 and then again the following year when Coach Ted Gustus’ team was led by Robert Phelps, who won back-to-back Most Valuable Player awards in the playoffs.

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