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Nazareth players who made Qns team kept off court

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Lisa Blair and Brianna Sidney did everything they could to compete in the Wheelchair Charities HS Basketball Classic. They attended the visit to Coler-Goldwater hospital. They wrote essays describing their experiences.

There was just one problem. They were playing for the wrong borough.

Blair and Sidney both came to York College April 11 expecting to play for Queens, the team they tried out for. They both changed into the borough’s green jerseys and shorts. But before the opening tip, the Nazareth players were told they could not enter the game because they go to high school in Brooklyn.

“I’m very disappoint­ed,” said Blair, who will play at Ohio State next year. “I never got to play in it until now. It’s a charity event.”

Hank Carter, president and founder of Wheelchair Charities, said he was informed that the pair go to Nazareth just before the game. UNC Wilmington-bound Sidney and Blair did not play for Naz this year, because they were out of high school eligibility. Instead, they played for PrimeTime Prep, an independent team that traveled to play other squads like it across the area.

Carter said there are three simple rules to playing in the Wheelchair Classic: Go on the hospital visit, write the essay and play for the borough you go to school in. New York City natives who play high school ball elsewhere can compete, but they have to play for the borough they are from. Westchester County student-athletes can play for the Bronx and Long Island kids are able to play for Queens.

Carter was upset he had to make the decision. His primary concern is raising funds for his organization, which has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to wheelchair-bound people and hospitals across the country.

“I want them to play, but I still have to follow the rules,” said Carter, who is running his 38th annual basketball all-star classic.

The first time this instance popped up, Carter said, was when Albert King wanted to play for Manhattan in 1977. King, then the No. 1 player in the United States, was actually from Brooklyn and played at Fort Hamilton, but he wanted to play with his Riverside Church AAU teammates on the Manhattan squad. Carter made King play for Brooklyn and the rules have been the way they are ever since. King, of course, went on to star at Maryland and get drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets.

Blair lives in Brooklyn, while Sidney actually lives in Queens. Both wanted to play on the Queens team because there weren’t as many girls on it as Brooklyn had. Brooklyn played the game before Queens April 11 so they could not be moved onto that squad.

“I really wanted to play in this,” Sidney said. “I felt like if I was to go for Brooklyn, there would be too many people. Since I live in Queens, I wanted to go for Queens.”

Carter did leave the door open for Blair and Sidney last Thursday. He said if Brooklyn Coach Anwar Gladden would have them, they could play for Brooklyn since they did fulfill their other obligations. Sidney said she’ll give that a try.

“I’ll be here tomorrow,” she said with a smile. “Definitely.”

Updated 10:28 am, April 19, 2012
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