For over three decades, I’ve been following High School Hoops. Dating back to my teens, I saw some future stars such as former Lincoln Railsplitter Stephon Marbury, LaSalle Academy’s Ron Artest, St. Raymond’s Kareem Reid, Rice’s Felipe Lopez, Christ The King’s Lamar Odom, St. Patrick’s Shaheen Holloway, Bishop Loughlin’s Reggie Jessie, former LaSalle product Lenny Cooke and more.
The metropolitan area has produced some great players. It dates back to Lew Alcindor, who would eventually shatter the NBA scoring record after dominating at UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden. You know him as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Other standouts include Chris Mullin, Pearl Washington, Kenny Smith, Tim Thomas, Mark Jackson, Rod Strickland, Walter Berry, Kenny Anderson, Erick Barkley, Omar Cook, God Shammgod (Shammgod Wells) and the uncanny Lance Stephenson.
The list goes on and on. Current NBA star Kyrie Irving is from West Orange, New Jersey where he starred for St. Patrick High School. He’s expected to come home this summer as a package deal with Kevin Durant to the Knicks. The rumors are hot and heavy. It’s crazy with both stars’ teams involved in the playoffs. Such is the chaotic nature of the NBA.
More recently, I saw former Lincoln star Isaiah Whitehead lead the Railsplitters to a PSAL AA Championship at MSG. Hard to believe that was a few years ago. He wound up playing two years for Seton Hall before getting traded to the hometown Brooklyn Nets at the 2016 NBA Draft. A childhood dream came true. It’s been a tough road since. At last check, he was on a two-way contract with the Pistons. He hasn’t played in the NBA since ’17-18 when the Nets dealt him to the Nuggets, who waived him. He spent half this season in Russia playing for Lokomotiv Kuban before catching on with the Pistons NBDL affiliate in Grand Rapids. At 24, his journey isn’t over.
As you can probably tell, I enjoy following the careers of our area locals. Top high school prospect Cole Anthony finally signed a commitment with North Carolina. It’s another classic case of the rich getting richer. Pretty soon, the one and done era will end. So too will many standouts who will be able to turn pro right away and enter the NBA Draft. Hopefully, they’ll make wiser decisions with their careers than Lenny Cooke. A NYC hoops legend who once was ranked first over LeBron James. His documentary is one of great interest for any young basketball prospect.
At the moment, HS Hoops is as overcast as the late April weather. It’s dark and will be until mid-November. South Shore were crowned PSAL AA champions again after edging Jefferson in a great game at The Garden. It was the fourth and final meeting between the Brooklyn rivals. Right now, they’re the two best schools in the PSAL once dominated by Lincoln under former coach Tiny Morton. Former St. John’s star guard Shamorie Ponds played for Jefferson before staying home to play three years at Carnesecca Hall. He just revealed that he was invited to an NBA Combine. Best of luck to him.
There is still plenty of local flavor in the area. Even though most of today’s players don’t compare to yesterday, hoop fans can still get excited about some of the rising stars on the horizon.
One such name is Jaquan Carlos. Listed at 5-10, 160 pounds, the Jefferson point guard is a player to watch. With two years left, the Class of 2021 star can certainly ball with the best of them. Despite not being the biggest or strongest in stature, he’s a very creative guard with lightning quickness. Possessing the explosive first step along with an array of ball tricks that emulate God Shammgod, Carlos can slash to the basket and score in tight among the trees.
Also a very good shooter from the outside, he can fill it up from deep. What makes him so tough to guard is his unselfish nature to involve teammates. He can share the ball to make his team even better. Carlos didn’t have to do the bulk of the scoring this past season. That was left for explosive senior teammate Kareem Welch. Welch scored 27 points with 11 rebounds and six assists in the 71-70 loss to South Shore.
The Vikings were paced by Kadary Richmond (23) and Dwight Davis, Jr. (19). Carlos sank a pair of free throws to put the Orange Wave up one with 19 seconds left. But a breakaway dunk by Femi Odukale was the game-winner in another epic battle between the close rivals. South Shore repeated as PSAL AA champs.
An exciting player, Carlos returns for his junior year at Thomas Jefferson. Here are some of his highlights from ’18-19 including a few exploits against South Shore.
The dribbling, penetrating and passing are top notch. Thus far, St. John’s is one of four schools on his list. North Carolina State, Cincinnati and Bryant are included. A lot can change over time. He will only improve the next two years. That’ll increase recruiter interest.
It should be fun to track him.