Chiefs Hope New Players, Lester Lead Them To Hoops Title
The Canarsie High School boy's varsity basketball team fell short of a trip to Madison Square Garden for a chance to play for the PSAL title last spring, despite being undefeated in the regular season. This season the Chiefs look to improve and make that prestigious trip to the Garden this winter.
However, a lot has changed since the Chiefs last hit the hardwood. Canarsie will only return one player to its starting lineup - Hofstra-bound senior forward Nathaniel Lester. Four of last year's starters graduated, giving head coach Tom Allen a less experienced team as the new season looms. The division has also changed as Canarsie moves to the realigned Brooklyn AA Power Division that includes such borough powerhouses as Lincoln and Grady meaning that there are no easy divisional rivals for the Chiefs. Also new for the 2006-07 season is the introduction of the 35-second shot clock.
While change brings many questions, the Canarsie coaching staff and players believe that it is good. "It's going to be an exciting season. We have a new team and we are preparing to compete in the new league," said Lester, who averaged 24.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game and again be the focal point of the offense. However, this season he will have a much younger supporting cast.
"Nat is going to help the young guys. He is going to pull them together," Allen told the Courier.
Playing in a tough division, all eyes will be on Lester, who can expect to face regular double teaming from opponents. With the increased attention Lester will face, Canarsie needs other players to step up. Players to watch this season are junior center Elon Howard, junior guard Yves Jules (a transfer from Madison), and junior guard Brian Cummings (a transfer from Sheepshead Bay).
All three are talented players with the potential to step in and play big time minutes. What they lack is big game experience, which makes Lester's leadership important. "I have to try to lead them by example. They are picking it up just as the team did last year and we just have to mature, work together and understand what we are trying to do at Canarsie," the senior said.
Last Saturday the Chiefs played a pre-season non-league game against Cardozo at York College in the PSAL Tip-Off Classic. They got off to a slow start in the first half as they played without starters Yves Jules, Vincent Mattos and Isiah Boyd, due to eligibility reasons.
Both teams played sloppily and showed signs of rust as Canarsie took an 18-15 lead into halftime. In the second half Canarsie fans saw what some of the younger players can do as Brian Cummings (17 points) scored eight points for the Chiefs during the final three minutes of the game to seal the 55-51 victory.
Lester added 21 points and Howard was also impressive with ten points along with some nice defensive plays.
The impressive victory for the young Chiefs should be something that they can build on for the upcoming season, which starts December 5th at home against Paul Robeson High School.
Coach Allen wants his team to be more successful than last year, but understands that things have changed. "It is a different team with a different character and a different mentality. They really don't understand and I guess once we get into the thick of things they will start to see serious stuff," he said. "They don't know what it is to play Boys & Girls at Boys' gym. They don't know what it is to play Robeson at home. It's crunch time"
The Chiefs will have to learn on the fly as the season progresses. However, with one of the best players in the city - Nathaniel Lester - leading the way, Canarsie is sure to be among the PSAL's elite basketball programs and hopes to be playing in the Garden for a championship.