New York High School: Naasir Williams

Seniors turn to AAU for one last shot

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
11:40
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Mairega Clarke is puzzled.

A talented forward for Holy Cross, he helped guide the Knights to the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association Class AA title game this winter. He thought he had played well enough to earn a Division I scholarship.

Yet, the Division I offers he thought would roll in never came. Some schools were interested, but none pulled the trigger. Thus, with a rapidly closing window of opportunity to remedy the situation, Clarke turned to AAU.

"I want to play to show coaches that I deserve that offer from then," said Clarke, who plays for Raising Champions.

While most seniors skip AAU because they have scholarships, for unsigned seniors like Clarke, playing in the spring and the summer is a final chance to impress college coaches and potentially earn that coveted scholarship.

"I think it's a great opportunity for them," New Heights Athletic Director Kimani Young said. "It's a last look. Maybe a school missed out on these guys. These guys can improve over their senior years. I think it helps."

Young said there's an advantage in playing as an unsigned senior as college coaches will be seeing players just months before they would head to campus. Instead of guessing how a player will develop during his senior year in high school, coaches basically see the player in April that will arrive on campus in August.

Young also added that seniors play with a chip on their shoulder.

"I just know that a kid playing in April in his senior year, he's hungry for that scholarship," Young said. "Kids that are playing now feel like this is their last opportunity to have access to that college scholarship."

For Clarke, he still has not received that offer he wanted, although Florida Atlantic is interested in bringing him in after a year of prep school. Other New York City players have had a little more success, although they're still waiting for their dream offers.

St. Raymond senior Myron Hickman played at the Providence Jam Fest in April with the Jersey Jayhawks to see if he could get a Division I offer, as he only had Division II schools extending. A few schools were interested after seeing him, but wanted him for 2013. He has a visit set up with a Division II school and may try to walk on at Delaware State.

Cardinal Hayes and New Heights teammates Jalen Jenkins and Naasir Williams both saw a rise in interest, but they still don't have that slam-dunk offer. Williams also had schools interested in him for 2013, but schools want to see how he plays this summer.

Jenkins has mid-major offers but wants to grab a Big East scholarship. He has interest from Providence and Cincinnati, as the Bearcats were interested after seeing him in Las Vegas.

Jenkins and Williams had both been planning to attend prep school but have backed off on those plans because of the interest they garnered from AAU. Williams said it's still up in the air, while Jenkins is more committed to the idea of walking on at a school.

"I figure playing shows that I'm able to play at the point where schools that high-major schools will look at me," Jenkins said. "Instead of just playing for the low Division I and the mid-major schools to look at you."

Team SCAN Program Director Terrence "Munch" Williams likes the opportunity seniors have through AAU, but worries that some will get too caught up in trying to get that dream offer instead of focusing on more realistic options.

"It sometimes strings kids along. A kid might be more of a Division II or Division III player and they don't want to jump into that situation," Williams said. "They keep hoping they’ll get that dream team. Everyone thinks they are Division I until the last minute. Sometimes you wait too long and it doesn't come."

Rapid Reaction: Hayes 84, St. Rays 58

February, 10, 2012
2/10/12
8:44
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It took until the end of January for Cardinal Hayes to suffer its first loss against a team in New York City. Then, suddenly it lost two out of four and head coach Joe Lods expressed concerns about how tough his team really was.

On Friday, the No. 5 Cardinals showed how tough they can be as they easily handled St. Raymond, beating it 84-58 at home in the Bronx in front of a packed crowd. Coming up big was senior Fadil Yacoubou who lost his starting job this season, but had a huge game getting the start on senior night.

“Fadil got hurt in the numbers game for sure,” Lods said after the game. “But if there is one kid walking me to the car, Fadil is the kid. If it doesn't work out with him for basketball there is always boxing. He's a tough kid.”

Yacoubou was a big reason Hayes jumped out to a comfortable lead as he scored six quick points in the first four minutes of the game to givehis team a 13-8 lead it never lost.

“I was energized, I was hyped,” Yacoubou said. “I knew if I came fired up the team would feed off it and that's exactly what happened.”

BIG MEN, TOUGH DUO: Yacoubou sparked the team in the first quarter, but Hayes’ big men Amadou Sidibe and Jalen Jenkins took over in the second as they stretched the lead from three to 12 points heading into halftime. The duo combined for 10 points that quarter and was dominant under the rim, playing a big part in keeping St. Raymond to just eight points that quarter.

“I don't know if they are the best front court duo, but they are pretty damn good and they complement each other well,” Lods said. “Amadou is the bruiser who stays around the basket. Jenkins is more of a ball handler who attacks the rim. I almost wish I could go coach a prep school next year and take them with me so I can have them one more year. I love those kids.”

CAN’T LEAVE NAASIR OPEN: Hayes was up 12 points at halftime, but it really only started to dominate the game in the second half thanks to Naasir Williams. He started to find himself in big open spots and scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, including 10 points in the third quarter.

“Nas is a good shooter,” Lods said. “If he's open and he's squared up, he shoots like 100 percent. He's a pretty under-recruited kid. When people go zone I get him off the bench as quick as I can. If he keeps hitting jump shots like this for the rest of the season people are going to have a hard time playing us.”

LOOK AT US NOW: Last season Cardinal Hayes was in the Class A division, but it got bumped up to the AA division and nobody knew how well it would handle it. Lods was in disbelief that in the past they wouldn’t even play a team like St. Raymond and this season his team is beating the Ravens by 26 points.

“I asked (St. Raymond’s head coach Oliver Antigua) when the last they had been in our gym and he said in 1990 as a player,” Lods said shaking his head in disbelief. “I was telling the kids before the game, look how far you've brought us.

“Last season on a Friday afternoon we were playing Regis, now on a Friday afternoon we are playing St. Rays and let's just say that we handled them.”

STATS: It was a team effort for Hayes as it had four players scoring in double-digits including Jenkins and Williams who each had 14 points. Amadou Sidibe and Fadil Yacoubou each finished with 12. For St. Raymond, Shane Rector and Daniel Dingle each had 14 and Nkeruwen Okoro had 10.

UP NEXT: Cardinal Hayes plays its last regular season game at Fordham Prep on Tuesday while St. Raymond’s plays Lincoln on Wednesday.

Hayes emerging as new power in NYC

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
11:09
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Four years ago, Cardinal Hayes boys basketball coach Joe Lods would have never believed you if you told him his team would win a road game at St. Raymond.

In a scrimmage in his first year coaching the Cardinals, the Ravens put an absolute trashing on Lods' squad that the coach still vividly remembers.

"If I had a bag, I would have put it over my head like a Saints fan," Lods said.

Now, in his team's first season as the AA level facing the top teams in the city, Lods knows his team can win a tough game at St. Raymond, a traditional New York City power. In fact, he saw his team do it two weeks ago, emerging with a 69-64 win.

"It means a lot to beat them because it means the program is going in the right direction," Lods said.

The win over St. Ray's is one of 15 that Hayes has reeled off this season as the former Class 'A' power has moved up to the Class AA and shown itself to be one of the best, if not the best team in New York City. The Cardinals are the only Class AA team in New York City to have not lost a game against a New York City foe.

"I believe strongly that we can play with anyone in New York City," Hayes senior and Fairfield-bound center Amadou Sidibe said. "We got everything. We got bigs, we got guards, and everyone on our team can play. One through 13 can play and we have good coaches."

After losing lost in consecutive Class A title games, Hayes made the move up to the Class AA as the CHSAA re-configured its basketball league. While Hayes certainly returned a strong team, the general view among pundits was Hayes would be in that second tier of teams.

That hasn't been the case. Hayes, ranked No. 1 by ESPNNewYork.com, is 15-1 with its lone loss coming in a tournament in Florida, and has been a dominant force in New York City. It has won at Holy Cross, St. Raymond and Mount St. Michael, as well as taking down Long Island Lutheran on a neutral court.

As teams around the city have racked up losses to other teams from the boroughs, Hayes is still standing. It will face its biggest tests over the next few weeks as it hosts Boys & Girls on Saturday and will host St. Raymond and travel to Christ the King in February.

"It means a lot to be undefeated here because New York City is the Mecca of basketball," Rice transfer and junior guard Tyler Wilson said. "But in the same sense it's only the middle of the year, we still got more games to play."

As he explained his team's rise in New York City over his four years, Lods did not have any magical reason for his team's success. To put it simply, he said it's the hours that the players and coaches have invested into the program. He pointed to players like Sidibe and Jalen Jenkins, who have been coming to practice each day at 6:30 a.m. to work, as a galvanizing force for players to follow in their steps.

Slowly but surely, Hayes is taking the right steps toward becoming a New York City powerhouse—if it hasn't already gotten there.

"The noise we're making this year, hopefully we can make a push for it," senior guard Naasir Williams said. "We're taking the steps this year so hopefully for the guys next year it's going to be their team and a lot of people are going to want to come to Hayes. It's a step in the right direction."

Game of the Week: Boys & Girls at Hayes

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
12:18
AM ET
WHO: No. 3 Boys & Girls vs. No. 1 Cardinal Hayes

WHERE: Cardinal Hayes

WHEN: Saturday, 4 p.m.

WHY THIS GAME IS IMPORTANT: Two of the top teams in New York City meet in a game featuring a traditional power against a team on the rise.

Boys & Girls is a New York City powerhouse and a two-time defending Public Schools Athletic League champions. The Kangaroos have already had success on the road this year against a Catholic league power, winning on the road against Christ the King. Will they be able to do it again against Hayes?

Hayes, ranked No. 1 for the first time this season, will face its toughest test of the season. The Cardinals have moved up to the AA after back-to-back trips to the A title game and are off to a 15-1 start that includes an undefeated record in New York City. Will Hayes be able to send a message to New York City?

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Boys & Girls senior forward Leroy Fludd
Boys & Girls senior guard Rashad Andrews
Boys & Girls senior guard Joel Angus
Cardinal Hayes senior center Amadou Sidibe
Cardinal Hayes senior forward Jalen Jenkins
Cardinal Hayes senior guard Naasir Williams

COACHES

Boys & Girls: Ruth Lovelace
Cardinal Hayes: Joe Lods

HOW THEY GOT HERE

No. 3 Boys & Girls 15-3 (9-2 Brooklyn AA)
Nov. 26: 89-56 win vs. Pathways Prep
Dec. 1: 90-43 win vs. Westinghouse
Dec. 6: 74-56 win vs. Transit Tech
Dec. 8: 82-65 win at Robeson
Dec. 10: 64-59 win at Christ the King
Dec. 13: 73-61 win at Grady
Dec. 15: 61-58 loss at South Shore
Jan. 1: 63-38 win vs. Vaux (Pa.)
Jan. 3: 86-84 win vs. Jefferson
Jan. 5: 61-45 win at Westinghouse
Jan. 10: 73-50 win at Transit Tech
Jan. 12: 79-44 win vs. Robeson
Jan. 14: 74-64 loss at Lincoln
Jan. 15: 71-59 win vs. Curtis
Jan. 17: 88-33 win vs. Grady
Jan. 19: 71-52 loss vs. Curtis (La.)
Jan. 20: 59-50 win vs. Salmen (La.)
Jan. 21: 67-53 win vs. Wenonah (Ala.)

No. 1 Cardinal Hayes (15-1, 8-0 AA)
Dec. 2: 56-44 win at Holy Cross
Dec. 6: 49-35 win vs. All Hallows
Dec. 9: 78-60 win vs. Bishop Loughlin
Dec. 11: 70-52 win vs. Long Island Lutheran
Dec. 13: 59-52 win at Molloy
Dec. 16 55-52 win vs. Hialeah Gardens (Fla.)
Dec. 17: 64-48 win vs. Collidge (D.C.)
Dec. 18: 54-38 win vs. Aquinas (Fla.)
Dec. 20: 50-45 loss vs. Coral Springs (Fla.)
Jan. 2: 51-39 win at Bishop Ford
Jan. 3: 69-52 win at Mount
Jan. 6: 52-37 win at Stepinac
Jan. 10: 56-41 win vs. Fordham Prep
Jan. 13: 69-64 win at St. Raymond
Jan. 17: 67-49 win at All Hallows
Jan. 21: 68-47 win vs. St. Peter's

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