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New Heights, Kimani Young get splashy . . . real wavy up in Harlem

The Waves Uptown are Huge . . . Who Knew?

Shock Exchange Comes to Harlem '09 was a banger as usual with teams from as far south as the DC/Metro area getting after it to win the Shock Exchange Cup - the most coveted award in all of sports.  The tournament included the usual suspects such as Rockland Falcons, Abbo, Gauchos, and Rockland Rockets, etc. and some new faces like Metrohawks, SI Lightning, BCNY, CASW, New Heights, On Point, MSU, etc.  Saturday was filled with pleasantries and introductions but on Sunday, the final day of the tournament, play intensified with several overtime games and "down to the wire" finishes.  The full results are as follows:

17U: New Heights 1st Place, Gauchos 2nd Place; 16U: Metrohawks-Blue 1st Place, CASW 2nd Place; 15U: Metrohawks 1st Place, Rockland Falcons 2nd Place; 14U: Abysinnian 1st Place, Variety Boys & Girls Club 2nd Place; 13U: MSU Skyliners 1st Place, Maryland Mavericks 2nd Place; 12U: The City 1st Place, On Point Cyclones 2nd Place.

Link to Online Tournament Registration



What The Streets is Saying

New Heights . . . Gunnin' For That Number 1 Spot?

The entire weekend it appeared obvious that New Heights was headed on a collision course to meet the Gauchos in the 17U finals, but who would prevail would be anybody's guess.  New Heights eventually outlasted the Choz in an epic battle that came down to the last few possessions.  We also witnessed the reunion of New Heights' Athletic Director, Kimani Young, point guard Corey Edwards and power forward Jayvaughn Pinkston, the same crew who won the AAU national championship at 14U.  The New Heights reunion may be the "feel good" story of the AAU season.  Whether or not they can rekindle that magical season that made them the pride of the NYC remains to be seen. 

After surprising everyone by taking the 16U Chip at Rumble in the Bronx and then claming the 17U Chip at Shock Exchange Comes to Harlem, the Streets is making a strong argument that New Heights could be considered one of the top, if not the top program in the region.  It may be a little early to anoint anyone as (i) the Gauchos' 17U and 15U squads took King James Shooting Stars and (ii) there is a lot of basketball left to be played as the July live period approaches.  Surfs up!

Gauchos . . . They Were Who We Thought They Were!

Choz Swarm in on Jayvaughn During 17U 'Chip
About a month before the tournament I received a call from Coach Smith of the Gauchos about entering his 17U team, and the news seemed to reverberate throughout the NYC.  But for all of the hoopla prior to the event, the Choz entered the building very quietly . . . you barely even knew they were there.  I was looking for them just prior to their first game and noticed them stretching, and you could hear a pin drop.  However, it was sort of the calm before the storm because once the game started, they were a whirlwind of energy . . . man-to-man pressure defense for 94 feet, hands in the passing lanes, fighting for rebounds and loose balls, box outs, slashes to the basket, etc.  Dressed in all black, they cast a huge shadow over Nat Holman Gymnasium.  

As I watched all four courts the Choz seemed to stand out from everybody else over on Court 1 and after a bevy of runners, mid-range jumpers and baseline floaters from Doron Lamb my first thought was myself ". . . my goodness . . .hide the women and children".  My next thought was "Where's Ralphie?", I wanted to make sure he was nowhere near Court 1 . . . I only have one son Coach Smith and I would like to keep that one.   I could actually feel the ghosts of Rod Strickland, Chris Mullin, Pearl Washington, et al in the gym and that's when I realized what Choz' competitive was - they've got you outnumbered.  You bring your 10 and they bring their 10; however, they also have a web of alumni, parents, coaches, etc. and then throw in a 30 year tradition of excellence and it's almost impossible to match up.  And true to form they made it to Chip where they barely succumbed to New Heights without the services of Lamb on Day 2.  The Gauchos . . . they were who we thought they were!

Ohh My GOSH!

GOSH's 17U team, out of Yonkers, rode into Harlem with Mary J. and Jadakiss ridin' side saddle.  Coach Tracee and I spoke as far back as January about the tournament, so I knew GOSH was bringing heat.  A bit undersized, they compensated by scrapping the entire weekend and making teams play their style of play - up tempo in the open court and great spacing in the half court so their guards could dribble drive.  GOSH's style of play is clearly an extention of their coach - hard-nosed every second of every possession.  With their shooting guard, RADAR, raining jumpers from every location only New Heights stood between them and the 17U chip.

The Abbysinnian Army

Abysinnian made their presence felt the entire weekend, competing hard in multiple age groups.  Hailing from Harlem, it would be only natural for Abbo to want to make a strong showing in their backyard.  Contrasting styles make for great tournaments and Abbo's approach to travel basketball is more from the mentoring angle.  They check all of the kid's report cards and if a kid is failing then he/she cannot travel with the team.  The coaches also did a great job of providing clear instruction and encouraging the kids the entire weekend.  Coach Ghandi and the 17U coach were as soft-spoken as Coach Gary (12U) was hard-nosed, but all very effective.  They competed hard the entire weekend and walked away with the 14U Chip.  They did not face the Shock Exchange but will have a chance to square-off uptown later on this summer.

Rockland Falcons . . . Don't Play Poker With These Guys

The Falcons made some noise in last year's event and returned again this year to upset the apple cart.  These guys are very unassuming but they go hard on the court.  Head Coach John McGlaughlin may look like an accountant but he made his bones playing at Rucker Park in the late 70's/early 80's.  A true multi-tasker . . . he can smash you on the court and then help you do your taxes after the game.  Then there's assistant coach Joe McGuinness who was the starting point guard at Army under Mike Krzyzewski and finished his career as the starting point guard at Manhattan College.  After the Falcons' knock-down, drag out overtime thriller with Abbo to advance to the 15U Chip, the Streets have officially been put on alert.

The City . . . The Next Elite Program in the NYC?

I have heard a lot about this program this summer.  Rumor has it that the crux of this team won the DII nationals with Riverside as 9U.  What I know to be true is that this team simply takes tournaments.  I saw them advance to the finals at Game Over and this weekend they had to contend with a crowded 12U field that include Abbo, On Point, New Heights, Team Maxx, etc.  The City has the makings of being a special team for years to come. 

How to Spell Elite

P-A-R-E-N-T-A-L S-U-P-P-O-R-T  Some teams have it and some teams do not.  The media would have you believe that all good ball players come from the 'hood where they teach themselves the game after having practically raised themselves out in the street.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The ingredients that make an elite player - discipline, hard work, sticktoitiveness, coachability - are all learned at home.  As quiet as it's kept, strong parent participation is what make these travel teams successful.  The City had several parents in attendance - the same parents I saw at Game Over a few weeks earlier.  Abbo, On Point, Team Maxx, BCNY, New Heights, etc. had a throng of parents and family there to cheer the kids on.  The mother of one of the Gauchos' big men stood on the baseline the entire game during their contest with the Roth Rebels.  During one sequence I overheard her ask "Why didn't you dive on that loose ball.  C'mon, this is not going to be an easy game!"  'Nuff said.

Shock Exchange Comes to Harlem . . . Best Run Tournament in the City?

"We have travelled up and down the East Coast and this is clearly the best run tournament locally"  - 12U Coach

"Great facility, good managment . . . Thank-you, you did a great job" - 15U Coach

"You guys did a great job this weekend.  We will always support you Ralph" - 15U Coach

"You really do a good job.  It's well run, you attract great talent and have fun doing it.  A real class event." - 15U Coach

"Nice tournament but you think you cute" - Unnamed Lady Trying to Push-up on Coach Baker

Exposure . . . Tom Konchalski in Attendance

Ralph With Tom Konchalski

At the end of Day One a 17U coach came up to me and said "You did it Ralph.  All of the top players in the City are here.  Thanks for putting us on the big stage".  I then looked around and saw Jayvaughn Pinkston, Doron Lamb, Shane Southwell, Devon Collier, Corey Edwards, Angell Nunez, Tymel Murphy, and a host of players looking to make a name for themselves.  I then realized what a big deal this event has become.  For those who weren't there - coaches, parents, etc. we have game tapes available now.  Get at me at .  Also look for the video gallery section being added to the website over the coming weeks.


On Championship Sunday I had a chance to talk shop with Tom Konchalski, one of the country's premier high school talent scouts.  Tom is the editor of High School Basketball Insider and hundreds of colleges seek his counsel on recruits.  Tom took lots of notes during the games . . . unreal!  Secondly, our website receives over 20k page views/month so if you come to our tournament and put the work in you will get exposure.  Shock Exchange Exchange Comes to Harlem is event to attend for comp, exposure and swag.

Maryland Mavericks . . . Matinee Idols?

And lastly, with all these so-called ball players in the NYC, how in the world did you all let two kids from the Maryland Mavericks get that shot to be in new Adam Sandler/Chris Rock movie?  I'm just saying . . .

Match-ups we Would Pay to See Again

17U - Gauchos vs. New Heights

This game had to happen and it was the must see event of the weekend.  Kimani Young, the Twins, Tom Konchalski, Shaquille Stokes stopped by, the point guard from the Long Island Lightning-Dingle was in the crowd.  There was so much shine on center court that  I had to walk back out to the Saab to get my stunna shades.  Everybody wanted to see who would walk away with bragging rights in the NYC for at least another week.  It was a chess match early on as both teams probed for weaknesses in the other's defensive armor.  New Heights then looked establish it's half court offense, going to Jayvaughn Pinkston inside and Brandon Frazier off of set screens while pushing the tempo when they had an advantage.  The Choz tried to create easy baskets off of defensive pressure and create spacing for Shane Southwell and Super Soph Angel Nunez to dribble drive. 

Then there was the "game" within the game - Corey Edwards and Harold Mcbride deftly beating the Choz ball pressure and directing traffic to set up New Heights' half court sets; the Choz alternating its defensive schemes on Jayvaughn . . . sometimes playing behind him and sometimes fronting him with help from the weak side; Kimani and the Twins tweaking their substitution patterns to find the most effective rotations.  As the dust settled, the Choz held a 1 point lead with less than two minutes remaining.  However, it was too much Jayvaughn down the stretch as he was his usual effective self inside but displayed a nice dribble drive and mid-range jumper - something I did not see from him last year this time.  New Heights grinded out a close victory, but the Choz were equally impressive in defeat (how deep is this team?) as they had to soldier on without the services of Doron Lamb who was at the Paul Pierce camp on Championship Day.

17U - Roth Rebels vs. Gauchos

The Rebels had this highlighted on their schedule and were looking to make a statement.  I was surprised how well they matched up with the Gauchos physically.  Both teams demonstrated their athleticism early on, blocking shots, driving hard to the rim, and getting stickbacks off of offensive boards.  When it was clear that the Rebels would not go away quietly, the entire gym was abuzz to seem the Choz tested for the first time.  The Choz made an 8 point run to go up by 10 but Tymel Murphy seemingly put the Rebels on his back to cut the lead back to 4.  And so it went, the Choz would spurt and Murphy and the Rebels would respond.  However, the Choz' guard play, length and defensive tenacity (does Shane Southwell go hard or what?) eventually wore down the Rebels for a double digit win.

17U - GOSH vs. New Heights

Amped up after their opening victory over Abbo, GOSH was poised for the biggest upset of the tournament.  They controlled the defensive boards early on against the much bigger New Heights squad.  GOSH also worked the ball around on offense, going inside-out and side-to-side which created open shot opportunities.  However, Devon Collier got several get easy baskets off of coast-to-coast drives which kept GOSH from gaining any type of momentum.  New Heights also solved GOSH's half court offense but seemingly had no answer for RADAR, who once he crossed half court, was in range. The kid didn't even look down to see where he was . . . he simply caught the ball and buried it, regardless of who was guarding him.  GOSH's only real interior big man got in foul trouble in the second half and then the game was pretty much academic.  New Heights ran their half court offense to perfection and got easy baskets inside to negate GOSH's ball hawking defense on the perimeter.  With GOSH shooting jumpers + New Heights shooting lay-ups, it doesn't take a Rhode Scholar to tell you that adds up to a double digit win for New Heights.

16U - Metrohawks (Blue) vs. CASW

Metrohawks Blue, the artist formerly known as the "Pythons" had a big weekend; however, they had to get past a strong CASW team from uptown.  I knew the Metrohawks would go hard.  I saw Coach Danny and the boys playing uptown last summer.  Due to fouls they were down to 4 players and Danny was still going hard.  Heck, they darn near pulled the game out too.  However, CASW posed a serious challenge during the 16U Chip with their athleticism, defensive intensity and assortment of ways to score the basketball.  The Metrohawks were a little too big and too disciplined at each position as they withstood multiple runs by CASW and countered with spurts of their own.  Both teams are going to make some mid-major coaches very happy some day.

Overall it was a big weekend for the Metrohawks who suited up only six players.  They were led by the outstanding point guard play of Devin Figuroa and the shooting of Wilson Molina (St. Mary's) who connected on 6 three pointers in one game and shot the ball well all weekend.  The breakout player that people have not gotten to know is 6'4" SF Keith Gardner who had 26 pts in the Semi-Finals.   The Metrohawks also received great effort from Kevin Chang (Bayside) who is a defensive stopper and the team's emotional leader.  The two big men, Rich Zoller (Chaminade) and Jose Torres (Bishop Ford) provided inside scoring and helped control the boards on both ends.  Keep your eye on PG Figuroa who attends Lawrenceville Prep and SF Gardner who attends St. Mary's in Long Island.

15U - Abbysinnian vs. Rockland Falcons

Abbo, Falcons in Nailbiter
Abbo led throughout this contest and seemed to be in total command with an 8 point lead with about two minutes left.  They also had a Ralphael Addison clone, 6'4" small forward who seemed to have his way with the Falcons - breaking their pressure defense, slashing to the basket, getting stickbacks off of the offensive glass.  With a poised Abbo team, it seemed academic that they would close out the Falcons.  However, nobody told that to Coach McGuinness of the Falcons.  He kept coaching hard, working the refs, exhorting his kids to push the tempo.  The Falcons also had a Dan Dickau clone at the point to counteract Abbo's Addison.  Dickau pushed the rock while staying under control and made play after play to keep the Falcons close - a 3 pointer here, a drive and dish there, in an attempt to pull off the improbable.  I walked off thinking the game was over and came back to the see the entire gym stone-faced - the game was in OT. 

The first OT witnessed Mcguinness going hard, Coach Ghandi going hard . . . both making mad substitutions, begging their kids to dig deep.  Both teams treated every possession as if it was their last because a loss meant someone had to go home.  Two OT's later, the Falcons, having played to the buzzer, had pulled off a miracle that left the gym chattering for hours.  Both teams brought out the best in each other in a game that was demonstrated skill and heart.  And the Falcons' reward?  They got the meet the 15U Metrohawks for the Chip.

15U - Almighty Force vs. Metrohawks

The Metrohawks had just come off a miracle victory over the NY Gators, needing a last second 3-pointer to come out on top.  They looked very vulnerable against the surprisingly strong Almighty Force from Long Island.  The Force looked championship ready with their small forward trying to dunk everything he touched - tip dunks, drives to basket, breakaways, etc.  They also had the services Derrick Brown, one of the top playmakers in the NYC (Isaac how did you get him out of Brooklyn?).  Both teams negated the athleticism of the other, running with a purpose and executing in the half-court.  It became clear early on that the contest would come down to a game of possesions and who converted on those 4-5 posessions down the stretch would be victorious.  The Metrohawks would outlast the Force by 5, in an emotional victory that left both teams and coaches wanting more. 

14U - Shock Exchange vs. Abbo

Abbo took the 14U chip which I am still not happy about.  Two like-minded organizations, two coaches with big egos . . . this game has to happen.  We will see each other at an outdoor event uptown later on this summer.  Assuming both teams have their full arsenal, it should be interesting. 

14U - Shock Exchange vs. Variety B&G

The Shock Exchange and Variety B&G met in sort of a scrimmage and the Shock Exchange looked splashy as usual.  We squared off again at 7:30pm, which by that time, the Shock Exchange had been in the gym for about 12 hours to help run the tournament.  We were admittedly sluggish and Variety took full advantage.  Variety's point guard looked like he was on the And-1 mixtape tour, playing at a different speed, while their inside guys seemed to solve the riddle of Shumba and Sean.  We again learned a valuable lesson of what can happen when we don't bring our "A-Game".

13U - New Heights vs. Md. Mavericks - Greatest Game Ever?

This was another triple OT thriller where no team wanted to go home.  The Mavericks and New Heights were both evenly matched displaying excellent guard play and high basketball IQ to find mismatches and high percentage shots.  There were so many lead changes and momentum swings here that I almost got dizzy watching it.  There is something about Court 3 that is ripe for dramatic finishes.  After the dust settled, the Mavericks was the only team left standing which prompted one of the New Heights parents to exclaim "That was the greatest game ever played".  Actually I am partial to the 1976 double OT playoff thriller between the Celtics and the Suns when Gar Heard hit that jumper from the hash mark to almost get the Celtics got.  But hey, I'll play with it.

12U - Abbo vs. The City

Why do I get the feeling these two teams do not care much for each other?  At the beginning of the second half the offcial walked over to Coach Baker to help clarity the rule on late entrants to the game.  Apparently The City's star player had entered the game late and there was confusion over whether he had been properly entered into the scorebook.  Coach Baker was sandwiched between Coach Gary of Abbo and the assistant coach from The City - not a good look at all.  After having to remember the rule and then explain the rule under duress, play resumed. 

I am not sure if this was a basketball game or a human version of Rock'em Sock'em Robots.  Every shot, every rebound, every pass was contested. Both teams drove to the basket with reckless abandon and fought through screens with force.  Every loose ball resulted in a 5-6 kid pile-up on the floor.  Forget the Shock Exchange Cup . . . these guys were playing for something more imporant - bragging rights uptown.  Both teams were an extention of the coach and they brought that fire that makes Shock Exchange Comes to Harlem a must see event.


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