Canarsie JHS Student-Athlete Finds Success On and Off the Basketball Court


By Jerry Del Priore

Ever since Alexia “Lex” Nelson picked up a basketball at the age of three, it’s been game on for her.

Nelson’s father, Wilford, introduced her and her twin brother, Sion, to the game because of the positive impact it had on his life, and wanted the same for his kids.

“I gave both of them a ball at an early age,” Wilford recalled. “I just knew basketball taught me a lot of life experiences, outside of just being on the court. It taught me how to work hard at something, to become good at it, because you don’t become great at something overnight. That’s a good lesson for everything you do.”

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Alexia “Lex” Nelson at the I Got You Hoops Tournament.

But Nelson, 12, is more than a one-dimensional student-athlete, as she also holds a 90 average at I.S. 383 Philippa Schuyler Middle School for the Gifted and Talented in Bushwick, where she also averages 16 points per game for the Storm.

A promising player who splits court time between her JHS squad and her Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team, the Lady X-Men, the young Canarsie native is currently garnering interest from a number of high schools for her playing abilities and scholastic prowess.

Among the schools is Nazareth, a Catholic high school with an excellent girls’ hoops program as well as first-rate academics.

That’s utmost important because education is first and foremost at the Nelson household. So going to a school where she can apply her hardwood skills against the best competition while earning a topnotch education would be an ideal fit for her.

“It’s exciting because you get viewed by many people,” the five-foot-six-inch point guard said of the possibility of playing for Nazareth. But added that she’s still contemplating her options with her family.

“We are still looking, but Nazareth is on the top of the list,” said Wilford, who earned his bachleors degree from Cooper Union. “We’re still looking at some private schools in the city, because she has very good grades.”

Speaking of good grades, Wilford says he never has to push his daughter to study because she’s always self-motivated.

Lex

Alexia Nelson Holds Impressive Piece of Hardware.

“I don’t have to tell her to do homework,” Wilford gushed. “That’s one thing about her; she’s on top of it 24-7. She’s pretty mature when comes to things like that.”

With Nelson’s academics in place, Wilford can spend the rest of the time guiding her as the assistant coach of her JHS team, and help her pick her next school.

As for her long-term future, Nelson hopes to play in the WNBA, and is eyeing a career as a sports medicine doctor. But would love to do it simultaneously.

“I have a dream to be a WNBA player,” she said, “but I want to have it both at the same time.”

Lofty goals, for sure, but through hard work and determination nothing seems impossible to Nelson.

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Quarterback Injury Leads To Vikings’ Defeat To E-Hall in PSAL Playoff Quarterfinals


By Jerry Del Priore

Star junior quarterback Jason Martin hurt his knee on South Shore’s first offensive drive of the game, altering the team’s game plan. Displaying grit and toughness, Martin returned to action despite the pain.

However, the injury hobbled him and his play, as the third seeded Vikings failed to muster up any offense in their 10-0 loss to No. 6 Erasmus Hall in the PSAL City Conference quarterfinals Saturday at home.

The South Shore coaching staff has sang the praises of Martin all season long, saying as he goes, so do the Vikings. So, with him at less than 100 percent, he still managed to give a great effort, according to head coach Matt Ciquera.

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South Shore receiver lines up for play.

“He’s the best player in the city, in my opinion,” Ciquera said. “It was very unfortunate he got hurt on our very first offensive drive. It clearly affected us for the rest of the game, but I think he did a great job. He didn’t want to come out, as he was playing with heart, playing for his brothers. I am very proud of him.”

The Dutchmen scored the game’s lone touchdown on a jump ball score late in the first half, with the successful two-point conversion staking them to an 8-0 lead.

South Shore’s defense played well, and kept them in the game, but its offense couldn’t sustain a consistent drive, as dropped passes and overthrows led to team-wide frustration.

Digging a deeper hole, a snap over Martin’s head deep in Vikings’ territory resulted in a safety and 10-0 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

South Shore was able to move the ball into Erasmus’ red zone. Prime to score, however, running back Omar Jarrett had one Erasmus defender to beat, but a good open field tackle caused him to fumble, which the Dutchmen recovered at the Vikings’ 15-yardline.

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Viking defensive back gets ready to spring into action.

Although eliminated from the playoffs, Ciquera found the proverbial silver lining, considering South Shore is just two years removed from the Bowl Conference.

“This is a great group of kids,” the fifth-year coach explained. “You can’t say too many teams that moved from the Bowl Division two years ago that have had undefeated (regular) seasons. So these guys will always be in my heart for that regardless.

“Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to end. But these guys gave everything they had—from January weight lifting through Big Apple (games), through the season, all the way to one of the last eight teams in the city, going 10-1 is nothing to sneeze at.”

 

 

Chiefs End Disappointing Football Season With Shutout Loss to Campus Magnet


Canarsie seniors line up for team photo after game.

Canarsie seniors line up for team photo after game.

Text and Photos By Jerry Del Priore

The Canarsie Varsity football team was in a must-win situation Sunday in its regular season finale against Campus Magnet. If the Chiefs pulled out the victory, the possibility of obtaining one of the final PSAL City Conference playoffs spots would improve.

But Canarsie (3-7) failed to cash in on three red zone opportunities in the first half, and compounded its woes with multiple mistakes in the second en route to a 22-0 defeat to the Bulldogs at home.

The loss ended what was a disappointing year for the entire Chiefs family, including head coach Kyle Allen, who had higher expectation for a team with a lot of talent. But he said that lack of roster depth, which led to lack of team dedication at times, did play into their performance this season.

“It’s upsetting because of the talent level that we had, but you got to take into consideration the low numbers as well,” Allen explained. “I’m not trying to make any excuses, but when you have kids with a lot of talent who didn’t want to commit, it’s hard.

“It’s easy not to commit when there’s nobody pushing you for your spot. You got 32-33 kids on your roster, and there’s nobody pushing to make the next player better. That’s when you get the excuse not to go to practice or go hard, because there’s no one else to replace them.”

After a scoreless first half, Canarsie fumbled the ball at its own 13-yard line on the second play of the third quarter. Two plays later, Campus Magnet ran it from the 12 to go up 6-0, with a successful two-point conversion making it 8-0 early in the second half.

The Chiefs had their chance to get on the scoreboard, but the Bulldogs blocked a field goal to thwart the scoring threat.

Campus Magnet rounded out the scoring with a pick six midway through the fourth quarter, and a one-yard rushing touchdown late in the contest.

Senior defensive stalwart Devonte Malone, pictured during half time warm-ups, picked up three sacks in the game, tying an all-time Chiefs record with 21.

Senior defensive stalwart Devonte Malone, pictured during half time warm-ups, picked up three sacks in the game, tying an all-time Chiefs record with 21.

Senior defensive stalwart Devonte Malone was the Chiefs’ lone bright spot, registering three sacks in the game. Malone’s 21 sacks on the campaign tied an all-time team record, shared with last year’s star defensive player, Kamari Jones-Hunter, now at Monroe Community College.

Allen took solace in a junior varsity squad – who is currently 7-3 after going 0-10 last year – that will replace a majority of Canarsie’s graduating seniors. Although Allen said it could be a two-year process to return to varsity prominence, he’s confident the close-knit coaching staff and players will make it happen.

“We coach JV, not that I’m trying to take the credit for them, by committee. The staff works together on JV and varsity,” he said. “It’s one program, one family. We win together on JV, we lose together on varsity. But we have a bright future. I told the kids it will take us maybe two years to be one of those powerhouse teams, but we’ll get there.”

The Chiefs finished the 2015 campaign in 14th place with 596 power points.

 

From Wayward Youth to Boxing Prospect, East Flatbush Product Finds New Path


By Jerry Del Priore

Mikkel LesPierre was a standout basketball player at Transit Tech High School. But he got sidetracked, and wound up getting kicked off the team.

Getting into some form of trouble with a friend seemed to be the norm for the young LesPierre. So his friend’s father suggested they give boxing a try in order to channel their behavior in a positive direction, and learn how to protect themselves if the need arose.

Mikkel "Slikk Mikk LesPierre delivers blow to opponent. Photo Courtesy of www.mikkellespierre.com

Mikkel “Slikk Mikk LesPierre delivers blow to opponent.
Photo Courtesy of http://www.mikkellespierre.com

“I used to be in the streets a lot,” said LesPierre, a longtime Flatbush resident. “My friend’s father was into boxing. He said, ‘you guys are always getting into trouble. At least you should learn how to protect yourselves.’ So, he was like, ‘get into boxing.’ That’s how I initially got into boxing.”

After giving the sport a lukewarm effort in his teens, he returned to boxing in his early twenties. It gave him the focus he desperately needed.

“I found a new love. Boxing changed me as a person altogether, and made me into a better athlete,” LesPierre said. “Being that it’s a sports driven by self-motivation, self-discipline, it changed me as an induvial.”

LesPierre, 30, posted an impressive 36-13 amateur record, taking home the 2008 New York Metro City and 2007 Empire State Games championships.

LesPierre turned professional on June 8, 2012 in Woodhaven, New York, where knocked out Miguel Antonio Rodriguez.

Since then, the Trinidad and Tobago-born light welterweight has been impressive, peeling off 10 wins and a draw for an 11-0-1 record, with six victories coming this year alone.

Mikkell Lespierre poses for photo at the world famous Gleason's Gym, site of his training grounds.

Mikkell Lespierre poses for photo at the world famous Gleason’s Gym, site of his training grounds.

LesPierre, who has garnered the nickname SlikMikk because of his slick fighting style, plans on continuing on his the path of success, even if he has to cut back on his torrid boxing schedule just a little to give his a body some rest. He said he hopes his scheduled fights and his training coincide better in the future so he can peak simultaneously, not the way it transpired in his last bout in October.

“I have been real consistent from the beginning of the year,” he said. “My last fight, I think is where I really felt over trained. I was supposed to fight at the beginning of last month, and that didn’t happen.

“But I was able to get on a card at the end of the month. So I had to prolong my training. I was already training five weeks prior for that fight. So to extend my training another two and half, three weeks, I was already peaked. So I had to come down, and try and peak again, which was hard.”

Unfortunately, LesPierre’s body almost quit on him. Thankfully, however, he was able to lean on guts and guile to pull out the four-round junior welterweight bout against Evincii Dixon when all was said and done.

“After the first round, it was like, ‘I’m in in this.’ In the middle of the second round, my body just didn’t want to go nowhere,” the converted southpaw fighter recalled. “My mind was telling my body to do one thing, but my body was trying to resist it. But at the end of the day, I dug deep, and pulled out the win the best way I knew how to.”

As good as a fighter as he is, he’s even a better student and individual, making Don Saxby’s (his trainer) job that much easier.

“He’s a good student all together; very discipline,” Saxby glowingly said. “Everything I teach him, he goes in the ring and tries it until he gets it. Everything I ask him to do, he does it. He’s very coachable, and even a better person.”

As for the future, LesPierre’s camp is eyeing a bout in late December, early January, believing he has the perfect mindset to help fulfill his potential, sacrificing a social life in order to do so.

Mikkell LesPierre sports game face before a fight. www.mikkellespierre.com

Mikkell LesPierre sports game face before a fight.
Photo courtesy of http://www.mikkellespierre.com.

“He works, he trains, he goes home,” Saxby explained. “That’s his lifestyle, and that’s the lifestyle he needs to have if he wants to become a world champion. Once he becomes the world champ, and I’m almost sure he will, it can slow down a little bit for him. He can have a little fun, but we don’t want to get too crazy with it.”

For now, it’s all business for the local humble, hardworking fighter who’s doing his best to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

“I’m here to accomplish my own goals,” LesPierre said. “I’m putting myself at risk, and I’m challenging myself each time I get in that ring. I tell myself I can do this. I’m putting in the work, and going out there, and showing and proving.”

It’s that determined attitude that has LesPierre on a path to glory at the moment, with his old life in the rearview mirror.

Big Apple Basketball Challenge Returns to Baruch College


Big Apple Basketball

Big Apple Basketball

New York, NY – After a four year absence, Big Apple Basketball will host the Ninth Annual Big Apple Basketball Challenge in New York City on Sunday, December 6 at Baruch College.

The challenge, which will feature eight of New York City’s top PSAL and CHSAA teams, is an event designed to show the supremacy of New York City’s high school respective leagues on the basketball court.

The challenge will feature PSAL schools: Thomas Jefferson, Wings, Thurgood Marshall, and Boys and Girls, along with CHSAA schools: Iona Prep, Cardinal Hayes, Archbishop Molloy and Monsignor Scanlan.

“It’s a great experience and people want to see these matchups,” said Thomas Jefferson Head Coach Lawrence Pollard, who will be his seventh year participating in the competition with Jefferson, compiling a 3-3 series record versus the Catholic schools. “You get the best of the best on a neutral college court, in front of college coaches,” Pollard added.

Notable players include: Thomas Jefferson senior Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s); Iona Prep senior Ty Jerome (Virginia); Cardinal Hayes senior Clive Allen; Wings senior Jose Perez; and Archbishop Molloy freshman Cole Anthony (son of former NBA player, Greg Anthony).

“We’re just very happy to be able to bring back a very important event to New York City high school basketball,” Big Apple Basketball President Jason Curry said. “The concept is unique and from 2004-2011, it featured all of the best boys basketball players our city had to offer.”

Former event standouts include: Kemba Walker (Rice/Charlotte Hornets); Lance Stephenson (Abraham Lincoln/Los Angeles Clippers); Charles Jenkins (Springfield Gardens/Hofstra); Devin Ebanks (Bishop Loughlin/West Virginia); and Sylven Landesberg (Holy Cross/Virginia).

The CHSAA holds a 40-22 series edge, with both leagues splitting four games in 2011.

Founded in 1999, Big Apple Basketball provides exposure and assists young people in their athletic, educational, professional, and life skill development, while providing family and community focused programs and events.

SCHEDULE
12pm – Boys and Girls (PSAL-Brooklyn) vs. Archbishop Molloy (CHSAA-Queens)
2pm – Thurgood Marshall (PSAL-Manhattan) vs. Monsignor Scanlan (CHSAA-Bronx)
4pm – Thomas Jefferson (PSAL-Brooklyn) vs. Cardinal Hayes (CHSAA-Bronx)
6pm – Wings (PSAL-Bronx) vs. Iona Prep (CHSAA-New Rochelle)

For more information, including media credentials, please contact:
Big Apple Basketball – 718-575-3342,
staff@bigapplebasketball.com.

Canarsie Area High School Developing Next Wave Of Ad Execs


By Jerry Del Priore

Good things are happening at the High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media (IAM), one of the first public high schools in the country dedicated to teaching students about advertising, design and media through a well-designed curriculum and from private industry professionals.

Since its inception in 2008, in addition to regular high school classes, students have been taking courses in advertising, media and technology, which includes web and graphic design. Furthermore, pupils have several resources at their disposal such as developing a portfolio, joining an advanced production club, and various internships.

Kyle Allen assist students with projects.

Kyle Allen assist students with projects.

Ms. Adaleza Michelena, IAM’s Principal, said the school has aligned itself with the American Association of Advertising Agencies (the four As), a large advertising agency trade association, which has “leveraged their relationships and their member organizations in order to provide support for our school run activities.”

IAM currently has strong working relationships with Momentum Worldwide, Deutsch Advertising and OMG, an Omnicom group, among other advertising agencies, said Al Benoit, the industry liaison at 4 As.

“There’s a strong emphasis, in terms of my role, to maximize engagement with the outside industry, as in speakers, internships, visits to the offices, and competitions,” Benoit explained.

So far, IAM, with the leadership of 4 As and the school’s dedicated staff, has been successful, producing a reasonably high graduating rate , Michelena noted. Plus, several of its former students are presently enrolled in college advertising programs, preparing them even further for the Madison Avenue world.

Kyle Allen, who has been instrumental in developing the program from the ground up, took it upon himself to learn from top advertising professionals. He picked their brains in every aspect of the business in order create a topnotch program suitable for optimal learning.

Allen, whose background is in communications and computer science, uses his knowledge and experience to help students conceive and implement advertising campaigns across a wide range of media channels such as print, film and the web, including social networking.

Kyle Allen describing computer program to students.

Kyle Allen describing computer program to students.

Allen’s meticulous attention to detail and devotion to his students began to turn heads, garnering him the 2011 Stanley Schair Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher of the Year Award for Excellence and Innovation. It’s an honor given to the teacher who has best demonstrated outstanding invention and practices in the subject matter.

While Allen always encourages his student to attend college, he feels IAM does give them a solid advertising foundation upon graduation to take with them wherever they choose.

“I tell the kids all the time that you cannot go into the workforce without a higher level of education,” said Allen, who’s also Canarsie Educational Campus’ head football coach.

“We try to push them to go onto college, and beyond,” the Work Based Learning Coordinator continued. “But, for all intents and purposes, they are prepared for entry level, fresh-out-of-the-gate jobs at ad agencies. They are ready for that, if they take advantage what the program has to offer for four complete years.”

Cosmos’ Semifinal Win Over Fort Lauderdale Give Soccer Icons Chance to Go Out on Top


By Jerry Del Priore

It’s fair to say that most athletes want to finish their careers on top. Soccer legends Raúl and Marcos Senna, who will both retire after this season, are no different.

After defeating the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 2-1, at Brooklyn’s MCU Park Saturday in the North American Soccer League (NASL) Semifinals, the Spanish legends will get one more chance to go out with a bang.

The New York Cosmos Saturday before their semifinals match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at MCP  Park in Coney Island Brooklyn.

The New York Cosmos Saturday before their semifinals match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at MCP Park in Coney Island Brooklyn.

Next Sunday, October 15th at 5:00 p.m, the New York Cosmos (10-6-4) will host the winner of tomorrow’s semifinal match between the Ottawa Fury FC and Minnesota United FC in the NASL Championship at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.

Asked if the team thought about the second half being the last forty five minutes in the duo’s storied careers, Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese said, “Never. Because we have no time to think about those things. We have to correct, we have to make sure we fix some things that we felt in the first half we could have done better. At no point did we think that.”

The Strikers (8-6-6) opened up the scoring after midfielder PC received the pass at the corner of the penalty area and finished low and left, shooting the ball by goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer for a 1-0 lead at 15:23 mark.

Maurer kept the game close for the Cosmos when he made a nice, diving save at 31:01 mark of the first half.

New York stayed within striking distance, and waited for its opportunity. It came when Fort Lauderdale netminder David Meves saved midfielder Marcos Antonio Senna da Silvia’s free kick but the deflection dropped to attacker Gaston Cellerino, who banged it home for the equalizer at 36:26 point of the contest.

New York came out aggressive in the second half, putting the pressure on the Strikers’ defensive, but came up empty.

New York City Council Member Vincent Gentile flips the coin at today's match.

New York City Council Member Vincent Gentile flips the coin at today’s match.

The Cosmos wouldn’t be denied, however. Midfielder Daniel Szetela found attacker Raúl open in the middle of the box, where he proceeded to direct it into the lower left corner of the net for the 2-1 advantage at the 61st minute of the game. The game-winning tally was Raúl’s ninth goal of the season, a team-best.

With the Cosmos applying the offensive heat on the Strikers, Meves responded by making a picturesque, sparkling save to his right at the 81st minute mark of the match to keep it a one score tilt.

But New York kept the offensive pressure on the rest of the way while the defense clamped down for the victory.

Quick Start Powers Unbeaten Vikings To Lopsided Win Over Brooklyn Tech


South Shore football head coach Matt Ciquera’s motto is start fast, and finish faster. It’s something the fifth-year coach has been hammering home to his team all season long.

South Shore running back breaks away from Brooklyn Tech's defense.

South Shore running back breaks away from Brooklyn Tech’s defense.

Taking the saying to heart, the Vikings jumped all over Brooklyn Tech, scoring 20 unanswered points even before Brooklyn Tech knew what hit them. The quick start helped propel South Shore to a convincing 48-16 victory over the Engineers Saturday on the road.

Heading into final game of the regular season next week, Ciquera said that it’s his duty as a coach to prepare his undefeated squad for a hopeful long playoff run and a shot at playing for the Championship.

“At this point, and you’re 9-0, and you’re telling your kids anything less, I don’t think you’re doing your job as a head coach,” Ciquera said of the possibility of playing at Yankee Stadium for the PSAL City Conference crown. “These kids have worked extremely hard to get in the position where at, so that has to be the focus.”

As the regular season concludes, with the top four PSAL teams receiving first round byes, Ciquera is handling next week’s affair like a postseason tilt. Therefore, the coaching staff will kick it up a notch because of what’s at stake.

“Just like I told the team two seconds ago, next week has to be treated like a playoff game,” Ciquera explained. “Because we know if we go out and get a W next week, that will ensure that were sitting at home for a first round bye and home playoff game.”

A team with limited depth, Ciquera believes the rest and home crowd support will only benefit South Shore.

“We’re not one of the deepest teams in terms of the number guys we have on the roster, and really from position to position,” he explained. “So, to give guys a week to kind of rest their bodies up, and give us two weeks of preparation for that first team we’re going to see will be a huge advantage for us. So, we’re definitely treating Curtis as our first round playoff game.”

Vikings defender jams Engineer receiver at line.

Vikings defender jams Engineer receiver at line.

The Viking’s first touchdown came on their initial offensive possession of the game when junior running back Rafael Cordero found pay dirt on a long run.

Jason Martin followed that up with two long passing touchdowns to seniors—one to Michael Watson on a post pattern, and the second to Marqus Campbell on a 70-yarder on a go route that put South Shore up by three scores early in the second quarter.

Brooklyn Tech (2-7) sliced the deficit to 20-8 on an Amani Murphy rushing TD midway through the second period.

But South Shore responded with a two-yard touchdown rush by senior running back Omar Jarrett and a successful extra point by senior kicker Ahmed Azeez to take a 27-8 lead with 4:04 left in the first half.

After a quick three and out for the Engineers, the Vikings quickly moved the ball down field, with Cordero capping the drive on a 10-yard rushing TD to swell their advantage to 34-8 with seconds remaining in the second quarter.

South Shore put the game out of reach on touchdown receptions by Juvensen Jeune and Watson in the third period before Brooklyn Tech capped the scoring on a short TD toss and a two-point conversion run near the end of the game.

Vikings' offensive line opens hole for running back.

Vikings’ offensive line opens hole for running back.

The Vikings travel to Staten Island Saturday at 6:00 p.m. to face Curtis in the regular season finale.