Brooklyn College Men’s Basketball Team Upends Baruch, 76-67, to Capture CUNYAC Championship


By Jerry Del Priore

Brooklyn College Men's Basketbal team

Brooklyn College Men’s Basketball team celebrates championship after beating Baruch College, 76-67, in the 2015-16 CUNYAC Championship at CCNY Friday night. Photo from BC Athletics. 

The fifth-seeded Brooklyn College Men’s basketball team was dead set on taking home the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) championship crown, especially after losing to Baruch last year.

This time the Bulldogs played with a vengeance, refusing to be denied, as they defeated the No. 5 Bearcats, 76-67, at the City College of New York Friday night in the CUNYAC title game.

It was Brooklyn College’s first title since the 2009-2010 campaign.

Senior 6’ 4” forward Lorenzo Williams, who drained a game-high 25 points, aided by 4-8 from beyond the arc, scored his 1000th career point with the Bulldogs. For his overall impressive performance, CUNYAC named the Canarsie resident Tournament MVP.

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Lorenzo Williams Head Shot. Photo from Brooklyn College Athletics.

Senior captain Jamel Gist capped off an exceptional tournament  with 17 points, six assists, no turnovers, and four steals of his own. Senior swingman Egzon Gjonbalaj registered the contest’s only double-double, finishing with 13 points and 17 rebounds.

Second-year head coach Rich Micallef picked up his first championship at the helm for the Bulldogs.

The victory earned Brooklyn College an automatic bid in the Division III NCAA Tournament beginning March 3-4, against an unknown opponent, which D-III tournament officials will announce tomorrow.

 

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Ex South Shore Viking Lorenzo Williams Finds Basketball Bliss at Brooklyn College


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Lorenzo Williams Head Shot. Photo from Brooklyn College

By Jerry Del Priore

Brooklyn College senior forward Lorenzo Williams didn’t take the usual route to basketball happiness.

A self-proclaimed street baller, Lorenzo tried out for South Shore High School’s basketball team in Canarsie in his senior year in 2007 at the request of head coach Mike Beckles. He made the cut, and played well.

Since he said “organized basketball wasn’t my thing at first,” Williams didn’t begin his college playing career until 2010.

Nevertheless, he starred at Kingsborough Community College, where the City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) named him to the community college first-team All-Star squad and a Region XV All-Star after averaging 17.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

Williams played a season there, and then transferred to National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II Francis Marion University in South Carolina, where he played a half campaign in unfavorable conditions, only starting the first game of the year.

“It was just a bad situation,” the 6’ 4” Canarsie resident, who drained 14 points in the Bulldogs’ 72-62 victory over York College in the CUNYAC quarterfinal Championships, said. “I didn’t like the situation, so (I left).”

Williams sat out two years to regroup before attending Brooklyn College, where he joined the basketball squad. There, he averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 boards per tilt—second on the team in both categories for the 2014-15 campaign.

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Lorenzo Williams launces open shot. Photo from Brooklyn College

Seeing Williams’ value to the team, head coach Rich Micallef extolled the work ethic and playing abilities of his versatile player who’s garnered an interesting nickname because of upper twenties age, which he didn’t disclose.

“Outside or inside, ‘Pops’ can do it all,” Micallef wrote on BrooklynCollegeathletics.com. “His ability to get to the basket and shoot the three makes him a tough player to stop. Continually working on perfecting his craft, Lorenzo spends countless hours in the gym.”

This year, the Brownsville native has picked up his scoring output, draining 18.8 points per contest while grabbing 5.5 rebounds per game.

It’s been a match made in heaven with the Bulldogs for Williams, who received his second straight CUNYAC All-Star nod this season while earning a solid education.

“This is a perfect spot for me,” the physical education major, who would like to teach middle school children and coach in the future, said. “I feel at home.”

While Williams is thriving on the hardwood at Brooklyn College, it’s his never-ending passion for the sport that keeps him going.

“I love this game. That’s why I play,” Williams explained. “It’s not making me any money. So, what else is it doing? It’s just love. That’s why I’m here.”

The only thing Williams loves more than the game is winning. It’s fair to say he has a strong aversion to losing. And he’s hungry for the Bulldogs to take a championship bite out of the CUNYAC basketball trophy, especially after losing to Baruch College in the 2015 finals.

“That’s my whole purpose,” he said of the possibility of capping his playing career with a Brooklyn College hoops title under his belt. “If I don’t win, I feel like a failure.”

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#12 Lorenzo Williams and senior guard #15 Jamel Gist congratulate each other at midcourt after Brooklyn College took a nice lead near the end of its quarterfinal game against  York College, which it won, 72-62, on Saturday.

A victory, however, will surely erase any hardwood heartache, and end his memorable basketball journey with the Bulldogs on a happy note.

No. 3 Brooklyn College defeated second-seeded College of Staten Island, 78-69, at City  College of New York in the semifinals Tuesday night.

Williams led all scores with 23 points, and added 11 rebounds in a spectacular effort versus the Dolphins.

The Bulldogs will now face No. 5 Baruch College on Friday at 8:30 p.m., also at CCNY, in a rematch of the 2015 CUNYAC final.

Winner of Friday’s game will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.

 

 

 

Dario Pizzano on the Rise in the Mariners’ Farm System


 

By Jerry Del Priore

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Dario Pizzano with the AA Jackson Generals.

It’s not often that I comment or write about baseball prospects, other than ones from the New York Mets, my favorite team. But Dario Pizzano is a player I interviewed in May of 2012, after he finished up his third season with the Columbia University Lions.

At the time, the then-21-year-old was contemplating entering the 2012 June major league first-year player draft, which he did. The Seattle Mariners plucked Pizzano in the 15th round, and he has been performing well at the professional level ever since.

Pizzano smacked four home runs and 28 RBI, to go along with an impressive batting average of .354, and an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of .949 across two levels (short season A and rookie ball).

Pizzano played well in full-season A ball with the Clinton LumberKings in 2013, batting .311 with eight dingers and 70 RBI, while swiping a career-best eight bases. But he struggled a little bit the following campaign with the Advanced A High Desert Mavericks and AA Jackson Generals, posting a combined .244 average with 11 long balls and 76 RBI.

Regrouping and readjusting to higher level pitching in 2015, though limited by a season-ending hand injury on June 25th, Pizzano raked to the tune of .308 with 13 doubles, four triples, four round trippers and 33 RBI in 221 at-bats in AA.

The Mariners sent him to the Arizona Fall League following the season, and Pizzano did a good job handling the game’s best young talent.

This year, the Mariners have invited the 24-year-old left fielder to spring training in Peoria, Arizona, where he’ll get to show Seattle’s brass his impressive skill set.

The biggest question is whether he can defend left field able enough to not be considered a liability at the corner outfield spot? Pizzano has a .983 career fielding percentage and has made 10 outfield assists in four seasons. Not bad, but not head-turning. He made substantial improvements defensively in 2015, however, not committing an error in 208.1 innings, with three outfield assists.

It’s a long shot for Pizzano, a former little league World Series hero, to make the club out of spring training. But an impressive showing can bolster his chances of making the team in the future, and may give him an outside prospect of cracking the roster to start the season.

But who knows? Anything can happen; it’s baseball. And if it doesn’t, Pizzano will get the opportunity to fine-tune his diamond talents at, most likely, the AAA level with the Tacoma Rainiers.

If he performs well in Tacoma, he’ll quickly rise up on the rankings of Seattle’s prospect list. Thus, warranting a late-season call up to the big club, which I expect to happen.

 

 

 

Brooklyn Cyclones Get New Hitting Coach in Former Player Sean Ratliff


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New hitting coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones Sean Raliff, who played with the Cyclones in 2008.

By Jerry Del Priore

After a four-year minor league baseball career in which he posted a .271 batting average with 43 home runs, 176 RBI, and OPS of .422, Sean Ratliff will serve as the Brooklyn Cyclones’ new hitting coach for the 2016 season.

Ratliff was forced to retire in 2012 after an eye injury sustained on a check swing foul ball off of former teammates Zach Lutz’s bat struck him in the face while standing on the on-deck circle during a Triple-A game in Jupiter, Florida. The knock broke six bones, almost fully detached Ratliff’s right eye and had him concerning over losing his right eye.

After four surgeries, Ratliff regain enough sight in his right eye to practice and was able to get additional assistance by using a corrective contact lens. He also wore sun glasses at the plate during day games to help him hit.

The former New York Mets’ 4th round pick of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Stanford University recovered enough sight to make a return to the field in 2012. However, much to his dismay, he had to call it quits after seven games due to hitting issues caused by his right eye.

Ratliff appeared in 59 games with the Cyclones, hitting .229 with seven homers and 22 RBI, along with nine doubles and a triple. The Mets promoted him to Class Low-A Savannah the following 2008 campaign and he proceeded to climb his way up the organizational ladder to High-A St. Lucie, eventually making it as high as Double-A Binghamton in 2010.

The six-foot, three-inch former outfielder enjoyed his best season in 2010, slugging .298 with 20 dingers and 80 RBI, to go along with a .353 OBP and a .505 slugging percentage between two clubs—St. Lucie and Binghamton.

Ratliff will replace Yunir Garcia, who was reassigned to the Gulf Coast Mets for the 2016 season.

 

 

Former Canarsien Uses Neighborhood Roots and Music Passion to Succeed


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Edmund Bini (A.K.A. DJ Sizzahandz)displays the style that has helped make him a success.

By Jerry Del Priore

As a kid growing up in Canarsie, Edmund Bini displayed a love for music, which, he said, he acquired from his mother, an avid dancer who attempted to teach him The Hustle.

Bini’s passion for music grew as his school and neighborhood’s diversity exposed him to the hip-hop lifestyle, still in its infancy at the time. He credits those same kids for setting the stage for who he is today.

“I have to say going to P.S. 272 with a multicultured group of children really played a tremendous part in bringing music into my life,” Bini said. “I hung out in the Bayview projects for years and the kids I hung out with were all heavily into the early stages of hip-hop culture. Without those kids, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

As he got older, Bini began to realize his ability to distinguish the different, distinct sounds in music. It compelled him to cash in all of his savings bonds, much to his mother’s dismay, and purchase two turntables and a mixer from Radio Shack. He plugged all the equipment into his mother’s stereo. Soon after, at the age of 15, he began perfecting the art of DJing.

Non-athletic and not much for school, Bini always had music as his saving grace. In time, he took the stage name of DJ Sizzahandz, given that he could scratch records with scissor-like precision, and his name was close to Edward from the 1990’s Tim Burton film, “Edward Scissorhands.”

Bini’s first club DJing gig was at Le Parc, located on the corner of Avenue N and Rockaway Parkway, in the early 90s. It was the actual bar (Bamboo Lounge) that was portrayed in the iconic movie, “Goodfellas.” In fact, Bini worked for the real Sonny, also depicted in the flick.

While he took the good with the bad, which he said would require too much space to tell, he always looks upon his Canarsie days as special to him.

Canarsie was everything to me,” he recollected. “It was the best and worst upbringing I could ever hope for. (It was) all of the good, bad and ugly that made me the person I am today. There will never be another place like it, man.”

In 1993, he joined forces with another Canarsie DJ icon, Joe Rizzo, also known as DJ Riz. The duo formed the Crooklyn Clan, which produces one of the world’s finest online music boutiques, the Crooklyn Clan Vault.

Together, they are responsible for a number of international chart-topping tracks such as “Be Faithful” and “It Takes Scoop” and a hit remix of Sean Paul’s “Get Busy.”

The pair still produces music today, as they are working on a special dance music project at the moment. They also own CrackforDJs.net, a remixing service designed for use mainly by performance DJs.

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Edmund Bini in a publicly shot.

As for Bini himself, he owns www.i12inch.com, a record pool designed to enhance the performance of the working DJ, and has a Tech House (a subgenre of house music that mixes elements of techno with house) EP coming out on March 15th.

Currently, Bini co-owns a women’s online clothing boutique and a men’s clothing line called C3.

“I have always been that guy to look for a way to squeeze the nickel until it turns into a dollar,” the West Goshen, Pennsylvania resident explained. “I am also smart enough to know that being a superstar DJ is not a forever job; it’s more of a cash-in type situation, like hitting a slot machine. From day one, I looked for all the points of what I do and thought heavily about how to flip aspects of my job into other jobs, so to speak. Coming up while the internet is taking over the world gave me a pretty defined goal from day one.”

And Bini never forgets where it all began — right here in Canarsie.

Canarsie Lady Chiefs Bounce Evander Childs in First Round of Basketball Playoffs


Jerry Del Priore

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Senior guard Shania Lewis prepares to shoot free throw Sunday versus Francis Lewis

Canarsie refused to let a recent loss to non-conference opponent Francis Lewis get it down. Behind 15- and 14-point performances from senior Shania Lewis and sophomore Brianna Jones, respectively, the 11th seeded Lady Chiefs bounced back and trounced No. 22 Evader Childs, 58-35, Thursday at home in the first round of the Class ‘A’ postseason.

Junior guard Kemisha Fredrick contributed 10 points and 12 rebounds in the victory.

Sunday’s Results: Francis Lewis 68, Canarsie 28

Going into Sunday’s game against the Lady Patriots, a team in the higher “AA” division, Canarsie played the underdog role, not expected to beat a squad who won the Championship just two years ago. But onlookers did hope for a better performance, which they didn’t receive, as Francis Lewis annihilated the Lady Chiefs, 68-28, at the Brooklyn Stuy Dome.

Canarsie (15-3, 17-7) was in the game early on, only behind 11-5 at the end of the first period. But the Lady Chiefs failed to do anything right, as sloppy play plagued them in the second quarter. The Lady Patriots (14-1, 20-3) took advantage of Canarsie’s poor shooting and miscues, building a 31-11 lead going into the locker room.

The Lady Chiefs’ woes continued in the second half, as Francis Lewis swelled its advantage to 57-14 at the end of the third period.

Canarsie did perform better in the fourth quarter, posting 14 points for a minor moral victory, in what was an overall arduous afternoon for the team.

Assistant coach Anthony Butcher attributed the lopsided defeat to youth, and plenty frustration, something they will work on in practice in order to rectify before the playoffs start.

“Hopefully we get things corrected during the next couple of days in practice, because we got (Evander) Childs on Thursday, in the playoffs,” Butcher said. “We’re young, so they don’t understand that when things aren’t going right, you just don’t automatically jump on each other. You try to pick each other up. We’re still learning. We got a lot of freshman, sophomores, and new players that don’t understand the way we do things. I knew this was going to be a little hard season, but we’ll be all right.”

Freshman guard Tianna Jones paced the Chiefs with nine points.

The Lady Vikings Dispatch Nazareth, 58-32, In Non-League Basketball Game


By Jerry Del Priore

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Star junior forward Selena Philoxy, who dropped 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, gets ready to launch free throw.

After securing the No. 1 seed for the “AA” PSAL girls’ playoffs, the Lady Vikings had the difficult task of playing perennial Catholic powerhouse Nazareth High School in non-league action to help them prepare for the postseason.

Behind a double-double (14 points, 14 rebounds) performance from star junior forward Selena Philoxy, South Shore (13-0) looks prime for a long playoff run as it dismantled the Lady Kingsmen, 58-32, Sunday at the Brooklyn Stuy Dome.

For head coach Anwar Gladden, it was business as usual, taking a modest approach with The Lady Vikings, who are set to start the playoffs next month.

“We’re taking it one practice at a time,” Gladden explained. “We got the one seed again, but we know the only thing the one seed means, is that we get to wear white uniforms. It doesn’t mean anything. We still got to play the basketball games.”

However, Gladden didn’t discount the No. 1 ranking.

“It feels good to show that you were the dominant team in the regular season, and we were able to get the one seed,” he said. “So, we’ll be getting ready for either Medgar Evers or Boys and Girls.”

As for Philoxy, “I hope she ends this year with a championship,” the longtime coach said. “She’s playing well, she’s playing strong. She’s having a good season; she just has to keep it up.”

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Senior #1 wing Earlette Scott gets ready to shoot free throws.

But two straight buckets by junior wing Valena Hickerson pushed the advantage to 32-22 early in the third period. The Lady Vikings kept the 10- point lead (40-30) intact at the end of the third quarter. 

In the fourth period, South Shore’s defense went into lockdown mode, allowing just two points, while its offense posted 20 to help the Lady Vikings cruise to victory.

“They came out strong defensively in the second half,” Gladden recollected, “and we were able to open it up.”

Hickerson contributed 12 points while senior wing Aliesha Thomas and sophomore point guard Destiny Philoxy scored seven points apiece.

Inspirational Book Recounts Life Of Revered Former Canarsien, Star Baseball Player Salvatore Aprea


By Jerry Del Priore

In the book tilted When Dreams Never Die, author Gary Robert Wallace depicts the life of former well-regarded Canarsie resident and local standout baseball player and coach Salvatore Aprea.

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Former New York Yankee Farmhand and star Brooklyn High School baseball player Salvatore Aprea (as youngster) on the cover of When Dreams Never Die.

Aprea put up impressive stats as a pitcher and outfielder with Tilden High School and Holy Family Senior CYO travel team, which included winning the Lou Gehrig MVP Trophy at the fifth annual Journal-American baseball game at the New York baseball Giants’ Polo Grounds. It prompted the New York Yankees to ink the then-18-year-old to contract on his graduation day.

Nicely intertwined into the biography, the book begins by telling the tale of Aprea’s parents’ journey from Italy to America for a better life. Moreover, it vividly evokes memories of his childhood days in Canarsie, to his pursuit of the major leagues in the Bronx Bomber’s farm system.

He also talks about his travel league coaching career and the players he helped mentor and mold into better athletes and humans, including his son, Sal Aprea Jr., and grandsons, Daniel Sprock and Bobby and Steven Egeberg.

As for the area children, “He was given kids that he coached major league advice, which he learned first-hand from the guys he played with (in pro ball), which no coach was doing at the time,” Aprea Jr, explained. “Baseball has always been his love, and loved given back (to kids and the game).”

Aprea—who spent six years under contract with the Yankees, two of which was devoted to the United States Army—played four seasons in New York’s minor league system before his father’s illness curtailed his dream.

Though reluctant to tell his story at first, Aprea, 82, said he wanted to inspire other people to not wallow in despair when plans don’t work accordingly, and implores the masses to find a new aspiration in life instead.

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Salvatore Aprea all smiles in head shot photo.

“A good friend here in Arizona kept after me for almost a year to tell my story, about having a dream, and having to walk away because of physical problems at home with my dad,” the New Jersey-born Aprea recollected. “I wrote it with one stipulation: that if there was even one person who had a dream as I had, and for whatever reason, had to walk away, to encourage that individual to never give up hope. It didn’t have to be baseball. It could have been any dream.”

Andy Rizzo, former longtime Canarsie High School football announcer and friend of Aprea, said he was honored to be part of the book.

“He was an excellent role model for the Canarsie kids he coached,” Rizzo said of the baseball tutelage Aprea provided to the local children, including his son Joseph Rizzo, now a well-known deejay (DJ Riz) and former three-sport athlete at Canarsie High School, along with being a football standout at Nassau Community College and Hofstra University.

“He carried himself with great dignity. I am proud to be part of his book, which should be read by all who lived in Canarsie.”

More than baseball, the book looks back at old-time Canarsie and other parts of timeless Brooklyn, with accompanying vintage photos. It also delves into Aprea’s Italian-American working-class upbringing, and includes candid interviews with his wife, Ida.

To purchase a copy of When Dreams Never Die, published by Wallace Publishing House, on December 18, 2015, log onto http://www.Lulu.com.