By Jerry Del Priore
Thomas Jefferson boys’ head basketball coach Lawrence “Bud” Pollard was growing tired of fielding championship questions from people in the school’s surrounding areas.
You see, the last time the Orange Wave captured a PSAL varsity basketball title was way back in 1954, but on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, that drought finally came to an end as Thomas Jefferson crushed Abraham Lincoln, 90-61, in the finals.
“All of the fans, people in Brownsville and East New York, they are on my back every day about this championship,” Pollard said. “I said, ‘Guys, when I first came to Jeff, we didn’t even have a basketball. Now, these guys are going to school for free using basketball, I’m winning 25 games a year, and we’re traveling around the country. Don’t let a championship determine how successful our program is and I am as a coach.’ But, of course, if you don’t have this thing here (trophy), you stink.”
Much to his delight, Pollard silenced his detractors after Saturday’s championship performance.
“Nobody wanted this job 12 years ago; you couldn’t give this job away,” he said. “Now, everybody’s telling me how to coach – what to do, what I’m not doing, but I guess that goes with the territory. And we’ve done a lot of winning, that we set the standard so high that it was the only thing people could say about the program.”
Not anymore, though.
Seniors Shamorie Ponds and Rasheem Dunn earned co-MVP honors with 31 points, 12 rebounds and six assists and 23 points and five boards, respectively.
“It feels very great. I worked all year for this, me and my team,” said Dunn, who will be attending St. Francis College Brooklyn in the fall on a full basketball scholarship. “We put time, effort and dedication in, and we just wanted to get the win, get our coach his first ring and make history.”
Ponds concurred with Dunn’s sentiment, a player with whom he’s been friends since the first grade, according to Pollard. The two players won a JV title together and now get to leave the program on top.
“I’m excited to get this ring,” exclaimed Ponds, who’s heading to St. John’s in the fall on a full hoops scholarship as well. “We finally got one for coach. We came in as one, and we’re leaving as one,” referring to himself and Dunn entering and leaving Thomas Jefferson together.”
The Orange Wave will travel to Albany for the New York State Federation tournament this weekend. Pollard, though happy with the city crown, said he’s determined to come home with the state’s top high school hoops prize.
“So, I told the guys, ‘This is a great win today, but I’m greedy. I want to win it all. I want to win the states,”’ Pollard said.