Can this be the season that Blazer basketball supporters, aficionades, and pundits have been waiting for? Coming off a sensational 14-5 season last year and 14-6 two years earlier while prospering at 10-2 in their conference encounters each of those years, a growing sense of optimism and a steadfast confidence pervades within the North hardwood camp. In a county basketball setup now revised to six divisions (three of 10 and three of nine team alignments) for the 57 team aggregate arranged in groupings based on enrollment, the locals are designed in the nine team 4-B division, seeded second. They will meet four division opponents twice and four others once for a 12 game league schedule, common to each team in the county.
Coach Mike Holleran, now entering his seventh basketball campaign as Blazer mentor with a noteworthy 66-42 record highlighting his resume´, rejoices with obvious elation with a talented squad of eager hoopsters at hand but places his expectations in proper perspective in the following statement. "Our high seeding based on last year's success may mark our team as a budding powerhouse on the court but one which our opponents will point for with special attention. This squad may have the best overall balance of any of my earlier teams here with nine players returning and four newcomers advancing from last year's successful JV "A" 12-3 team. Seven seniors and six juniors make up the 13 man roster with at least eight of them assessed with generous and meaningful playing time. Still, hard work and positive floor contributions could vary this allocation and produce different five man combinations based on game situations. Though we are blessed with our tallest front line in ages (6-6, 6-5, and 6-4) it will be the play of our deep backcourt (mostly under six feet in height) that will set the tone for our success. My main concern centers on our play against teams physically strong off the boards, a shortcoming prevalent in recent years with outnumbered rebounding totals. We will look to run as much as possible, especially against teams fundamentally less talented and will always stress strong defense with presses, zones, and man-to-man setups based on opponent matchups. We are definitely shooting for the top in our division and high ranking among the 31 "B" schools with Floral Park, Roosevelt, Wantagh and Plainedge our toughest foes on the league schedule."
Here is a capsule look at the 13 players who should capture the local fancy of our basketball crowd:
Byron Hakimi (5-9, Sr) One of three players starting his third year of varsity status, Byron will maintain his ranking as floor leader at point guard, controlling the offense and displaying high level defensive skills against star opposing guards. Last year's scoring leader with 212 points (11.2 ppg) and topping the squad in assists and steals, his point totals may be lower game after game as part of a more balanced scoring distribution. A definite candidate for all-county honors.
Todd Abramson (6-6, Sr) Our most dominating big man since the 6-5 Colin Deem of 10 years ago piled up amazing scoring and rebounding numbers. Devastating around the hoop with a variety of short jumpers, driving bank shots and jam-stuff shots, he should wreak havoc on defense with blocks and intimidation down low. Averaged eight points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season which should be upgraded on all counts this year. Another three year starter.
Brandon Yankowitz (6-5, Jr) Slim at 175 lbs. and all arms and legs, he will delight crowds with his contortions and colorful moves to the basket while disrupting opposing inside forays as a human eraser. He averaged 10 points per game last year plus 5.6 rebounds and excelled at putbacks and offensive board work.
Jon Donenfeld (6-0, Jr) Will seek to succeed the mantel set by departed Saul Zion as our resident outside shooter and 3-point man. Plays a spirited floor game with a special ball handing knack and shows great intensity on defense. Should hit for double figures consistently while improving on his all around skills.
Matt Pek (5-10, Sr) Another three year player, he will put in key floor time as he displays his great outside shooting, quickness and fluidity in his actions along with stellar defensive play. He will complement Hakimi when both exercise floor direction at critical moments. One of four players last year to reach 20 points in a single game.
Evan Weissbrot (6-4, Sr) A burly 215 pounder, he will be counted on to crash the boards with intensity and cultivate his hard nosed offensive drives to the basket. Though held back in the past by injury and illness, he can spark the team off the bench with his forceful efforts. Once he upgrades his technique on defense his increased floor time will be evident.
Mike Goldberg (5-8, Sr) the quickest player on the squad with superb athletic ability for his size, he displays great alacrity on defense with quick hands and ball stealing prowess. His game knowledge and floor leadership make him a key player on the team.
Justin Glaser (6-1, Jr) Though playing little last year, his current display of offensive skills promises more minutes on the floor, playing the #3 corner position where his baseline jumpers add a special offensive touch when extra points are needed. With more work on defense and greater game awareness his team value will gain in stature.
Israel Henriquez (5-9, Jr) "Izzy" is a welcome addition to the varsity after leading last year's JV "A" in scoring with a 13.93 average, just. 06 ahead of Dave Grandon (209 to 208 points in 15 games). A great shot, especially on the move, he can drive with skill, be a talented playmaker when called for and display a tight defensive acumen.
David Grandon (5-11, Sr) Played two JV seasons; an unusual situation where he flourished in his junior year with outstanding scoring efforts. He will give the team a lift off the bench where his rebounding skills and instant offense will raise the team from a low point.
Mike Steck (5-7, Jr) Though slight at 130 lbs. he will display a complete arsenal of ability when called upon for spot appearances. His value is more as a playmaker than a scorer and his intelligent floor play is always an asset.
Oren Benen (6-2, Sr) In limited playing time his 210 pound bulk will be useful around the hoop with strong rebounding and occasional scoring. He is considered the unsung hero among his teammates, doing the dirty work which gains little recognition.
Shahab Berokhim (5-3, Jr) Known as Rocky and Muggsy he is the shortest (also smallest) player in school history (70 years) to play varsity basketball. His fantastic dribbling and no look passing along with daredevil driving layups and rangy set shots make him a definite crowd pleaser.
Early season highlights on the schedule includes participation for the fifth time at the Bud Chianese tip-off tournament at Clarke along with two home games on Dec. 15 and 18 against Garden City and Great Neck South. The home games noted above will be televised on local TV Channel 51 for later viewing. A non-league game against longtime rival Port Washington on the road on Dec. 22 will conclude the pre-New Year schedule.