By David Cordova
When thinking of programs within the Public Schools Athletic League, aside from the perennial powerhouses, there are definitely the underdog teams that are in the lower divisions that have plenty of burgeoning talent.
A school that fits that description is Law & Tech, a rising program from the borders of Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant sections of Brooklyn, that plays in the PSAL “A” Division. The origins of the program started back in 2005, when the school was still known as the ACORN High School of Social Justice. In 2010, the school became known as its current name.
Since the inception of the program, there has been nine players that have gone off to play basketball in college, the most prominent of them being Matt Scott, a junior guard at Niagara University, who led the school to their first semifinal appearance as a senior in 2014.
“We are all so proud of him,”says Jets head coach Michael Levy of Scott: “He told us he wanted to play D-I, that was our goal for him. He has more than exceeded that goal because of his drive and that can’t be taught.”
Another interesting thing about the Jets is their coaching, with none other than Kenny Pretlow on the sideline. Pretlow, who has coached for AAU programs such as the Riverside Hawks, Metro Hawks and the New York Rens and has won multiple PSAL championships as an assistant at Brooklyn powerhouses Abraham Lincoln, and most recently, Thomas Jefferson, brings a great wealth of experience to Law & Tech.
“What he has done is so admirable and inspiring,” says Levy of Pretlow, “I might be biased, but in my opinion, he is the best coach in the city. The impact he has on these kids is unreal. He is a father figure to them. He’s like a chess master out there. He sees things no one else sees and anticipates the opponents move before they make it.”
Although they’re in the PSAL “A” division, the Jets have been able to compete against many of the city’s finest in the “AA” division, as they’ve gone up against them tournaments such as More Than A Game in Queens, Funsport and the Conrad McRae Youth League in their native borough, Brooklyn, and the Tru Ballaz tournament in the Bronx.
“Well, it’s a mixed bag, with success comes more pressure since we know we will get everyone’s best game,” says Levy. “Bur it’s been great for our team’s confidence and Kenny and I had a plan. We knew we had some special kids that we wanted to showcase.”
Last season, the Jets were 19-5 and made it all the way to the PSAL “A” quarterfinals, where they lost to John Bowne, a program that has recently moved up to the
“AA” division. “We were happy in that we thought we were a year away, but once you start winning, expectations change. We were a missed box-out away from the final four. That hurts.”
This year’s team returns three of their biggest pieces, junior forward Victor Ogbo, junior guard Larry Moreno and senior guard Mikko Johnson, who recently signed his letter of intent to play at St. Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ next fall.
Of the talented trio, Coach Levy had this to say: “Well, they have been playing together since they were kids. And they have also played AAU together with Castle Athletics on the 16U level.”
On Mikko Johnson: “Mikko is a four-year varsity starter who came to our school at 5-2 and had to get thrust into the starting lineup when our starting point guard had knee surgery and missed the season. He averaged 12 points a game mainly spotting up in the corner for Matt and our other seniors. He had a growth spurt and has been the team leader since he was a sophomore. Over the summer he made it a goal to be a D-I player and we can’t be more proud of him. He makes everyone on the court better and is a pure point guard.
On Larry Moreno: “Larry is a stone cold killer on the court/ We call him “the Dominican Mamba” after Kobe Bryant, who is his favorite player and also because ofhis ability to rise in big moments. He’s pound for pound the toughest kid on the team and is in constant attack mode. He exploded for 32 points per game in the playoffs last year, including a 40-point game against Erasmus Hall.”
On Victor Ogbo: “Victor has come along way. He was always skilled but conditioning was his problem. He spent the summer working on his body. He shed about 20 pounds and is one of the biggest reasons we have been able to compete with the “AA” teams because he is one of the few pure post players in the city. He also can shoot and handle very well for a big man.”
Aside from the trio, there are other promising players for the Jets, such as sophomores Joseph Pena and Davonta Cook, both of whom have extremely high potential and will be significant contributors to the team. Then there are seniors such as Walter Pitt and Javell Garnes, both of whom are being scouted by Division III schools, and lastly, there is Prince Spivey, a dangerous shooter from long range.
With all of that talent assembled on that roster, the Jets worked hard this summer to make their presence felt around the city. “Kenny and I spoke and basically decided we needed to go all in this summer. These tournaments provide great opportunities for exposure for our guys,” says Coach Levy.
“Our goal was to bring attention to Mikko, Larry and Victor and the side affect is us getting better. Preparing us for the season,we wanted to be competitive. But we never thought that we would be winning championships. That just shows you what hard work can do for you.”
“Our boys sacrificed a lot this summer. While other kids were going to the beach or hanging out, they were outside on 90-degree weather working hard playing multiple games, working on their skills, and when your best players are your hardest workers it trickles down to everyone else. One of my proudest moments is the day after Mikko’s signing, our freshman Deontae Whidbee came an hour before practice to put up shots because he wanted to be like Mikko.”
“And that’s what I love about this program, that the legacy that gets passed down. Mikko learned from Matt and so on. We want our school to be the place kids go to that have talent but may not start an ‘AA’ school but still want a chance to play four years of varsity and have a chance to play at the highest level.”
All of the work that the Jets have put in this summer has paid off so far, as they are now 3-0 on the season after wins over KIPP NYC, Wadleigh and Grand Street Campus. But the road is going to be tough with non-league games against Paterson Eastside (NJ) and New York state powerhouse Long Island Lutheran on the schedule, but like time and time again, Law & Tech always finds a way to persevere.
“Well, first and foremost, we want our kids to continue to be successful in the classroom and our seniors graduate and go to college. We know this group has a chance to be successful and do something special this year. We want to try and win the division and take this as far as we can.”
If the Jets can keep building on their present success, there is no question that they will be in the same conversation eventually with the other programs in Brooklyn, but for right now, their mission is to win the PSAL “A” championship.
“Well, we always look 2 years ahead and we have a good group of young guys.” says Coach Levy.”We hope to continue to change the narrative that you don’t always have to go to an AA school to play a high level.”