New York Jayhawks Rising on the Adidas Gauntlet, Becoming a Powerhouse Staple

Photo courtesy of New York Jayhawks.

By David Cordova

Back in the day, there were only a couple of AAU programs around New York City, such as the New York Gauchos from the Bronx and Riverside Church from the Harlem section of Manhattan. Back in the 1980’s, those were the two most exclusive programs that players would frequent to try out just to get exposure.

Fast-forward to 2017. There’s more and more AAU programs coming out everyday. But while most programs all look for the same thing, there’s one that differs from the rest.

The New York Jayhawks, a program based out of Queens, which started in 2011, has risen from a program with hidden gems to a program that has become one of the most prominent on the Adidas Uprising circuit.

Samba Diallo goes up and dunks on defender. (Photo courtesy of New York Jayhawks)

“I want to make an impact on anyone’s life, that’s probably the most important thing to me, changing lives. That’s what motivates me to be successful, to be able to change their life.” says executive director and coach Jay David.

When asked what the mission of the Jayhawks is, David replied, “To build men, that’s our phrase, and that’s what we’re going to try to continue to do. We try to touch as many hearts as we can, but our end goal is to help build young men.”

In the beginning, as with many programs, funding the Jayhawks was very costly. “My uncle founded and started the program, and we did a lot of fundraising and my mother helped, so we did a lot of stuff on our own, we helped build this program by ourselves, we didn’t have anybody else’s help, but my uncle gave us the light and we just went and did everything ourselves,” says David.

Since it’s inception, many Jayhawks alums have gone on to Division I, II and III schools as well as junior colleges. Many have gone to mid-major programs such as Murray State, San Jose State, Monmouth to high-major programs such as UConn & Kentucky. Then there were those that went to academically elite universities such as UPenn & NYU.

“Those guys are the pillars of our program, you know. Bryce Jones, Emile Blackman, Chris Brady,” says David of the program’s alumni base. “I think we’ve had about 40 guys going into our sixth year, go into Division I colleges and this year, we’ll have another seven. So having guys like Hamidou [Diallo] and Mamadou [Diarra] to be able to be with us for three years and four years, that’s an amazing accomplishment and we want to try to continue to do those things.”

In the summer of 2015, due to the emergence of Diallo and Diarra, the Jayhawks were able to play on the Under Armour Association circuit. Although they didn’t do so well, it was enough for the basketball community to know that they had arrived on the map.

Frankie Policelli shoots from the corner. (Photo courtesy of New York Jayhawks)

“It was cool. It was a learning experience,” says David of being on the Under Armour circuit. “It taught us the business, it taught us what we were in for, because sometimes it can be a difference between the competition level between non-sneaker circuits and sneaker circuits, so it gave me that kind of environment and understanding so I was able to go through that and learn from that and help build the program to what we are now.”

Fast-forward a couple of years later. In the present day, they are now associated with the Adidas Uprising circuit, where they steamrolled through the competition in the Silver division and earned their way into the Gold Division for next year.

The 17U squad was ranked in the top-25 team nationally by Prep Hoops and even went 12-1 through the month of May. The 16U squad emerged victorious and won the Adidas Uprising Summer Championships in Las Vegas. The 15U squad made it all the way to the Adidas Summer Championships Gold title game. From the looks of it all, it was a very successful summer for the program.

“It’s amazing. I think they’re doing an amazing job with their events,” says David of the affiliation with Adidas, “I think they’re doing an amazing job with their tournament, they run extremely well-run grassroots tournaments and they have amazing people that work there, so we’re fortunate to be able to build our mission, which is building men, and having a sneaker company be able to back us and support us, and it doesn’t take us away from our goal, but it’s important to have them, and they’ve done a very great job for us.”

Donatas Kupsas cuts through to the lane. (Photo courtesy of New York Jayhawks)

In regards to the Jayhawks summer, David replied, “I thought the summer was pretty successful for where we were, we started on Adidas Silver, went undefeated there and won a bunch of championships, our 15U was nationally ranked the entire year, 17U was ranked most of the year, 16U won the Silver championship for Adidas at the end, 15U lost in the championship, so it was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to get back to work.”

Some of the notable players that have come out of the Jayhawks’ program this summer that have rose to prominence is Long Island Lutheran senior forward Frankie Policelli, Pope John XXII (NJ) senior forward & UMass commit Samba Diallo, The Patrick School senior center (NJ) Mater Majak, Long Island Lutheran senior forward Donatas Kupsas and Liverpool senior guard Charles Pride.

The future is bright, as they have a lot of emerging talent in the younger classes. “We have an amazing group of thirty-six young men who are here to work and just build.” says David.

And what’s next for the Jayhawks you might ask? “Just to continue to make an impact, to continue to give opportunities and continue to try to change lives,” says David.

Highlights of the New York Jayhawks:

Courtesy of For the Culture Hoops.

Courtesy of Hoop Focus.

Courtesy of For the Culture Hoops.

Courtesy of For the Culture Hoops.

Courtesy of BLF Sports.

Courtesy of For the Culture Hoops.

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