Photo courtesy of Johnnie Photography.
By David Cordova
When people think of high school basketball in New York City, one has to think about the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association. That league has produced plenty of talent throughout the years since its inception in 1927. Also, it is a league that has produced a lot of Division I players.
But one of the schools that is worth mentioning is Archbishop Molloy. The school located in the Briarwood section of Queens has been a powerhouse dating back to their years as St. Ann’s Academy, before the school was renamed in 1957.
The school has won six championships, the first in 1958 under Lou Carnesecca, who later went on to coach at St. John’s University and is also a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The other five were under another Hall of Fame coach, the late Jack Curran, in 1969, 1973, 1974, 1986 and 1987.
Some hoopsters that have come through those hallowed halls were NBA players such as Brian Winters, Kevin Joyce, Kenny Anderson, Sundiata Gaines and Russ Smith.
In the present day, the Stanners have continued the reputation set by their predecessors, as they are a force in the city, state and in the national rankings. In the recent USA Today national poll, Molloy was rated No. 19 in the country. In the New York State rankings, they are ranked as high as No. 3, right behind another CHSAA power, Cardinal Hayes of The Bronx and Mount Vernon, respectively.
What’s the Stanners’ mission? “Hopefully to play well, win and represent the school well,” said head coach Mike McCleary, who is in his fifth season at his post and has worked at Molloy for 20 years.
When asked to describe playing in the CHSAA, Coach McCleary replied, “It’s an extremely competitive league. Every game is a toss-up, we enjoy playing in the league.”
The key cogs of the team are two seniors, such as Moses Brown, a 7-foot-2 center and is rated as the No. 17 player in the nation in his class and also Khalid Moore, a 6-foot 6 swingman that will be headed to Georgia Tech next fall. Another main key to this team is Cole Anthony, a 6-foot-2 junior point guard who is rated as the No. 6 player in his class. All three of these players are high-major Division I players and will make impacts at whatever college they choose.
“A lot of talent, they work hard. They do everything they can to help us.” said Coach McCleary when asked about his trio.
Other contributors to the Stanners are 5-foot 10 senior guard Orrin Barfield and 5-foot-11 senior guard Jade Tse and 6-foot-5 junior guard Daniel Braster.
“They give us leadership and effort,” said Coach McCleary when asked about Barfield and Tse.
This season started out strong as the Stanners had two easy double-digit wins over St. Anthony’s of Long Island and Holy Cross, another Queens school which plays in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens AA Diocesan division.
And then before the Christmas holidays, Molloy went down to the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Florida, which is a national showcase where high school teams from around the country show off their talent. Unfortunately, they went 1-2 in the famed tournament with losses to University School (FL) and Mountain Brook (AL) and their lone win against John Marshall (VA).
And then the big upset was against All Hallows, a school in the CHSAA Bronx/Westchester AA division this past Wednesday, as they were knocked off 69-62.
When asked about his thoughts about the Stanners 3-3 start, Coach McCleary replied, “We feel that we haven’t played very well so far this season, as a result of our practices. We haven’t practiced very well. Frankly, we’re disappointed with our production so far.”
Tonight is another big test, as they will play a major home game against Cardinal Hayes of The Bronx in a rematch of last season’s CHSAA AA championship game at Fordham University, in which the Cardinals beat the Stanners, 62-60.
In addition to that game, they have several other major games to play in such as the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts on January 14th against DeMatha Catholic (MD) and in the SNY Invitational at City College of New York (CCNY) in Harlem during the weekend of January 26-27.
This season, they will also have their storied rivalry games against Christ the King, another power in the Brooklyn/Queens AA Diocesan League. The first game will be played on February 2nd at Christ the King, and will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The rematch will be played the following week, February 9th, at Molloy.
Because both teams are marquee attractions, the games may or will be sold out, due to the high level of talent on display from both sides of the court. When asked about the allure of playing on ESPNU in a game that will be nationally televised, Coach McCleary replied, “I think it’s a honor, but I think we have a long way to go between now and then.”
Although the Stanners have started off the season in a rough patch, their level of talent shall not be denied as they have a very long season ahead of them. There are many games to be won and at the moment, if they continue to improve as a team, there is a huge chance that they may end up in the CHSAA AA finals at Fordham University in March. All it takes is hard work and effort from now and then.
When asked where he sees the team going back to the title game, Coach McCleary replied, “Well, that’s where we’d like to be, but we have a lot of work to do in order to get there.” Right now, time is the Stanners’ best friend.