The Lincoln Park Classic: A Premier Summer Event In Queens

Photo Courtesy of Ty Smoove Photography.

By David Cordova

For those that know about summer basketball in New York City, the parks you usually hear about are Rucker Park in Harlem, Dyckman Park in the Inwood section of Manhattan, and even Gersh Park in the East New York section of Brooklyn.

But what about the borough of Queens? Well, there are a couple of tournaments in the area that have good runs in the area. However, one of them has gotten a lot of notoriety in such a short time & has fast risen to being one of the premier high school tournaments in the city.

That tournament is none other than the Lincoln Park Classic, which is located in the South Ozone Park and is now in its third year of operation. During the week, people from the community and tourists from other areas gather at the Frederick B. Judge Playground to witness the best of the best in the high school division do battle.

T.J. Morris gets ready to shoot a free throw. (Photo courtesy of Ty Smoove Photography)

What’s the mission of the tournament, one may ask? “To be the best tournament in New York City,” says commissioner Will Carter.

When asked what makes the tournament more unique than others, Carter added: “I think the atmosphere and the genuine love in here, and [the fact] that everybody’s coming here to watch basketball and not just be here.”

When cars or the Q9 MTA bus pass by the park, they can see the crowd roar and a lot of excitement going on throughout the court, as people are there to see the action. “It’s a bunch of love, you just feel like you’re home,” says Carter on what a typical day is like at the park when games are going on, “You feel like you’re with the family, that’s how we want it to be and, everybody’s just here to play basketball.”

Quaran McPherson gets in his stance to play defense. (Photo courtesy of Ty Smoove Photography)

During the week, the Lincoln Park Classic is the tournament to watch in Queens and has been one of the biggest draws in the five boroughs. “I feel [like] we’re one of the biggest tournaments in the summer,” says Carter, “and I make sure it’s good every summer, I want it to be labeled as one of the best tournaments in the summer, in the future. I know there’s some legendary tournaments in front of us that still may be in front of us, but we’re coming for everybody.”

Well, they’re off to a good start, as they have plenty of homegrown high school talent from the borough that play for schools in the CHSAA and the PSAL are known to frequent the tournament.

College players that have played in the tournament include: Jose Alvarado (Georgia Tech), Keith Williams (Cincinnati), Isaiah Washington (Minnesota) and Markquis Nowell (Arkansas-Little Rock).

Moussa Cisse shows that big men can have versatility in the paint. (Photo courtesy of Ty Smoove Photography)

And the tournament has a current alumnus in the pros in Hamidou Diallo, the Queens native from the LeFrak City section of Queens, who was recently the No. 45 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and is now playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Summer League.

There are a lot of current talent in the tournament that are Division I prospects such as rising seniors Kareem Reid (Putnam Science Academy) and Alejandro Vasquez (The Patrick School) and rising sophomores such as Sterling Jones (Christ the King), T.J. Morris (Abraham Lincoln High School), Tymell Stevenson (St. Mary’s High School) and nationally-ranked recruits on ESPN such as Moussa Cisse (Christ the King High School) and Jonathan Kuminga (Huntington Prep).

Mayor the Movie excites the Lincoln Park crowd with his raspy delivery and energy. (Photo courtesy of Ty Smoove Photography)

Because of the production in talent, the Lincoln Park Classic is now sponsored by Nike, and is one of six tournaments that have fielded a team in the New York vs. New York tournament, which is also operated by Nike.

When asked about what it meant to have a major company sponsoring the tournament, Carter replied, “Nike put the icing on the cake, you know, we’ve been looking for a sponsor the last two years. 2G’z [Entertainment] sponsored the tournament itself last year, and everything well, but the Nike sponsorship I feel put the icing on the cake and I feel like everybody’s going to wake up and stop sleeping on the tournament.”

Former NBA star Lamar Odom pays a visit to the Lincoln Park Classic, which is actually played in his old neighborhood in the South Ozone Park section of Queens. (Photo courtesy of Ty Smoove Photography)

And things will be even more exciting, as this Tuesday, July 10th, the park will be rocking, because they will be the third stop on the New York vs. New York tour. The six tournaments will continue playing the regular season on July 31st at West 4th Street in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. The playoffs will start on August 2nd at Dyckman and will conclude on August 4th at an undisclosed location.

On being the third stop on the New York vs. New York tour, Carter replied, “You know what’s crazy, they say that the top two teams get a bye week, and I feel we’re going to be one of the top two teams.”

And the entertainment in the park is top-notch with DJ Ike Iwu on the turntables, and the emcee, “Mayor the Movie,” on the mic. “That’s all Queens,” says Carter, “I wanted to keep it Queens, and give them a shot at everything. I know Uptown got their own certified people who they stick with, so everybody tried to ask to get Lincoln Park, but I wanted to keep it Queens, and let other people rise as far as what they’re good at, because everybody got talent.”

Christ the King High School teammates Sterling Jones and Kofi Cockburn have a conversation at Lincoln Park. (Photo courtesy of Ty Smoove Photography)

Plenty of times, there are even pros that come to watch the talent in the park. Last summer, it was Russ Smith, who once played for the Memphis Grizzlies, and is now playing professionally in China, and also Brooklyn Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead. This summer, it was former Knicks forward Kyle O’Quinn, a native of Queens who is now with the Indiana Pacers and also former NBA star Lamar Odom, who paid a visit to the tournament.

So far, in year three, the Lincoln Park Classic has made great strides to get their name out there. And the best part is that things will only get bigger and better for the tournament in the future.

Highlights of the Lincoln Park Classic:

Courtesy of Da One TV.

Courtesy of Box Out TV.

Courtesy of Ninety Four Feet & Beyond.

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