Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
For many years, the CHSAA has been one of the premier high school leagues in the country. It’s a pit stop for many media outlets and college coaches, because they know that there’s always going to be great talent on display.
One program in particular has been something to watch for a long time. That one school is none other than Cardinal Hayes. Located on Grand Concourse in the South Bronx, the Cardinals have produced plenty of talented student-athletes over the years.
On the court, its alumni consists of NBA players such as Kevin Loughery, Gerry Ward and Jamal Mashburn and college stars such as Jimmy Black (North Carolina), Ramel “Rock” Lloyd (Long Beach State), Jeff Greer (Rutgers), James Feldeine (Quinnipiac), Tyler Wilson (Manhattan College), Shavar Newkirk (St. Joseph’s) and Joe Toussaint (Iowa) to name a few.
These days, the Cardinals are thriving on the local and national scene, and are looking to make it to the championship game for the first time since 2017. The depth on this year’s team is phenomenal from one to twelve, from the starters to the supporting cast.
The story starts with head coach Joe Lods, now in his 13th season as the head coach of the boys varsity program. During his tenure with the program, he has made the Cardinals one of the most competitive programs in the Catholic League. Back in 2017, he did his best coaching job, as Hayes went on to beat the heavily-favored Archbishop Molloy, 64-62. The Stanners had two future NBA players such as Cole Anthony (Orlando Magic) and Moses Brown (Dallas Mavericks) and Georgia Tech senior Khalid Moore in the fold.
On that team were players such as Toussaint, Tyrese Williams (Quinnipiac), Jontai Williams (St. Michael’s College), Adam Cisse (Manhattan College) and Terrance Reaves, professionally known as former Def Jam Records recording artist, “TJ Porter,” who is now an independent artist.
Just a few seasons later, the Hayesmen are still competitive on the floor.
And it all starts with 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Ian Jackson, who is one of the city’s premier players and a mainstay on the national scene, as he is rated as the No. 4 recruit in the Class of 2024 by ESPN. At the present time, he is the leading scorer in the CHSAA with 20.8 points per game and is a player known for his dominant slam-dunking ability and scoring prowess. Alongside Archbishop Stepinac’s sophomore point guard, Johnuel “Boogie” Fland, he is currently has an NIL (name, image & likeness) deal with a company called, Spreadshop, which specializes in selling merchandise. Not bad for the kid they call, “Captain Jack.”
The senior leadership on this team is also superb, as they have 6-foot-8 forward Tobe Awaka, 6-foot-7 forward Tarique Foster, 5-foot-9 point guard Darrell “DJ” Victory, Jr., 6-foot-1 shooting guard Mamadou “Junior” Traore and 5-foot-9 senior shooting guard Mykel Kelley.
Awaka and Foster are both forwards that can both play above the rim, and also sure-fire Division I prospects, waiting for an opportunity for a school to extend them a scholarship. Victory, a dynamic point guard that is known for his quickness and playmaking ability, is wise beyond his years, as he played in the Dyckman Tournament this past summer and won a college/pro division championship with the Showstoppers/TMT squad.
Traore and Kelley are both players that assist in whatever the squad needs at the moment, whether it be defense or a clutch basket.
Other underclassmen worth noting are 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Elijah “Choppa” Moore, 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard Tyliek Fields and 6-foot-3 shooting guard Jaiden Williams.
This season, Cardinal Hayes has been a force in the CHSAA, as they are currently 22-2 on the season, and they currently have a 15-2 record in the Bronx/Westchester “AA” division. Their only losses this season were to Stepinac on Jan. 28th and St. Francis Prep on Feb. 6th.
On the national scene, they were ranked as high as No. 15 in the nation in recent weeks. The Cardinals were fortunate to play in events such as the PSA Cardinals Showcase in New Rochelle, New York on Dec. 18th, where they beat New York State powerhouse, Long Island Lutheran, where they won, 56-55, then during the first weekend in January, they played in the Hoophall Classic South event, going undefeated against Chaminade College Prep (MO) and Little Rock-Parkview (AR) and also beating Chicago’s De La Salle Insititute, 81-40, at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts, in front of a national TV audience on ESPN +.
Now, as the playoffs loom, the Hayesmen are putting everything to perspective and look forward to making plenty of noise in both the Bronx/Westchester Archdiocesan playoffs and in the Intersectional playoffs, which culminate in the city championship, which will take place on Sunday, March 13th.
The questions are, “Can they make it to the championship?” “Are they better than the championship team of 2017?” Well, we’ll all find out the answers to those questions in the next couple of weeks. Right now, all we know is that this is the best Hayes team that many have seen in years, or simply, ever. All many can simply do now, is just watch.