Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova.
It’s late June at Iona Preparatory School in New Rochelle, New York and the CHSAA Team Camp is in full swing. College coaches are in both gyms checking out prospective talent from schools in the AA, A & the B Divisions, respectively.
On the side court during the later times in the afternoon, there is a game between St. Joseph-by-the Sea out of Staten Island and Nazareth out of Brooklyn. Both teams represent the A division and both have some promising prospects.
It’s the second half, and it’s a very good game taking place, although they were down previously, the Kingsmen are stepping it up on the defensive end, getting steals and getting to the basket. When you’re from Brooklyn, you have no choice but to be tough. Toughness in the jungle is all you have sometimes. You must use it to your advantage, because only the strong survive.
Fast-forward to the present day. 2023 is here and the Kingsmen are currently the hottest team in the A division, and possibly the entire CHSAA. Their grit and toughness has earned them plenty of victories thus far.
It all starts out with the architect of this team, the head coach, Gary Ervin, who at one-time was a standout himself. Back in 2002, he was an All-City standout out of Paul Robeson High School in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. That season, as the lead guard for the Eagles, he led them to the PSAL “AA” city championship game, where they played against future NBA player, Sebastian Telfair and Lincoln High School, another Brooklyn powerhouse from Coney Island. Unfortunatley, the Eagles lost in the title game, but their presence was felt throughout the city.
He would then do a postgraduate year at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and would be selected to the 2003 Jordan Classic in Washington, D.C., where he had 12 points and six assists and played with none other than NBA superstar LeBron James, who would go on to be the No. 1 draft pick in that year’s NBA Draft.
Ervin then went on to play four seasons of collegiate basketball on the Division I level, first for Mississippi State and then at Arkansas, and followed that up with a great pro career overseas and in the NBA D-League (now known as the NBA G-League). He went on to play in countries like Australia, Venezuela, Canada and France. On the New York City summer basketball scene, he was known for his strong play in various tournaments, including Nike Pro City and Brooklyn’s own Gersh Park.
After retiring from playing professional basketball in 2015, he began to coach the youth, serving as an assistant under legendary high school coach, Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, for one season at Nazareth before becoming the head coach. He also has been the co-coach of the Gersh Park team in Nike’s NY vs. NY Tournament, winning three of the tournament’s four championships in that span, which shows that he is a proven winner.
Last season, he led the Kingsmen to a 16-7 record and a berth in the CHSAA “A” championship game, where they lost to the reigning champions in Fordham Prep of The Bronx.
This season is a new year with new hope and new optimism. This season has started off successful, as the Kingsmen are currently undefeated at 10-0 (6-0 in CHSAA play) and have been on a tear. In the preseason, they should just how battle-tested they were by knocking off a “AA” team in Archbishop Molloy in the championship game of the Gauchos Roundball Classic.
This season, they have beaten teams by an average of 28.2 points throughout their first ten games. The highest victory was this past week at the Monsignor King Tournament at the St. Thomas Aquinas gym, when they knocked off Bedford Academy, a PSAL “A” division squad by 58 points. On Dec. 16th, they knocked off a CHSAA “A” division powerhouse in Bishop Loughlin by the score of 66-52.
The players to look at are none other than 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Halon Rawlings, 6-foot-6 junior forward Tyler Francis, 5-foot-10 senior guard Andre Prescott, 6-foot-2 junior guard Jacob Roman, 6-foot-5 senior guard Juelz Dickerson, 6-foot-2 junior guard Elijah Witter, 5-foot-9 senior guard Lakai Richards, 6-foot-2 sophomore guard Joseph Jennings and 5-foot-9 senior guard Tramel Forbes.
With this nucleus of players, the Kingsmen are bound to do some big things this season as the New Year rolls around. Also this week, they knocked off another CHSAA “A” foe in St. Edmund Prep from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, for the second time this season, 61-51, as they won the Monsignor King Tournament championship game.
If they could continue to stay on course, they can be an even more dangerous team come February when the playoffs roll around. For the Kingsmen, there’s nowhere to go but up from here on out.