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The coach is a familiar face, although not the same one. The backcourt is brand new. But the goal – to win the CHSAA city championship – remains consistent, as does the Lions’ cocksure attitude.
“Nobody,” senior forward Trevon Hamlet proclaimed, “can stop us. Together, we should win the city championship.”
It will certainly be difficult to contain Loughlin in the paint, where the 6-foot-6 Hamlet and star 6-foot-7 junior Jayvaughn Pinkston roam. In the Lions’ season-opening, 88-67 win over Forest Hills, the two combined for 47 points and 32 rebounds. Pinkston’s contributions are nothing new; few big men could handle him last year.
But Hamlet has improved a great deal since last season when he came off the bench. He added bulk and flexibility to an already-solid frame. He can finish with either hand around the basket and has shown extended range on his jumpshot. Furthermore, Hamlet, Pinkston said, isn’t hitting the floor nearly as much, going down on first contact. He is finishing off plays.
“He’s standing his ground,” said Pinkston, one of the top New York City players in the Class of 2010. “He always had the game. He just needed his time to prove it – and this is his time.”
In fact, against the Rangers, Hamlet carried Loughlin at the start of each half as Pinkston, still nursing a sore ankle, came off the bench. There were times last year Hamlet felt he could do more than his role as a supplementary part. But he was behind forward Kevin Phillip (now at Drexel) and the team was winning.
“I knew my time would come,” said Hamlet, who has received interest from Quinnipiac, St. Peter’s and Binghamton.
Interim coach Rudy King, who served on former coach Khalid Green’s staff the last six years, plans to use the versatile Pinkston on the perimeter more. But there is no secret to the Lions’ success: pounding the ball inside.
“They’re going to be really tough,” King said of Pinkston and Hamlet.
Loughlin’s one perceived weakness – backcourt play – doesn’t seem to be a problem. While James Johnson graduated – he’s now at Quinnipiac – and elite shooting guard Doron Lamb transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., there are plenty of options.
Senior guard Anthony Hammer is running the point and junior Brandon Frazier, who scored 17 points in the victory over Forest Hills, is a natural scorer in the mold of Johnson, a slashing guard who can light it up from the perimeter. Adding depth off the bench is sophomore guard Mike York and juniors Anthony Givens, a guard, and 6-foot-6 forward Rosi Jenkins.
“They all can play,” Pinkston said.
“This team has more athleticism,” King added, comparing the group to last year’s club that won the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan crown and lost to Christ the King in the intersectional semifinals. “We have nine guys that can get quality minutes. There aren’t many teams that can run with us.”
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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