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Kangaroos look to leap higher

Mismatch.

It was the word often repeated by Boys & Girls assistant coach Elmer Anderson in discussing his Kangaroos.

They may not have a player taller than 6-foot-5, or quite as many pure scorers as years past, but The High is extremely versatile. Mike Taylor, one of the top junior off-guards in the country, is the name most will think of first, and Antoine Slaughter will replace departed seniors Lamount Samuell Jr. and Devante Cutler at the point.

Boys’ greatest asset, however, lies in the group of 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-5 wings Leroy Isler, Leroy Fludd, a Grady transfer, Jeff Neverson, Jerry White and Brandon Williams. They all can play on the perimeter and in the paint, and are solid on-the-ball defenders, one of the Bed Stuy school’s specialties.

“Our strength is we’re very athletic, we got guys that can play a lot of different positions on the floor,” coach Ruth Lovelace said. “We can create matchup problems for people based on our athletic ability.”

What the Kangaroos lack in size, they make up for in athleticism and jumping ability. At the top of the list is Isler, a 6-foot-5 senior receiving mid-major looks. He emerged over the summer by adding a medium-range jump shot in addition to his ability to create his own shot over taller defenders on the low blocks and dogged determination on the defensive end.

Selected to the iS8/Nike Fall Tip-Off Classic second team, Isler is too quick for a big man on the perimeter and too strong inside for a smaller defender.

“He’s earned his rep,” Anderson said of Isler, a starter who averaged six points and eight rebounds per game.

Like Isler, Fludd is a matchup problem because of his size and strength. Nicknamed “Truck,” by Anderson, he averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds for Grady last year. Boys is waiting for the PSAL to rule on his eligibility.

As a freshman, Neverson received playing time early last year, but the experience of the senior-heavy Kangaroos led him to the bench, where he learned to adjust to the speed of the game after dominating on the middle-school level. Neverson can contribute in many ways, as a rebounder, distributor, or finisher.

“He’s what they call a stat-sheet stuffer,” Anderson said.

White and Williams spent almost the entire season on the bench last winter. Anderson called Williams Boys’ most improved player and best defender. White is a pure scorer, but subpar defender. He worked on that area of his game over the summer and will be a vital contributor off the bench.

“He is the most talented kid on the team, physically and skill-wise,” Anderson said.

That’s a lofty compliment considering Taylor has received plenty of high-level scholarship offers from programs such as Pittsburgh, Indiana, Villanova, Providence and Maryland. Lovelace has been impressed by what she has seen from Taylor this offseason. He has made a concerted effort to become a leader, shooting less to create opportunities for others.

He was arguably the best sophomore in the city last year, but his season ending on a down note %u2013 with a donut against Lincoln in the PSAL Class AA semifinals. He doesn’t talk about it publicly, but Lovelace said it still bothers the junior, and has served as a motivating factor.

“He can’t forget about that game,” she said.

Furthermore, this team has been spent a lot of time together, playing in summer and fall tournaments, a Kangaroos staple. They made the semifinals at iS8, won the Broward Park and Beacon Back to School tournaments.

“I like them because they play hard and they are very good defensively,” said Cardozo coach Ron Naclerio, whose Judges fell to The High in the Beacon final. “Taylor can score, Isler is very good and Slaughter can run the show.”

With all the talent, new and old, Boys is one of a handful of favorites in the wide-open PSAL, possibly at the top of the list, some might argue. The Kangaroos have been part of the elite the last five years, falling to Lincoln in back-to-back city title games in 2007 and 2008, and nearly knocking off the Railsplitters in the semis last March.

“With it being up for grabs,” Lovelace said, “I like our chances.”

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