Tuesday, May 24, 2011

End Of An Era In Harlem As Rice Closes

Prior to joining Steve Lavin's staff as director of basketball operations at St. John's, Maurice Hicks transformed Rice into a CHSAA powerhouse. The Harlem high school announced its closure yesterday due to declining enrollment and increasing operation costs. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

If you're from New York City, grew up in the late 1980s and throughout the '90s like I did, and follow CHSAA basketball; you'll automatically recognize Rice High School as one of the perennial dominant forces in city hoops, be it public school or private school. That's why it's still a shock 24 hours after the Harlem institution announced its decision to close. In other words, we truly bid farewell to a legend.

To honor the legacy of Rice basketball, we'll pay tribute to those that graced the green and gold colors of the Raiders by ranking the ten greatest players in Rice history similar to what we did with the college hoops bucket list in an earlier post.

Special Recognition: Maurice Hicks
Any mention of Rice basketball has to include its most decorated head man and former alumnus, one that spent 16 years turning a program once left for dead into one of the premier prep teams in the nation, let alone the city. The only coach in New York City to win both a CHSAA championship and a PSAL title, (with Brandeis in 1992) Hicks was responsible for a Who's Who of future college stars, some of whom will get their own tributes in this space later. Now the director of basketball operations at St. John's University, Hicks is still a profound influence on his former players and in the game.

1) Kemba Walker
This 2008 Rice graduate (photo courtesy of New York Daily News) stands to become Hicks' first NBA player in recent memory after walking away from the college game a winner last month when he led UConn on an unforgettable run to the national championship after finishing 9-9 in Big East play. Walker could go as high as third overall in next month's draft and is likely a Top 10 selection, and it all began for the Bronx native a few years ago in the heart of Harlem.

2) Andre Barrett
A lot of people forget about this once-elite prospect (photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated) who was the guy everyone wanted back in 2000. Barrett left Hicks' tutelage after four years to sign with Seton Hall in a battle that saw Barrett turn down an offer from UCLA and then-coach Steve Lavin, now Hicks' boss at St. John's. The flashy point guard unfortunately never replicated his prep success at Seton Hall or professionally, but still stands as one of the better players the Raiders had on their roster.

Felipe Lopez
3) Felipe Lopez
Another local legend (photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated) that eclipsed his already impressive stature in high school by becoming the third-leading scorer at St. John's while playing under Brian Mahoney and Fran Fraschilla. Just like Barrett, Lopez didn't have the greatest success in the NBA, but still had a solid career in the grand scheme of things.

4) Edgar Sosa
Shown here with college coach Rick Pitino, (photo courtesy of ESPN) this guard has just about seen it all. After his stellar career in Harlem, Sosa carved out a four-year tenure at Louisville that saw him nearly transfer at Pitino's urging only to use that as motivation to ultimately become one of the more underrated backcourt members in the Big East.

5) Keydren Clark
Hardly anyone would have guessed that this 5-11 dynamo (photo courtesy of USA Today) would go on to win a pair of scoring titles across the Hudson River at St. Peter's College after averaging just 13 points per contest under Hicks while in high school.

6) Dean Meminger
A selection sure to rekindle some memories among older members of the Daly Dose fan base, Meminger (photo courtesy of New York Times) went on to enjoy a moderately successful career under Al McGuire at Marquette before coming back home to win an NBA championship with the Knicks in 1973. Younger fans and media members may also recognize his son, Dean Jr., from his work as a reporter for New York 1.

7) Kenny Satterfield
Most look at Kenny (photo courtesy of Cincinnati Enquirer) and see a case of "what could have been" after a promising career with the Bearcats alongside former No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Kenyon Martin didn't fare so well in the NBA, but what most people tend to lose in the shuffle was how highly regarded this kid was coming out of high school, where he had his pick from several different suitors before eventually settling on Bob Huggins and Cincinnati.

8) Curtis Kelly
The big man that rejuvenated his career after a transfer (photo courtesy of New York Daily News) won a city title with Hicks and the Raiders before committing to Jim Calhoun and UConn. Let's just say that didn't work out so well. Kelly capped off his college career with Frank Martin and Kansas State, helping lead the Wildcats to three NCAA Tournament appearances; including a regional final in 2010.

9) Russell Robinson
The highly touted Kansas recruit (photo courtesy of Draft Express) joins the aforementioned Kemba Walker as one of the few Rice players to win a national title after he was a part of Kansas' 2008 championship team. However, Robinson also became the latest in a long line of former Rice stars that couldn't catch a break professionally.

10) Durand Scott
Shown here with Hicks after winning a state title, (photo courtesy of New York Daily News) Scott edges out former Arizona guard Momo Jones for the final spot. Now going into his junior year at Miami, Scott should have a breakout season under new coach and fellow CHSAA product Jim Larranaga, who once upon a time played for Jack Curran at Molloy.

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