New York's Return To Prominence
NYC Appears To Be Re-Emerging As 'Mecca'
For eons, the late and legendary Tom Konchalski was unparalleled as the most powerful and influential prep scout on the planet.
Based out if New York City, Konchalski's richly detailed HSBI was a must-have across the country, repeatedly analyzed and dissected and utilized as hoops gospel for a fleet of the NCAA's most reputable coaches.
Gracious with his time even when hoops junkies swarmed him, as bees do nectar, and relished the opportunity to gain every piece of information dispensed, Konchalski was widely recognized for unique idiosyncrasies.
He was known for colorful analogies and metaphors throughout his scouting reports. Konchalski owned a trademark, fiercely strong grip with his unforgettable handshake that instantly jolted you into attention.
Konchalski's word was bond. Never was there even a morsel of argument about that.
And so, 12 years ago, when Konchalski said that New York was in fact, no longer the Mecca, the statement resonated.
Hoops hotbeds such as Washington, DC and Indiana were steadily gaining traction as the best breeding grounds for young talent at the time, supplanting the once prosperous New York City.
"It first struck me in about 1989 or 1990. I took a train to see St. John the Baptist in West Islip," Konchalski, who famously never drove, never used a cell phone, and still churned out his reports by way of an outdated typewriter, explained back in 2010.
"John Walsh was playing there before he went to St. Thomas More (CT) and the University of Maryland. At the train station, I saw these three Irish kids on skateboards. And I thought, 'They should be working on their jump shots.' "
When Konchalski spoke, the hoops world listened. At the time, Konchalski's words were a glaring and wistful portent of how times had changed.
Konchalski passed in February of 2021, following an arduous battle with prostate cancer. Legions of longtime fans and a "who is who" of the basketball world mourned his loss, with terms such as "GOAT" and "legend" and "prince" used to define Konchalski.
And while Konchalski's words proved prophetic at the time, New York now is in the process of a turnaround.
With the emergence of Harlem's Boogie Fland and Bronx native Ian Jackson as electrifying five-star guards in the 2024 class, the pieces are in place for a dramatic rebirth. Jackson was recently ranked by Rivals.com as the number one 2024 player in the nation.
The city features numerous other highly coveted recruits who have helped garner national attention this summer.
Having grown to 6-foot-9 and a newly minted Top 100 national recruit, Christ The King Class of 2023 forward Brandon Williams is playing a prominent role in the city's revival.
Possessing a guard's skill set with his deft outside stroke and the ability to orchestrate offense as a point forward type, Williams has the versatility on both ends of the floor that is prioritized in today's collegiate climate.
While St. John's and UCLA appear to be the major players vying for Williams' services, he recently whittled his list down to UConn, Oklahoma State, St. John's, UCLA, and Illinois.
Williams averaged 15 points, eight boards and four assists last season at Christ The King, the program which will now be under a national microscope with the recent addition of 6-foot-7 St. John's commit Brandon Gardner.
A young rising senior at 16, Williams is flanked by high caliber young talent at CTK.
Teammate Dwayne Pierce is another guy who has helped restore credibility to a city again teeming with talent.
Having just turned 16, Pierce is one of the quickest rising 2024 national recruits. The 6-foot-6 guard/wing has really shown his most unique asset in recent times--a high arching jumper, one which he has good elevation on and can get off amid draping closeouts.
Pierce has next level appear with his bigger built frame and guard's skill set, which is prioritized in today's high major game.
The rate at which the bullish Pierce has improved his 3-point stroke and made his mid-range game a primary piece of his repertoire has cemented his three-level scorer status.
Pierce recently earned offers from Memphis and Pittsburgh.
With the emergence of a skilled 6-foot-10 inside-outside threat in Qin Pang Fang, along with returning Class of 2025 point guard Markell Alston and shot making Class of 2024 guard Devin Vanterpool, CTK now has six Division 1 bound players.
During New York's previous illustrious heyday as The Mecca, the city nurtured the development of dazzling point guards such as Rod Strickland, Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Mark Jackson, Stephon Marbury, Rafer Alston, and a plethora of others.
While the city was close to derailed by COVID for a long and forgettable time in recent times, point guard play has been noteworthy.
Local Bedford Stuyvesant native Ty-Laur Johnson, a high-level facilitator and prolific scorer with the New York Rens, will spend his senior season at Our Savior Lutheran in the Bronx.
A downhill threat who has averaged 20+ points for the New York Rens on the AAU circuit this spring, Johnson has had several games of double digit assists on the EYBL circuit this summer.
Seton Hall, NC State, Pittsburgh, Miami, St. John's, and an array of others are currently recruiting Johnson, who NY Rens coach Andy Borman aptly depicts as a "classic, junkyard dog New York City point guard."
Bronx native and Riverside Hawks guard Adam Njie has steadily emerged into a calming influence with the ball in his hands this summer.
The Class of 2024 Njie, who averaged 24 PPG during the UAA spring season while playing up a year, was one of the noteworthy performers during UAA finals this past week.
Developing as a cerebral facilitator and stout on ball pest, Njie is averaging 17 points, seven assists, and three steals on the UAA circuit this summer. He's exploded onto the high major market, garnering offers from the likes of Georgia Tech, Illinois, Arizona State, TCU, Washington State, Fordham, Iona, and others.
The Fland and Jackson, both of whom have catapulted to the upper percentile of the country's top recruits as five stars, have given NYC national credibility this summer.
Fland has shown he can play either guard spot or has opened a reliable corner 3-pointer while developing a cerebral passing, game manager's mindset. Jackson appears to have developed a deep jumper, which was once identified as the glaring hole in his game. Both players represented the United States and won gold in the U-17 FIBA World Cup.
Both were also offered by Kentucky, Jackson in May, and Fland in June.
Is New York returning to the golden era, when flashy point guards ruled the land and there were Division 1 players coming off the bench during the CHSAA's illustrious heyday?
All that remains to be seen. In the last year or two, however, despite the limitations and obstacles of COVID, the city has churned out myriad high-level prospects and kept the city's favorite pastime intact by harvesting new talent.