Jason Curry has always been a fan of basketball in New York City, the Big Apple. First as a player, then as a coach.
In what started out three years ago as a vehicle to offer scholarship opportunities to local student-athletes who excelled both athletically and academically, The Big Apple Basketball Challenge has become the preeminent battle between the PSAL and the CHSAA. The BAB Challenge is a two day basketball event (Saturday December 8th and Sunday December 9th, at Baruch College in NY) to showcase the top high school public league and catholic league teams. The BAB Challenge is designed to show the supremacy of New York City's catholic or public leagues on the basketball court. The games are played at a very high level with bragging rights at stake. The 2007 BAB Challenge features 16 of the top New York City boys' catholic and public high school teams.
"It began in 2003 as the High School Scholarship Games," states Jason Curry, President and Director of Operations. "It was very successful for us but we wanted to create a unique theme so we came up with the concept of Catholic schools (CHSAA) versus Public schools (PSAL)."
The relevance of the Big Apple Basketball Challenge has been heightened in the last few years due to what some would call an exodus of players transferring from the CHSAA to PSAL schools. Just recently, four players transferred from Xaverian High School to various public schools. "Many say that the CHSAA is the dominant league in New York with the PSAL narrowing the gap," says Curry. "Some are saying that the PSAL has actually surpassed the CHSAA."
This will be the fourth-annual Big Apple Basketball Challenge. Curry, his staff and basketball experts such as Tom Konchalski (HSBI) design the match-ups to create the most competitive and entertaining games possible. As a result, the event has increased in anticipation, intensity and attendance every year. "Last year there were 200 people in the lobby of the college who couldn't get in," Curry says.
"It was wall to wall, standing room only." This is very understandable as one of last years marquee match-ups featured Christ the King High School, with now Florida-bound Erving Walker against Lincoln High School, with the then sophomore phenom Lance Stephenson. "Lincoln had a 20pt lead going into the second half but Walker led Christ the King on a comeback and eventually to a win," recalled Curry. "This was one of my most memorable games."
When asked about other memorable match-ups, Curry points to the 2005 BAB Challenge that pitted Rice High School against Robeson High School. The controversial game featured a stacked and heavily favored Rice team with Curtis Kelly, Kashif Pratt, Lamont Jones, Kemba Walker and Durand Scott versus the underdog Roberson with Malcolm Grant, who now attends Villanova. "It was Uptown versus Brooklyn, with Roberson down by 3pts and Grant nailing a jumper with 10 seconds left," say Curry.
This years marquee match-up features NYCHoops #3 ranked Boy's & Girl's High School against #7 ranked Holy Cross High School on Saturday at 7:15pm.
Boys & Girl's has emerged as a nationally ranked team and features Rutgers-bound Patrick Jackson, Brandon Romain and Kyrie Sutton while Holy Cross is led by Virginia-bound Sylven Landesberg. "These teams feature both star quality and deep benches," states Curry.
Other great games include #6 ranked St. Raymond's with West Virginia-bound Darryl Bryant and Omari Lawrence against the up and coming #8 ranked Jefferson High School with the highly regarded junior, Keith Spellman and freshman sensation Davontay Grace on Sunday at 6:15pm. There's also a battle of the Brooklyn schools as Bishop Ford goes up against Carnarsie High School on Sunday at 4:30pm. "What's interesting about this game is that two Hofstra-bound future teammates go up against each other with Bishop Ford's Chaz Williams and Canarsie's Yves Jules," says Curry.
NYCHoops #5 ranked Christ the King with Erving Walker and George Mason-bound Ryan Pearson square off against an on the bubble team of Wadleigh High School with high flying senior, Curtis Loving on Saturday at 5:30pm and Xaverian High School plays its first major game since the transfer situation against #10 ranked Wings Academy on Sunday at 2:45pm.
The current CHSAA vs. PSAL record is 2 years to 1 year with the CHSAA winning the majority of games in the 2004 series (7-3) and the 2006 series (8-1) and the PSAL winning the 2005 series (6-5). "Most games have been decided by single digits with many being decided by 3pts or less," states Curry.
This years Big Apple Basketball Challenge is stacking up to be one of the best ever as this will be the first time to see these teams play this year against legitimate competition. Tickets are sold at the door of Baruch College on a first come, first served basis. General admission is $10, $5 for students with school ID, $3 for children under 12 and kids under 5 are free. Doors open on Saturday at 1:30pm and Sunday at 12:30pm. For more information, visit their website at www.bigapplebasketball.com
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