2006-01-13 / Sports

Basketball A Labor of Love for Big Apple’s Curry

By Elio Velez

This is the flyer for the  26 teams that will be present for the Big Apple Basketball Tournament this weekend.
This is the flyer for the 26 teams that will be present for the Big Apple Basketball Tournament this weekend. At the Public vs. Catholic High School basketball challenge last month, Jason Curry runs around like a whirling dervish. He’s a busy man and rightly so since the founder and CEO of Big Apple Basketball was running the two day long tournament at Pace and Baruch College.

But what could be tiring for a man who coordinated 10 individual teams to participate in a two day exhibition of high school doesn’t bring down Curry’s enthusiasm.

Curry, who was an all star player at Hillcrest High School, and his dedicated staff, started preparing for the tournament last spring. His staff includes former Archbishop Molloy star and Rockaway native Shandue McNeil and former St. John’s Univeristy point guard Tarik Turner.

From escorting the teams to the court, talking to his staff about selling t-shirts and preparing the concession stands are only a few items on the agenda Curry oversaw.

But as in the past few years, the two day operation, which started from noon to night, was such a success that Curry will be doing it all over again.

This weekend, some of the best high school public, catholic and private schools will all meet at Baruch College for a three day festival of basketball at the Third Annual Big Apple Basketball High School Invitational.

Twenty-six teams from the tri-state area, including Lawrence Woodmere Academy, will descend into Baruch College starting on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and finishing up on Monday night. Tickets are $10 and students with school ID are priced at $5.

“We do this event twofold. We do this as a fundraiser for our not for profit organization so we can do things to help the community. It’s an opportunity for these kids to get exposure,” Curry explains.

Also making an appearance will be two of the top national prep schools in the nation. Notre Dame Prep in Mas-sachusetts will feature Louisville bound Derrick Caracter and Paul Harris, who’s headed To Syracuse. St. Thomas More in Connecticut has former Lincoln star forward Antonio Pena and USA Today nationally ranked Bellaire High School from Houston will make an appearance.

“This is more of a national scope with New York city high school, but we also invited schools from New Jersey, Connecticut , Long Island but now we get a nationally ranked team (Belleaire) coming here,” Curry said.

“We try to create parity. We want to match them against a team they can compete against. We want to make it even basketball so it could be great basketball for the school add the fans.”

Curry also expects a huge turnout of college scouts and coaches, which numbered 40 the last time out. In December, University of Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon was spotted among the crowd.

The Big Apple Basketball program started in 1999 as a not for profit which conducts tournament, clinics and high school showcases, which features some of the better high school players who may have been missed or not featured at their respective high schools.

In the first year of the spring high school basketball showcase in 2003, former Beach Channel star Victor Alvarez was invited to exhibit his skills to at least 30-40 college scouts. Alvarez is currently attending SUNY- New Paltz.

Curry is adamant that the goal of Big Apple Basketball is to put these high schools kids at colleges where they can succeed not only in athletics but academics.

“New York City is a hotbed of talent and some of those kids who are good might not be seen. I want them to be in a school period. I don’t care if it’s a Division 6 school, they’re in school. It’s not about trying to find the next NBA kid or positioning ourselves as agents to latch onto the kids. It’s about putting these kids into college.”

As Big Apple has gained the respect from the basketball community in the past few years, it still requires a copious amount of hard work to keep building the program.

This is not a side-project or a hobby to take up Curry’s time. It’s a full-time job and at times, he has to go deep into his own pockets to keep the program afloat. The early struggles though may be slowly ending as SLAM magazine and the New York Knicks are sponsors of the High School Invitational. It’s hopeful that more sponsors will come along soon and see what the program is trying to achieve.

So far according to Curry, he knows that Big Apple’s efforts to help the community have not gone in vain.

“It’s a great feeling when you think of events like this when parents come to our staff and say they enjoyed it and what a great job we did and how professional we were.

The first thing is gratification on what people say we do. We’re not only getting thanks for our product, we’re able to help kids go to the next level and progress as people. We’re here for the long haul.”

For more information about Big Apple Basketball, call 718-575-3342 or email staff@bigapplebasketball.com

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