2009-01-23 / Sports

Mullings Celebrates As Marcy Avenue Wins PSAL Title

By Elio Velez

Peyton Mullings (left) scored two of his game high 20 points. Photo by Errol Anderson. Peyton Mullings (left) scored two of his game high 20 points. Photo by Errol Anderson. Peyton Mullings' choice of going to Marcy Avenue Campus, an alternative public school in Brooklyn, never would have happened without some timely guidance.

Mullings pondered going to prep school last June after falling four classes short of earning his high school diploma at Grady High School in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn.

But the Far Rockaway native kept telling himself not to take the easy way out. The 19-year-old wanted to earn his high school diploma, so he went traveling again and enrolled in the third high school of his young life.

It turned out not to be a bad choice, after all. With a vocal cheering section rooting him on, Mullings hit the second of two free throws with 5.5 seconds left, which clinched Marcy Avenue Campus' 57-56 victory over Bronx Regional Academy in the PSAL Alternative League Class A title game at St. Francis College.

The 19-year-old Mullings, a 5'10", 173-pound shooting guard who scored a game high 20 points, was grateful for the chance to give Marcy Academy their third title in four years.

"I knew it was our turn, man," a jubilant Mullings said after the game. "All the struggles, all of the hard work and it paid off, man, with the help of Rich Kosik and Coach (Chris) Frazier. They told me to get here to Marcy."

It meant a lot to Mullings that the vocal cheering section included family and friends such as former Far Rockaway High School and University of Binghamton basketball star Richard Forbes.

That support was one of the many ways that Mullings felt validated his choice to attend Marcy Avenue last September. The alternative school is an opportunity for students who do not graduate after four years of school, or for other reasons, to earn their high school diploma.

Mullings' story began after he transferred from Far Rockaway High School, following his 2006 sophomore year, to attend Grady High School in Coney Island.

He was commuting from Far Rockaway to Coney Island via public transportation. But he did so in order to find a way to play for one of the highly regarded varsity programs in the city.

In the 2007-08 season, Mullings scored 8 points per game and usually started for Grady. But at the end of the school year, he found out he was four classes short of passing.

Grady, a technical school, didn't offer the art, music and two history classes he needed to graduate. Mullings then entertained the offer to transfer to Laurinburg Prepatory in North Carolina to graduate.

But Rich Kosik, a former teacher, and the creator of Booksnball, which imparts life lessons to high school student-athletes, had another idea.

Kosik spoke to Mullings at the James P. Sullivan All-Star Game and pointed him in the direction of enrolling at Marcy Avenue Campus.

"Rich told me about this program — instead of going to prep school, I can come here to finish the public school classes and come here and play with a beautiful team and with coach [Kenneth] Fair," Mullings said.

The shooting guard felt comfortable on the floor with two of the top players on the team — in Tymell Murphy and Daniel Thomas.

Marcy Avenue's Coach Fair tried to instill more confidence in Mullings. Fair kept challenging Mullings to shoot and contribute more to the offense.

As the season progressed, Mullings listened and found his groove on the court. He scored a career high 43 points against Queens Academy in the final regular season game.

"It feels tremendously good. Coach has so much confidence in me. He told me I was capable of whatever I want," Mullings said.

He scored 25 points in a 74-72 semifinal victory over Satellite Academy and it's been those types of performances that have attracted some of the top junior colleges.

"He needed that 43 point game to break out," Fair said. We knew he could do it all along, but he needed the confidence and the team to be behind him."

Mullings will graduate next week with a 92 grade point average and is choosing between attending Hutchinson Junior College in Kansas or Hillsborough in Florida.

The ride has had its bumps and bruises. But for Mullings, who turns 19 years old this week, it's been worth the price.

"I said I'd rather come here than go to prep. This the best present."

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