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The Frankie Williams, A Classic? Yes, Indeed

On Wednesday, May 15, 2019, the Westchester County Center, home of the WNBA’s New York Liberty and the NBA’s Westchester Knicks, was the site of the 10th Annual Frankie Williams Classic charity basketball tournament. Having outgrown the capacity of the Stepinac High School gym, site of the prior three-years’ Frankie Williams Classics, this was the tournament’s first time at Westchester’s most famous arena. Hosting three games which highlighted the talents of the region’s most talented high school basketball athletes, three-point and slam-dunk contests, and entertainment by local DJs and MCs, the enthusiastic crowd in attendance was not disappointed.

Photo Credit: Warren Rosenberg, New York Sports Photo Group

Named in honor of the late Frankie Williams, a friend, member and coach at Greenburg’s Theodore D. Young Community Center, the purpose of the Frankie Williams Classic (FWC), started in 2008, is to provide an opportunity to highlight the talent of the best high school basketball players in the region for members of the Westchester community and to provide a stage for these scholar-athletes to be seen as role models for the area’s youth. The FWC is also a charity event, this year raising funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, founded by former Iona College and NC State basketball coach, Jim Valvano. “Jimmy V” as he was known was not so different from the athletes playing in today’s FWC having himself been a local basketball standout. Born in Queens, NY, Valvano went on to play for Seaford High School on Long Island and Rutgers University before starting on his coaching and broadcasting career.

Photo Credit: Warren Rosenberg, New York Sports Photo Group

Not only is the FWC a showcase for current high school athletes, it also provides fans to watch the talents and mingle with future NCAA and NBA stars. Former high school players featured in earlier FCW events include Lance Stephenson of the L.A. Lakers out of Abraham Lincoln H.S. in Brooklyn, drafted in 2010 by the Indiana Pacers, Kemba Walker of Charlotte Hornets out of Harlem’s Rice H.S. and UCONN, Russ Smith, playing professionally overseas in China from Archbishop Molloy in Queens and who played in the County Center against the Westchester Knicks in 2014 with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and in 2016-17 with the Delaware 87ers; Tobias Harris of Philadelphia 76ers out of Half Hollow Hills H.S. in Dix Hills and Long Island Lutheran in Brookville drafted 2011; Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat from The Patterson School, NC, drafted in 2010; Kevin Jones playing professionally overseas from Mt. Vernon H.S. and the Univ West Virginia and who played in the NBA D-League who played with the Canton Charge in 2012 and Cleveland Cavaliers in 2012-13; Kyle Anderson of Memphis Grizzlies out of St Anthony’s in Jersey City, drafted 2014 by San Antonio Spurs; Doron Lamb, born in Queens NY and played with Oak Hill Academy, drafted in 2012 by Milwaukee Bucks and played with the Orlando Magic in 2012-2014 and more recently with the Westchester Knicks; Maurice (Mo) Harkless with the Portland Trail Blazers and played with St Johns, drafted by Philadelphia 76ers in 2012 among others. It won’t be too long before we see some of the FWC Girls alumni playing in the WNBA.

Organized and run by Tournament Director Tom Sampogna and Associate Director Keith Guerra, the FWC triple header tipped-off with a Boy’s Regional Game at 5:00pm, followed by a Girls National Game at 6:30 and finishing with the Boys National Game at 8:00. Prior to each game’s tip off, the national anthem was performed by three local celebrity singers, recording artist Allison Pearle prior to the start of the Boys Regional Game, Mackenzie Mercer who performed with both the Broadway and National Touring Company of ‘The Grinch’ and ‘Cindy Lou Who’ sang at the opening of the Girls National Game, and Leila Rose Gross who performed as young Anna in the Broadway production of Disney’s ‘Frozen’ performed the National Anthem to open the Boys National Game.

As has become the custom with New York City and Metro Region streetball tournaments, the crowd was entertained during and between games with music by three local DJs and in-game commentary by on-court MC’s. The pulsing beat of the music played by the DJs and the constant banter of the MCs made for more than just a charity basketball tournament. They contributed to what was a wholly entertaining evening.

Above: Upper from left, Allison Pearle, Mackenzie Mercer and Leila Rose Gross performing the National Anthem. Lower: On-court play-by-play by MC and music by DJ. Photo Credits: Warren Rosenberg

In addition to the DJ and MC entertainment, three well-played basketball games, three professionally-delivered National Anthems, and a tip-off conducted by the Mayor of White Plains, there was a girls three-point shooting contest, a boys slam dunk contest, and a youth scrimmage game. The girls 3-point shooting contest was won by Lauren Hansen, headed to play college ball at Auburn by way of Ward Melville high school. In addition to taking home the 3-point trophy, Lauren also took home a pair of new high-end sneakers courtesy of Q4 Sports. Eduard Minaya from Stepinac high school, playing in the Boys Regional game, won the 2019 Frankie Williams Classic Sportsmanship Award. Ismael Massoud of MacDuffie Prep and headed to Wake Forest won the 2019 Frankie Williams Classic Boys MVP award. Celeste Taylor from Long Island Lutheran, headed to Texas to play college ball, and one of two McDonald’s All Stars won the 2019 Frankie Williams Classic Girls MVP award. And, clinching the 2019 Frankie Williams Classic Boys Slam-Dunk Award was Adrian Griffin Jr., of Stepinac high school and one of ESPN’s Top 75 in the class of 2020. What might have clinched this for Adrian was that he performed his dunk by jumping over his Girls National Team sister, Ossining high school standout and UCONN recruit, Aubrey Griffin’s full 6’1” height. It’s no surprise that these two Griffins, and their brother, Alan, before them who also played in the FWC, excel in basketball. These three are the children of NBA star Adrian Griffin, Sr., who had a ten year career in the NBA playing with Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls.

Another first achieved in this year’s FWC was having a game go into overtime. As the Girls National contest worked its way to a finish, what was a tight back-and-forth game came down to the closing seconds of the last quarter with a tenuous one-point lead when McDonald’s All American and UCONN-bound Aubry Griffin sank two foul shots to give the white team a more comfortable 3 point lead. With time running out Kaelynn Satterfield of Christ the King high school and headed to Ohio State, launched a last-chance three-pointer which fell cleanly through basket and ended the game in an 89-89 tie.

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