Long Island’s Greatest Sports Dynasties

April 12, 2010

When Sachem East’s Phil Schaefer scored in overtime to lift the Flaming Arrows past West Islip, 13-12, in boys lacrosse on March 31, it was one of those goals heard round the state. After all, Sachem East had just beaten a dynasty.

West Islip went 22-1 and finished second in the Under Armour/Inside Lacrosse national rankings a year ago. It capped the program’s third state Class A title in four seasons.

OK, it’s way too early to kick dirt on the Lions’ dynasty. West Islip could well be the last team standing eight weeks from now. But it got Jason Molinet and Long Island Pulse thinking about the greatest team dynasties in Long Island high school sports history.

And West Islip doesn’t crack the top 10. Believe it or not, there have been even more dominant teams through the decades. To be eligible, you need to have a state championship on your resume. Sorry, football fans. Long Island doesn’t compete in the state playoffs. So Hempstead’s great run in the 1980s and the sustained success of St. Anthony’s fall by the wayside.

Other great programs, such as Miller Place badminton and Ward Melville girls swimming, weren’t considered, either. In fact, only teams from the modern state championship era (1978-present) made the list. But what a list! Here are our picks:

1. South Side girls soccer (1987-2009): No one can top the Cyclones’ unprecedented domination in girls soccer. They’ve won 15 state titles at two different classifications since 1987, including five of the last six Class A championships. South Side is tied with West Genesee boys lacrosse for most team championships in any sport. Credit Bob Bigelow and successor Judi Croutier for establishing a great team ethic . In Bigelow’s final season in 2001, South Side finished with a 46-0-3 unbeaten streak and a national championship, No. 1 in the NSCAA poll. He went out as national coach of the year too.

2. Ward Melville boys lacrosse (1988-2000): Iconic coach Joe Cuozzo built the program over 37 seasons, winning 700 games and 22 Suffolk, 15 Long Island and seven state titles. He is the winningest boys lacrosse coach in national high school history. But Ward Melville’s run of six state Class A titles in 13 seasons was a magical one in a lacrosse-mad state. The school forced out Cuozzo after the 2006 season, but the coach found a new home at Mount Sinai and led the school to a 2008 state title. Take that!

3. Amityville boys basketball (2000-2003): No boys basketball program in state history has won four championships in a row. Amityville did it with three different Suffolk players of the year leading the way, from Tristan Smith (2001) to Jason Fraser (2002) to A.J. Price (2003-04). In fact, Price (Indiana Pacers) and the Warriors led in the 2004 title game until he fouled out with two minutes left. Coach Jack Agostino put together one great team after another and never let them lose focus.

4. Bay Shore softball (1994-2005): Six state Class A or AA championships, highlighted by back-to-back titles and a record 54 consecutive wins from 1994-95. Bay Shore has won 11 Suffolk and nine Long Island titles during the run. Coach Jim McGowan built a dynasty on great pitching and produced 46 All-State players in his 27 seasons as coach. He entered the season as the winningest softball coach in state history with 609 wins – and the team to beat once again.

5. Cold Spring Harbor girls soccer (1985-2000): The Seahawks won or shared 13 state Class C titles, highlighted by streaks of five in a row from 1989-1993 and 1996-2000. Don’t sell this small school short, either. Cold Spring Harbor often played up against Class A and B competition during the regular season and more than held its own. Coach Steve Cacioppo has won 17 Long Island titles since he took over in 1983, including a Class B crown in 2008. The Seahawks are alive and well.

6. Garden City girls lacrosse (1995-2009): Ten state Class B championships, including the last four is quite a feat. Coach Diane Chapman has the winning touch. The program has won 14 Nassau and 12 Long Island championships since 1994. Chapman also built a pretty successful field hockey program too, with six state and 13 LI titles since 1991. No Long Island coach can claim more championship hardware. Debbie Russell Masterson was the girls lacrosse coach from 1995-2000.

7. Southold boys soccer (1979-85): Six state titles in a seven-year span? Remarkable in any decade and at any level. Southold coach Bob Feger had one prolific family to thank. The youngest of five soccer-playing brothers, Greg O’Brien (four-year starter from 1982-85) scored 119 career goals, establishing a new state record at the time. He added three more in the 1985 state Class D title game, a 9-2 Southold victory over Section V Angelica.

8. Bridgehampton boys basketball (1978-98): The eight-time Class D champs can claim a unique place in state history because Bridgehampton has the smallest enrollment (often less than 30 students) of any school to bring home a state crown. Carl Johnson played on the first championship Killer Bees team in 1978 (coincidentally, the first boys basketball state champion of the modern era) and coached a three-peat from 1996-98. How impressive is this feat? Only talent-rich Mount Vernon has won as many titles.

9. Hempstead boys basketball (1983-2001): When you say basketball, you think Hempstead. The Tigers won 18 county, 12 Long Island and three state Class A titles from 1983-2001.The school took nine Nassau championships in a row from 1993-2001 and six LI titles in a row from 1985-90. The program simply produced one great talent after another. Coach Ted Adams, in the NYS Basketball Hall of Fame, led Hempstead back to a Nassau Class AA championship in 2007.

10. Carle Place field hockey (1983-90): The Frogs won or shared six state Class C titles, including three in a row from 1985-87. They also won eight Nassau titles in a row. Carle Place coach Gloria O’Connor left after the 1988 season with a 146-18-21 record. She is currently the coach at Adelphi. Ashley Duncan took over at Carle Place and directed field hockey to back-to-back state titles (1989-90). Under O’Connor, the field hockey team also dominated. In the pre-state championship era, the Frogs won 73 games in a row.

Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com

Tobias Harris: Coming To A Gym Near You

December 14, 2009

Mark your calendar. Thursday, Dec. 17 at 5:45 p.m.

That’s the season opener for the Half Hollow Hills West boys basketball team. The Colts hit the road to face host Eastport-South Manor. It’s also the only glimpse you’ll get of New York’s best basketball player until after the New Year.

Tennessee-bound Tobias Harris is the rarest of sights on Long Island. He’s a transcendent player. The 6-8 senior is considered a top five recruit nationally and the most gifted talent the region has seen since Danny Green (St. Mary’s) and A.J. Price (Amityville) heated up gyms.

Both are in the NBA now. And if father-handler-promoter Torrell Harris Sr. can be believed, then Tobias Harris will jump to the NBA after two seasons of college ball. That’s the plan.

But Harris’ promise recalls another Long Island great: Jason Fraser. The 6-9 Amityville star created a buzz not equaled the last two decades as he led the Warriors on a path to a second straight state championship in 2002. He signed autographs before games, dunked ferociously on foes and no one ever raised an eyebrow when Amityville won by 50 points.

Running up the score? No, the Warriors were simply that good.

Injuries took a toll on Fraser’s pro ambitions. His heyday was in an Amityville uniform, and anyone lucky enough to see him play won’t forget him anytime soon, even if the rest of the basketball world has.

Here is your shot to see the latest and greatest hoops star from Long Island.

In case you forgot, Harris led unheralded Hills West to an undefeated regular season as a sophomore and then claimed the program’s first Suffolk Class AA championship. He transferred to Long Island Lutheran for greater basketball exposure and got it in spades. Harris guided LuHi to a state Federation Class A title last March and then promptly transferred back to Hills West.

This encore season with Hills West includes an added bonus. Tyler Harris is a fast-rising junior who would probably be getting even greater attention if he weren’t playing in the shadow of big brother.

Tobias Harris opens the season as a finalist for the Naismith Award, which goes to the nation’s top high school boys basketball player.

So warm up the car and get ready to follow the Harris Victory Tour as it makes a stop at a high school near you, from Riverhead to Deer Park – and maybe, just maybe the state Final Four at the Glens Falls Civic Center in March.


12-17-09 @EASTPORT 5:45 p.m.
1-5-10 @COPIAGUE 4:00 p.m.
1-7-10 DEER PARK 6:00 p.m.
1-12-10 @RIVERHEAD 5:45 p.m.
1-14-10 WEST BABYLON 6:00 p.m.
1-16-10 @ Springfield, Mass. 1:30 p.m.
HOOP HALL CLASSIC vs. Sacred Heart, Conn.
1-18-10 @ Baruch College 5:45 p.m.
BIG APPLE CHALLENGE vs. Bishop Loughlin, N.Y.
1-19-10 SMITHTOWN WEST6:00 p.m.
1-21-10 EASTPORT 6:00 p.m.
1-24-10 @ West Virginia University 12:00 p.m.
1-25-10 @ BELLPORT 7:00 p.m.
1-28-10 COPIAGUE 6:00 p.m.
1-30-10 @DEER PARK 1:45 p.m.
2-02-10 RIVERHEAD 6:00 p.m.
2-04-10 @WEST BABYLON 5:45 p.m.
2-08-10 BELLPORT 6:00 p.m.
2-10-10 @SMITHTOWN WEST 5:45 p.m.
2-14-10 @ Trenton, NJ 3:30 p.m.
PRIME TIME SHOOTOUT vs. Christ the King, N.Y.

Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com

Newsday: Jason Fraser, Part 1

October 26, 2001

Newsday logo
Title: FRIDAY SPECIAL / He’s The Man / But when 6-10 star Jason Fraser is in school, he tries to be just another kid Series: The first in an occasional look into the life of Amityville senior Jason Fraser, one of the nation’s best high school basketball players. Part I follows Fraser through a typical school day.
Publication: Newsday – Long Island, N.Y.
Author: Jason Molinet. STAFF WRITER
Date: Oct 26, 2001
Start Page: A.98
Section: SPORTS
Text Word Count: 2284

The sun isn’t up, but Jason Fraser is – barely. His Monday begins in a cramped room cluttered with clothes, sneakers and trophies. The space is tight by anyone’s standards. It is especially confining for the 6-10, 210-pound Fraser.

A look at the bedroom walls tells you something else about Fraser: He is a teenager in demand. There are flattering notes and fawning letters from some of the biggest names in college basketball. With what some believe are the physical tools and mental acumen to jump straight to the NBA, the Amityville basketball star is widely considered one of the nation’s top 10 high school seniors.

“Jason’s defensive prowess is unparalleled in Long Island history,” says Long Island basketball historian George Davila. “What he does defensively is worth the price of admission.”

Long Island has produced an impressive roster of pro players, from Bellport’s Randy Smith to Roosevelt’s Julius Erving to Whitman’s Tom Gugliotta to Cold Spring Harbor’s Wally Szczerbiak. There’s little doubt Fraser will join the club. Will it happen as early as this summer?

“I’m not an NBA scout, but in my personal opinion, he’s not far off,” says Amityville basketball coach Jack Agostino, who has watched Fraser grow from a shot-blocking machine as a gangly freshman to an overall force in the low post.

This is the same kid who put the rest of New York basketball on notice last March with his 20-point, 22-rebound MVP effort in Amityville’s 87-70 win over Section VI champ Williamsville East in the state public schools Class B title game. A Fraser-led team also won in 2000.

On this day, Fraser quietly makes his bed and waits to use the bathroom. He has to move fast. Nine people live in the three-bedroom apartment he shares with his mom, Edmarie, six younger siblings and older cousin. Fraser’s mother emigrated from Jamaica when she was 15. She works as a nurse and raises her children alone.

Fraser understands this is the best she can do. And he loves her for it.

“She doesn’t buy herself anything,” he marvels. “She puts it all into us.”

His father, Raymond Williams, lives in Harlem and has a family of his own. Jason, the lone child produced by Raymond and Edmarie, rarely sees his father.

“It doesn’t bother me anymore,” Fraser says. “My uncle is my father figure.”

After a quick shower, Fraser turns on the TV in the room he splits with his cousin, Shawn Campbell. The Yankees are on “SportsCenter.” Fraser is a big New York sports fan, but he tunes in instead to “The Weather Channel.”

“Do I wear sweats?” he asks, his face covered in a pasty-white Noxema mask.

A quick look at the local forecasts tells him it’s going to be sunny and warm, with highs in the upper 60s. After washing off the facial goop and smearing lotion on his arms and legs, he slips on blue jeans and a black T-shirt. Fraser is finally ready to take on the world. He kisses his mother goodbye and bounces out the door.

Despite all the fame and attention – Agostino refers to him as “The Franchise” and classmates call him “Superstar” – Fraser usually takes the bus to school. Once he’s there, Fraser’s presence is acknowledged by virtually everyone walking the crowded hallway. He exchanges approving nods and elaborate handshakes as he navigates from class to class like a celebrity working the velvet rope at a Hollywood premiere.

“He’s actually pretty modest about it,” says senior Alexandria Gati, who shares a photography class with Fraser and, like Fraser, is a peer leader. “He knows he’s popular. But he doesn’t let it go to his head.”

There’s little doubt Fraser enjoys his position of power among his schoolmates. The 18-year-old with the easy smile has made-for-TV looks and the personality of a used-car salesman. In fact, Fraser has worked as a busboy at a bowling alley, a telemarketer and, yes – a used-car salesman.

The resolve he pours into basketball can be seen in the classroom, too. Fraser, who carries a 3.0 grade-point average and scored an 860 in his first attempt at the SAT, good enough to qualify for freshman eligibility (he will retake the test for good measure next month), is alert and involved in each class.

Fraser checks in at homeroom, grabs his backpack from a corner locker and then goes to his first-period class: chemistry. As Fraser opens his notebook and sets his calculator, he realizes he is missing something important. Teammate and friend Trevour McIntosh is sitting next to him and provides the assist. He hands Fraser a pen.

Fraser spends nearly all of his second-period photography class in the darkroom helping McIntosh develop prints. It seems the two are inseparable. Both have third period free, so they head to the cafeteria, where they crack jokes with teammate Max Rose.

“We’re like brothers,” McIntosh says. “They call us T.J. Max short for Trevour, Jason, Max. We’re tight.”

Once the laughter dies down, Fraser tries to read the 19th-century horror novel “Frankenstein.” Fraser continues to read well into fourth period, one of three breaks in his schedule. He needs to polish off three chapters in time for his Gothic literature course, which is next.

A chilling line in the classic work fits what Fraser has gone through in recent months. “You are my creator, but I am your master,” the Creature told Dr. Frankenstein.

That’s especially true of Fraser’s recruitment process, which has taken on a life of its own. The week-long early signing period begins Nov. 15. That’s when Fraser can finally put a rest to the relentless circus that revolves around him.

The phone calls to his home are now a trickle, but he still uses his caller ID to screen the coaches he wants to avoid. At its peak last spring, the school received 20 pieces of mail a day for Fraser. Even more correspondence went to his apartment. The University of Southern California sent 150 handwritten letters to Fraser in one day. Although Fraser has had a lot of help with the process – the braintrust includes his mom and uncle, Paul Fraser, Agostino and AAU coach Gary Charles – the decision falls squarely on his shoulders.

Family members have weighed in on the subject. Strangers have lobbied him. Students and teachers stop him in the hallway on a daily basis to poll his choices. College coaches have pulled at his heartstrings. And every move is reported via the Internet – true or not.

“Everywhere I look there’s news about me,” Fraser says. “I’ve committed to St. John’s five times. I’ve committed to Illinois twice. I just laugh at it.”

When Fraser showed up for a three-day visit Oct. 12-14 in Chapel Hill, N.C., he was the highlight of Midnight Madness, the kickoff to the basketball season for the University of North Carolina. A capacity crowd at the Dean Dome chanted: “We want Fraser! We want Fraser!”

“It was crazy,” Fraser says. “People had written on their backs: WE WANT FRASER. It just sweeps you off your feet.”

As overwhelming as it all was, Fraser hasn’t committed yet. He’s narrowed his choices to four schools – Louisville, North Carolina, St. John’s and Villanova – and still has three visits remaining. This weekend, Fraser will go to Villanova, where he already has a strong relationship with new coach Jay Wright, who laid the groundwork with Fraser while he was coaching Hofstra.

St. John’s has been in the Jason Fraser sweepstakes from the outset. Many factors favor the Red Storm. Fraser not only grew up a fan of the program but has always wanted to play at Madison Square Garden. He’d have company there, too. Former teammate Tristan Smith is a freshman guard at St. John’s this fall, and McIntosh, a 6-6 senior, said he is being recruited by the Red Storm. Fraser makes his official visit to the Queens campus Nov. 10.

“My heart at one time was beating St. John’s,” Fraser says. “What was that feeling? Was it fate? Now I’m beginning to feel some of the pressure from the tugging and the pulling.”

Louisville became a serious contender only after new coach Rick Pitino watched Fraser dominate at the 325-team adidas Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas this summer while playing for his travel team, the Long Island Panthers. Pitino’s impressive pro and college resume, along with his no-nonsense sales pitch to Fraser, left a lasting impression. Fraser heads to the Bluegrass State Nov. 17.

“I’ve never seen a recruiting process like this,” Agostino says. “This is the kind of stuff you only hear about. But Jason has handled it unbelievably well. He knows it’s just basketball. It’s not life or death. He’ll make the best decision based on all the factors.”

Once Fraser leaves the cafeteria, his book in hand, it’s back to reality. He takes a seat near the front of his English class and actively discusses the torment of the beast and its creator.
“Can you imagine?” Fraser asks. “It’s like he’s living in two different worlds.”

On to sixth period and finite math, where classmate Alexandria Woodward jokingly prods Fraser. “When are your Air Frasers shoes coming out?” Woodward asks. “Can you autograph mine?” The joke subsides and Fraser focuses on the task at hand.

“Some athletes struggle to get by, and you hold your breath,” math teacher Charles Zuar says. “Jason is on the ball. All the kids look up to him, too.”

Zuar also knows there will be a job waiting for him if he ever gives up on teaching. Fraser jokingly promised Zuar could be his chauffeur someday.

After tackling inverse and contrapositive equations, Fraser heads back to the cafeteria. It’s lunchtime. One double cheeseburger and side of chicken nuggets later, Fraser is refueled. Economics is his eighth-period class. The topic centers on labor unions. Pretty soon the discussion turns to something these teenagers can relate to: the labor issues that have gripped – and sometimes interrupted – pro sports leagues in recent years, from the NBA lockout in 1998-99 to the 1994 baseball strike. It’s something Fraser likely will learn firsthand soon enough.

Like any teenager, Fraser says he dreams of playing in the NBA. Three of the top four picks in June’s NBA draft were high school players, signaling a dramatic shift in how the league mines for talent. All of which means Fraser could bypass college altogether.

“My mom wants me to go to school,” Fraser says. “But I can’t give you an honest answer now. If all those zeroes are put in front of you, not many people could turn that down.”

The bell rings, a signal that Fraser’s brain-draining, note- taking day is finally through. Ninth period is when Fraser lifts weights. Fraser’s streamlined frame is the picture of masculinity. On this day he decides to max out on the bench press. Fraser, McIntosh and Agostino are alone in the school’s spartan workout room loaded with free weights and little else.

Fraser bangs the wall with his enormous wingspan in a visceral display of emotion, and yells as he lifts more and more weight. Agostino encourages his players as McIntosh and Fraser take turns, moving steadily past 245 pounds to 255 and 260. When the duo is finally through, each tops out at 270 pounds, a record lift for an Amityville basketball player, Agostino declares.

“Fraser’s all about history,” Agostino says. “He wants to be the first in everything he does. He just wants to keep rewriting the record books.”

Amid all the craziness swirling around Fraser, from the recruiting odyssey to the NBA rumors, he is still living in the moment. His senior season has yet to play out. But if his junior year is any indicator – he averaged 21 points, 15 rebounds, 8 blocks and 6 assists and led Amityville to its first state Class B Federation title – then all the hype is well founded.

All the numbers and accomplishments are impressive, but it’s Fraser’s outlook that reveals the winner within. That is his greatest asset of all.

“You may be better than me,” Fraser says. “But once we step onto the court, I will outplay you.”