The ball is in his court.
Student athletes on a Sheepshead Bay school’s squad will shoot for their Brooklyn division’s title in the city’s Middle School Basketball League on March 24, but the looming match isn’t the only impending competition for the team’s star power forward. This month, Bay Academy Bobcats player Lawrence Veksler was named one of six finalists for the Brooklyn Nets All-Star Award — a tri-state competition for scholar-athletes.
And Veksler, who is confident he will win the award in April, said doing so would help cement Bay Academy’s legacy as a top basketball program.
“We’re number one in the city,” he said. “And everyone on the team will know a player did this for us.”
The Brooklyn Nets All-Star Award is for middle-school basketball players who “demonstrate grit, determination, and a desire to succeed both on the court and in the classroom,” according to its website. The honor, which is sponsored by the Hospital for Special Surgery, awards all of the finalists a spot at the Nets’ Summer Basketball Clinic, and the overall winner will receive a $3,000 grant for their school’s athletic program, as well as being recognized at the Nets’ April 9 game against the Chicago Bulls at the Barclays Center, according to a spokeswoman for the Manhattan-based medical center.
Votes from the public will determine the winner, and anyone can cast a ballot on the awards’ website until March 31. Veksler believes his school’s support will carry him to the finish line.
“The school sent out a mass message telling people to vote,” he said. “Everyone at my school says ‘I voted for you.’ ”
Veksler, who lives in Mill Basin, said he first popped up on the Nets’ radar at a summer camp the team held last year, where he showed off his dribbling skills and quickness.
“I keep my dribble low, which makes it hard for defenders to guard me, and I’m a fast player,” he said. “I stay low and speed off them and score.”
Thomas Finale, who coaches the Bay Academy team along with John Bomarito, said that Veksler’s work ethic and leadership qualities also impressed the Nets — as well as his ambidextrous ball-handling skills.
“He has a very strong left hand, but can also go right,” said Finale. “Teams begin to take away his left and he goes right. It makes him very hard to defend.”
Veksler credits his passion for basketball to the game’s popularity in Mill Basin and the surrounding nabes, and said he often plays at Lindower Park.
“For people from Marine Park, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay, it’s one of the top parks,” he said. “In the summer you see guys playing from 6 am until night.”
Veksler is considering attending St. Edmund Preparatory High School in Sheepshead Bay next year, and dreams of playing college ball. In the meantime, his success inspires the other kids at Bay Academy, according to his coach.
“It amped them up a little bit more,” said Finale on when the team learned Veksler was a finalist. “We had hit a lull, but this picked up their games again.”