By Zachary Braziller
Carlos (Georgie) Solano banked in his desperation 3-point shot from the top of the key, then went down to a knee, tears flowing down his cheeks.
The Bayside boys’ basketball team had fallen short – by a point – to No. 15 Lehman in the PSAL Class AA outbracket round, held in the Bronx Wednesday afternoon.
Solano’s wasn’t the only one with moist cheeks wearing a blue jersey. Others’ eyes were likewise red and hugs were handed out like Kleenex as the first year of Cory Semper’s tenure ended with a thud.
But the prevailing feeling was a positive one, buoyed by the play of dynamic freshman LeBrent Walker and junior Kevin Chang, two talented guards that figure to give the rest of Queens trouble next winter.
“Next year they’re gonna be great,” Solano said. “I can’t imagine what the team is gonna be like when LeBrent is a senior.”
“None of it was hype,” he added, referring to the explosive freshman. “He worked for everything. Watch out for him. He’s something special.”
One of the top eighth graders in the city a year ago, Walker was at Our Savior New American (L.I.) in September before transferring to Bayside on Dec. 1. After taking part in the requisite 10 practices, the PSAL approved his eligibility after reviewing the case.
The 6-foot-2 athletically gifted guard with a relentless motor didn’t disappoint, leading all first-year players in scoring. He averaged 20 points per game and four rebounds. A southpaw, Walker could improve his jump shot and decision making, skills he figures to work on this offseason with the Long Island Lightning AAU program. There aren’t many guards that get into the lane with as much force and ease.
“His best attribute is he wants it,” said Semper, the first-year coach, referring to Walker, who scored 19 points in the loss. “The sky’s the limit.”
With a nod to Semper, Walker said he was pleased with his first year at Bayside, as much for his work in the classroom as on the court. He has over a 70 average, but would like to get it up to a 90 by next year. Confident by nature, Walker said he had hoped to play in the Garden this year – site of the PSAL Class AA championship game – and expects to be there next March.
“That’s LeBrent,” Semper said.
Walker said he doesn’t plan to change schools until its time to pick a college three years from now.
“Yeah, I’m home,” he said. “This is my family. I’m going to be at Bayside next year.”
Semper, a former assistant coach at Molloy College, came in preaching academics first, followed by athletics. The Commodores, the 18th seed in the citywide playoffs, lacked size but not effort. Proof was in the team’s seven league losses by single digits, including close setbacks against borough powers Thomas Edison and Forest Hills.
“I wouldn’t play for no other team,” said Solano, a 6-foot-1 senior guard who will likely go to junior college in September. He scored his 1,000th point in the loss.
The program, Walker said, became a family, working to help one another any means possible. They shared the ball and played out of position. There was nothing that could be done about the rebounding divide that cost the Commodores so many close games, including this one.
“We don’t have anything to hang our heads about,” Semper said. “It’s our first year here. I got guys returning who are going to be great. There’s nothing but positives.”=