Patrick Hazel left Bayside to gain a Big East scholarship. After two hard-working years of developing and maturing - on and off the basketball court - at Blair Academy (Blairstown, New Jersey) he got his wish when Marquette took notice and made his dream a reality.
It was not an easy journey or a smooth transition at first.
The rules of prep school - classes six days a week followed by practice or games in addition to mandatory study hall - were vastly different from the city lifestyle he was so used to. “It was tough,” the 6-foot-7 forward said after scoring eight points in the Jordan Brand All-American Regional game Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. “Being in a certain place at a certain time.”
“The first few weeks,” he added with a grin, “I was the [quietest] person you’ve ever seen. … I had to get used to all the rigidity.”
Always a solid student - Hazel maintained a 78 average at Bayside - his most arduous task was on the court. Hazel went from a star at Bayside to a role player at Blair Academy (which has produced the NBA’s Luol Deng and Queens products Charlie Villanueva and Royal Ivey), from the transitional, fast-paced style of the Public School Athletic League to the methodical pace of the prep game.
When Coach Joe Mantegna first laid eyes on Hazel during his visit the summer before attending the prep school, he was far from impressed with his basketball skills. He accepted the Jamaica native because of his other attributes. “I really took him because he was a terrific kid,” Mantegna said. “I thought he had a lot of potential as a student. I thought he was kid with no downside coming. I did not know what upside he had. I figured he’d get a scholarship somewhere.”
The last thing on his mind was landing Hazel in the Big East. “Conversely, it was in his thought process,” Mantegna said. And he made it happen. After struggling to get minutes early on, Hazel’s relentless work ethic earned him significant playing time, a reason he averaged eight points and eight rebounds as a junior and 11 points and eight rebounds this past season, helping Blair Academy to a 19-8 record and a spot in the New Jersey State prep finals.
“He’s made unbelievable strides,” Mantegna said. “He was basically a Division II player when he came out here. It is a real testament to how dedicated he has been. Pat put in all the work. There are a lot of kids who talk about what they want to do, and have big goals, but don’t know about accomplishing them.”
That included taking the train to Plainfield, New Jersey four times a week this summer to work out with a personal trainer and all the extra time he spent working out with his older brother Lance, a Bayside graduate and four-year letterman at Queens College.
At Blair, Hazel was used as the energy guy - rarely were plays run for him. Hazel got his points in transition and off the glass. Now, his post game has rounded into form since his arrival, along with his basketball IQ.
“I improved on my quickness, my ability to slow the game down instead of just rushing it,” he said. “When I first got to Blair I couldn’t shoot a jump shot. All aspects of my game improved.”
His mere presence at Madison Square Garden in an exhibition featuring the best prospects in the tri-state area, speaks to his transformation. Hazel may have never made it there at Bayside - the city championship game is played at the Garden - but he got to midtown Manhattan nonetheless.
“It definitely means a lot,” Hazel said. “It’s a great feeling to play here. I have been here when I was a little boy. A lot of great players never got to play here.”
Those same athletes never made it to a Big East program, either. Hazel, however, has.