Tag Archives: Cardozo High School

Cardozo HS senior to take part in Times Square ball drop

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Sonam Lama /  Countdown Entertainment

One Queens teen will be the belle of the ball this New Year’s Eve.

Sonam Lama, a 16-year-old senior at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, will be one of five representatives from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to push the button, signaling the lowering of the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball, and help lead the 60-second countdown to 2015.

“It is such a great honor and there are so many thoughts and emotions going through my mind and my heart right now,” Lama said. “I feel blessed to have the opportunity to participate in New Year’s Eve in Times Square and am really looking forward to pressing the button along with other awesome and inspiring people.”

The IRC, an organization that helps refugees from around the world, resettled Lama from her native Nepal when she came to the United States in 2012.

Lama’s family was forced from their village after her father, an active member of the Nepali Congress party, faced pressure to join the Maoists.

Even after they moved to the city of Kathmandu, they were followed, and with no help from the police, they had to keep moving from location to location, according to Lama. In 2005, her father applied for political asylum in the U.S. and left Nepal.

Lama said she didn’t know a lot about America, but imagined her father would be wearing a suit, carrying briefcases and living in tall skyscrapers “like the movies.”

IRC President and CEO David Miliband, Nykhor Paul, an Sonam Lama practice pressing the button. (Photo courtesy of Countdown Entertainment)

IRC President and CEO David Miliband, Nykhor Paul and Sonam Lama practice pressing the button. (Photo courtesy of Countdown Entertainment)

When Lama and her family finally joined her father in May 2012, life in America was not what she imagined, including the small, older building that would be her home. But she did find improvements, such as medical help for her sister who needed a hearing aid.

Though the Elmhurst resident found no language barriers after learning English in school since kindergarten and from watching television, high school was a challenge.

Lama admits at first she had difficulty adapting to her large school, but after joining clubs and activities, such as the Red Cross, UNICEF, badminton and volleyball during her junior year, she was able to make friends.

Joining Lama during the famed ball drop will be models Alek Wek and Nykhor Paul, both former refugees from South Sudan, Jencarlos Canela, an award-winning musician and actor who has volunteered with IRC, and IRC President and CEO David Miliband.


The winning attitude

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



It began the first time Ray Salnave stepped foot inside the gym at Cardozo High School.

Even before any of the fall teams at the Bayside school started practicing, Salnave was working on his game over a span of about seven hours, according to coach Ron Naclerio.

Two years later, Salnave and the Judges are the defending city champions and are looking to add a third banner to a program that has produced standouts such as Rafer Alston, Duane Causwell, Duane and Brian Woodward, Royal Ivey and Darryl Hill.

To hear Naclerio say it, as good as those players were, Salnave is wired differently, and the junior shooting guard has a different motor on the court.

“He has certain traits that very [few] kids I’ve ever coached have,” Naclerio said. “He’s got one or two traits that none of the kids I’ve coached had. He’s tough to coach because he’s volatile sometimes and people know when he was young and childish, he did things but the volatility is his desire to win. I would probably say out of all the players I’ve ever coached, he might have the closest desire to win as do.”

“It’s a good thing, but some people are used to the ordinary basketball player,” Salnave said. “You can say I’m an ordinary basketball player, but my thing is I like to win. Whatever it takes, I’ll do what it takes to win. Coach says that about me — that means I’m doing something good. We have the same goal. We both don’t like losing.”

That desire manifested itself during the final seconds of title game against Thomas Jefferson at Barclays Center. In Cardozo’s 55-54 victory, Salnave drove to the basket, was fouled and made the free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining. That ended a 16-point game that saw him go 10-of-12 from the line and a title run that saw the Judges defeat teams from the powerhouse Brooklyn AA Division in Boys & Girls, South Shore, Brooklyn Collegiate and Jefferson.

Now Cardozo is the team to beat and even more so than other non-title years. The last time Cardozo won a title was in 1999, and since then, there have been some difficult defeats, notably a four-point overtime loss to Jefferson in the 2013 quarterfinals, a one-point loss to Lincoln in the 2011 semifinals and a five-point loss to Boys & Girls in the 2010 title game.

“When you put so much into it and you make it the most important thing in your life, it’s a weird feeling because you’re so used to having the agony of defeat at the end of the season,” Naclerio said. “To have that thrill of victory for the second time, you want the season to end like that and I know the odds are the season probably won’t end up like that.”

If Cardozo is going to experience that thrill again, besides Salnave — who averaged 18 points last season and was recently offered a scholarship to Rutgers — some other people will be even more important. Cardozo is replacing forwards Carl Edoua Balthazar and Francisco Williams as well as stout defenders Marzuq Jimoh and Kristian Mondesir.

Naclerio said that sophomore Tareq Coburn is ready and that he expects contributions from Armando Dunn and Amir Tutt. He also is anticipating the impact of guard Aaron Walker, who transferred from Molloy and was described as being a Division One player.

“I know how hard it is because not only do you have to be very good, you have to be a little lucky,” Naclerio said. “When you have a bad game you have to find a way to get through it in the playoffs, you got to get through injuries, you got to get through ineligibilities, you got to get through being the hunted and the kids that start the season off with the pain and agony from the previous year. It’s a lot easier to talk to them than when the kids think when the script is going to be the same.

The Judges were good by going 28-2 and 16-0 in league games. They also had the good fortune of having Salnave’s will in the title game and throughout the playoffs.

Or as Naclerio says: “I’d rather be a champ than a chump.”



High School Hoops Playoff Preview

| hzwillenberg@queenscourier.com

The Bayside Commodores (13-3) will face the Wadleigh Secondary School Tigers (18-1) in the second round of the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) A Division “AA” playoffs after both teams received a bye in the first round. Junior point guard Brandon King led the Commodores in scoring with 16 points during the season. Fellow classmate Austin Williams was second on the team with 14.6 points a game with four assists and five rebounds a game. As a team the Commodores have averaged 62 points a game, while allowing 48.7 points a game. For the Tigers, senior Basil Harley led the team during the regular season with 17.38 points a game to go along with 8.56 assists a game. Senior Louis Costen averaged a double-double on the year with 15.07 points a game and 12.20 points a game. As a team, the Tigers averaged 68.6 points a game while defensively they allowed 52.2 points a game. While the Tigers gave up a few more points than the Commodores, they also scored a little more. The Tigers should win a close game and continue to advance through the playoffs.

The Benjamin Cardozo Judges (15-2) will take on the Martin Van Buren Vee Bees (5-9) in the second round of the playoffs. In the first round, the Judges received a bye while the Vee Bees beat the McKee/Staten Island Tech by a score of 74-66. For the Judges, Tajay Henry led the team with 15.38 points a game, while the senior grabbed 8.69 rebounds a game as well. Overall, the Judges have scored 72.8 points per game during the regular season. On the defensive side, the Judges allowed 54.1 per game. Senior Brandon Howard was the top scorer on the Vee Bees during the regular season with 15 points a game. The Vee Bees allowed more points than they were able to score, allowing 60 points a game while scoring 52.3 points a game. This game will be an easy one for the Judges. The Vee Bees will be unable to stop the Judges’ offensive attack.

After beating the James Monroe Campus Eagles (5-11) in the first round of the playoffs by a score of 65-30 the Campus Magnet Bull-Dogs (12-4) will face the Curtis Warriors who are in the midst of a perfect 14-0 season. For the Bull-Dogs, senior Tarik Raynor was number one in scoring with 16.54 points per game. The Bull-Dogs averaged 56.5 points a game while allowing 50.2 points a game. Senior Dontay Jackson led the Warriors during the regular season with 16.69 points a game. The Warriors were able to play both sides of the ball well, averaging 74 points a game while allowing 47.4 points a game. There is no reason the Warriors should not be able to extend their perfect season. While the Bull-Dogs have had a good season, they will not be able to keep up with the Warriors.

The John Adams Spartans (11-4) beat the James Madison Knights by a score of 50-48 in the first round of the playoffs and will now play the Hunter College High School Hawks (16-2). For the Spartans, junior Markell French did it all, scoring 17.14 points a game, pulling down 9.43 rebounds a game, and dishing out 6.29 assists a game. The Spartans scored 59.8 points a game as a team while allowing 48.7 points a game. Senior Sam Gordon averaged a double-double for the Hawks with 19.06 points a game and 11.50 rebounds a game. As a team, the Hawks averaged 71.7 points a game while allowing 54.3 points a game. The Spartans, who just three years ago were 5-11, will put up a good fight but in the end will come up short against the strong Hawks.

It’s Track Time: Colgate Games finals set to take off

| smosco@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the Colgate Women’s Games

The wait is over.

After weeks of training and preliminaries, the finale of the Colgate Women’s Games is at hand, as the nation’s top talent will gather at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, January 28 at 10 a.m. to compete for glory.

From an initial field of more than 10,000 girls and young women, 210 of the best athletes have persevered through four preliminary meets and a semi-final at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to earn spots at the finals of the 38th annual Games. The girls come from every age/grade division, with returning champions standing side-by-side with local newcomers — all sharing the spotlight and the adulation of family, friends and fans.

Two notable students to keep an eye on during the finals come from Queens. In the High School division, returning freshman Sandreeka Bancroft of Cardozo High School, who holds the mid school record in the 55-meter hurdles, crossed the tape in 8.25 on Saturday. Teammate Latisha Philson, a senior at Cardozo and the high school 55-meter hurdles record holder, chose the 55-meter dash this year and also finished undefeated after her 7.21 performance at the semis.

Meet director Fred Thompson said the number of returning champions and promising newcomers that finished in first place this season are nearly perfectly balanced.

“This is a great sign that the sport is alive and well, and that our meets are still attracting top talent with performances that remain the national benchmarks to beat,” he said. “The Madison Square Garden finals will spotlight some of the nation’s best athletes from every division.”

Thompson also thanked the parents and coaches of all the participants for their support. Each week, parents made the trek to Pratt Institute to give their girls a shot in the Games — and for this, Thompson is extremely grateful.

“Every parent and coach that supported their kids by bringing them to Brooklyn each week, including hundreds that travelled great distances, should know that they’ve made an outstanding contribution to these kids that will have a positive impact throughout their lives,” he said.

Be there when the champions are crowned. The competition kicks off at 10 a.m. The Big Apple Circus will provide entertainment during the intermission/track reconfiguration at approximately 1 p.m.

Stars head to Colgate Games

| smosco@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of Colgate Games

The final preliminary meet of the nation’s largest track series, the Colgate Women’s Games, featured some of the East Coast’s best athletic talent, as competitors of all ages set the national pace with fast times and excellent performances.

A pair of teammates from Queens stood out at the January 14 meet at the Pratt institute in Brooklyn, as Sandreeka Bancroft, a former mid-school record breaker, returning as a freshman at Cardozo High School in Queens, stayed undefeated in the 55 meter hurdles, after her series-best performance, (8.1). Teammate Latisha Philson, a senior at Cardozo also made it a perfect series after matching her best in the 55-meter dash, (6.9).

Athletic success extended to the city’s other boroughs as well, with Brooklyn’s Sandrae Farquharson from Medgar Evers College Prep, winning the 200 meters in 24.8 and the 400 meters in 56.3 in the high school division – both scores were her best times this year.

The Bronx was represented as well, with Egypt Parker, of the Learning Tree, leading throughout the series in the shot put, tossing 9.85 meters. Brianna Brown of P.S. 6X in the Bronx, one of the youngest participants, scored double wins throughout the series in the 55-meter dash and 200 meters. Also in the College/Open division Tara DiLuca of the Bronx, won her fourth 55 meter hurdles race, in 8.3.

Meet director Fred Thompson said that the Games are among the nation’s most competitive meets, but the true benefits go beyond athletic excellence.

“Thousands of girls each year have a great time learning how to compete, and will draw on these skills throughout their lives,” he said. “They’ll learn how to work hard and challenge themselves, discovering how fast and how far they can go. It’s not just about those who become national champions or even Olympians, it’s more about the countless young people whose lives have been positively influenced by this experience.”

From an initial field of more than 11,000, some 430 top point scorers will compete in the semi-finals at Pratt to determine who will face each other at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, January 28, 2012, where trophies and educational grants-in-aid from Colgate-Palmolive Company are awarded to top place finishers in each age/grade division.

Coaches, recruiters, athletes and fans can follow scores each week at Colgategames.com. Tickets to the Colgate Women’s Games Finals are free. To order tickets, please visit www.colgategames.com, the MSG box office or www.ticketmaster.com.

A Force of Inspiration

| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE QUEENS COURIER/Photo by Steve Mosco

High school pep rallies are almost always the same — loud kids, painted faces and pompoms. But at a recent rally at Cardozo High School, handball playing freshman Fabrizio Shao made an entrance that no one had ever seen before.

“The crowd went nuts,” said coach Lenny Levin.

Shao, who lives without the ability to walk, led his handball team to the middle of Cardozo’s gym walking on his hands with his wheelchair hoisted over his head using only his arm power. Shao knew he would draw a lot of attention with a stunt like that — playing to the crowd appeals to him, just like playing to the handball wall.

“I didn’t know anything about handball when I first saw it,” said Shao, 17, who lost the ability to walk after an accident when he was eight months old. “I went to the park once with my dog and saw people playing. I just thought it was really cool and interesting.”

Handball wasn’t the only mystery to the young Shao, who was born in Romania and came to America on numerous occasions for physical therapy. When he was 14, Shao and his family settled in Queens permanently, taking up residence in College Point.

It was there in College Point, at McNeil’s Park, where Shao first came across handball. However, it was at Cardozo High School where his passing fancy for the game evolved into a fully-engaged passion.

“It’s like the saying, ‘you get hungry while you eat,’” he said. “The more I played the more I realized that I’m good and I should keep it up.”
After Shao showed an interest in the sport, Cardozo’s athletic director called the Public School Athletic League (PSAL) to check if there were any restrictions against a wheelchair-bound handball player. There weren’t any such restrictions.

Shao now plays on Cardozo’s handball practice squad, with his skill and enthusiasm for the game making his teammates that much better at kills and digs. Coach Levin said that Shao’s role on the team is far more than just a bench novelty — he is an intricate part of the team.

“When I met Fabrizio, I saw a kid who was as serious as they come,” said Levin. “He loves the game and he has a real passion for it. Just being there he gives the other kids a real boost.”

The coach went on to say that Shao is more than just “there.” Watching him practice, Shao is a force on the court. He can get to just about any ball that comes his way and he is a serious competitor. After missing a shot he felt he should have had, Shao lets out groans of self-dissatisfaction.
And on the very next volley, he makes up for his miscue with an expertly-executed kill.

Shao also shows his precision skills on the basketball court. He plays with the Long Island Lightning in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) and travels throughout the country competing in tournaments.

A future in basketball, even one with a college scholarship, isn’t enough to shift Shao’s focus away from his current handball responsibilities at Cardozo.

“Even though it’s not a popular sport, for me handball is the greatest sport out there,” he said. “So many sports are similar, but handball stands alone. You have to play it to know why it’s great.”

It’s easy to imagine next year’s pep rally — screaming teens, pompoms and an amped up Shao walking on his hands.

“Any disabled person out there that thinks they can’t do something, I just use myself as an example,” he said. “I play sports. I do whatever I want. Disability will never hold me back.”