Coup for Queens: Bayside’s Hazel inks with Knights

By Dylan Butler

Lance Hazel isn’t sure what happened. Maybe it’s that he went to Bayside High School, not known as perennial PSAL basketball powerhouse. Or that the 6-foot-1 guard doesn’t shoot lights out from the perimeter.

Whatever the case, the South Jamaica resident is surprised at how under-recruited he was. But Division I schools’ loss is Queens College’s gain.

The Knights, the lone New York Collegiate Athletic Conference team to recruit Hazel, pulled off a coup by signing the lightning-quick Commodores shooting guard last week.

“It did surprise me, but then again it didn’t,” Hazel said of the lack of interest by Division I schools. “I don’t blame them too much, although I feel I couldn’t have gotten better offers.”

Among the few Division I schools to show interest were St. Francis College in Brooklyn, Davidson and New Hampshire.

While he may not have a constant jump shot yet and is not a pure point guard, Hazel has shown the ability to explode to the hole. And his grades — an 87 average and a 1080 SAT score — should have peaked the interest of many Division I schools.

“He’s a winner,” said Forest Hills resident Tom Konchalski, the editor of the HSBI report and a recruiting guru. “You look at him and he’s a tweener. He has great quickness and he’s always around the ball. He makes the simple plays, he passes, he’s unselfish and he’s a very good rebounder for a guard.”

Just because Hazel dropped further than he expected doesn’t mean he’s not happy to play for Kyrk Peponakis at Queens.

“It kind of puzzled me, the lack of interest, but I’m not disappointed with the choice I made,” Hazel said. “I like the situation I’m walking in to.”

Hazel said he could have gone to a high school basketball powerhouse, thereby increasing his chances at being seen by Division I schools, but instead Hazel — who plays the baritone horn — chose Bayside instead for its renowned music program.

“He’s a great kid, a great student and a great athlete,” said Jackson Heights resident Robert ‘Rebel’ Boyd, who coaches Hazel on the Runnin’ Rebels AAU team. “He doesn’t open his mouth, doesn’t complain and he just plays hard. His best days are in front of him.”

The addition of Hazel, who averaged 18 points, 10.1 rebounds and six assists per game last year, is the final piece of a strong recruiting class for Queens, which won its first-ever NYCAC crown and played in the Division II NCAA tournament for a second straight year.

Also coming in next year is former Franklin K. Lane standout Robert Villanueva, a 6-foot-7 swingman out of Sage College of Albany and Shaun Bertin, a 6-foot-6 forward Nazareth High School in Brooklyn.

“At that level, in the NYCAC, it’s more about getting players who are willing to sacrifice themselves to win,” Konchalski said. “He’ll fit in nicely at Queens.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.