By Anthony Bosco
The TimesLedger published an article last week about Chris Matesic, the head boys’ varsity basketball coach at Bayside High School. The story, written by Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler, described allegations that Matesic was trying to recruit basketball players from other city high schools, a violation of the rules set up by the Public School Athletic League.
The PSAL said it was not investigating the coach because it had not received any written complaints about him, although sources said the PSAL had received phone calls regarding the matter. Matesic also denied any allegations of wrongdoing on his part.
The article centered around the allegations made by Wesner Frederique, whose son Wes was the leading scorer on the Bishop Loughlin freshman team a year ago and is now enrolled at Benjamin N. Cardozo, also in Bayside.
The elder Frederique was quoted as saying that Matesic, upon learning of his son’s intent to attend a PSAL school, had “called me and wanted to know if he could meet with me and Wes.” Frederique went on to say that Matesic “sat with my son and myself and told us what he had to offer at Bayside.”
This may all seem pretty standard stuff, and from an outsider’s perspective I can see how it would appear that this is no big deal. But recruiting is against the rules, even if those rules aren’t really as cut and dry as they once were.
Since last year the PSAL has, in a way, loosened its grip on regulating the moves of student-athletes. While once it was forbidden for a student-athlete to transfer from one school to another with no good reason, now the PSAL really doesn’t seem to care. Well, maybe it cares, but it is not investigating such things anymore.
If that’s the case, why would the PSAL or anyone else care if a coach suggested to a player that he or she should come to his school to play? The answer is obvious, of course.
It’s one thing for the PSAL to loosen its transfer restrictions because essentially all the organization is doing is allowing these kids to pursue an education at the school they choose. I’m for anything that helps kids stay in school, so I believe that is a good decision by the PSAL.
But to allow open recruiting would certainly create a massive imbalance in the league — as if there were not one already.
I also find it ironic that Frederique ended up at Cardozo, the team seeded No. 1 in the PSAL playoffs and a program that is consistently among the tops, not only in the borough but in the entire city. His father said the decision was based completely on academics. I also think it is kind of funny that Ron Naclerio, the head basketball coach at Cardozo, has found himself in hot water in the past for the very same thing Matesic is accused of doing.
Cardozo is also the school where blue-chip Canadian import Theo Davis landed when he left his native land to come to the Big Apple. Naclerio was also quoted in the article last week, saying he had be told by Davis that Matesic was trying to woo the hoop star as well.
Naclerio told me over the summer that he knew who Davis was prior to his enrolling at Cardozo but denied having anything to do with the decision to bring the kid in. They just got lucky, he said.
So what we have is a situation where two promising basketball players — who prior to this school year lived nowhere near the zoned boundaries of the school — are attending Cardozo. Yet somehow it is the Bayside High School coach who finds himself in hot water.
I want to make it clear that I am not making any allegations about Naclerio, nor do I know whether the allegations about Matesic hold water. But having been a high school sports writer for as long as I have, I know without a doubt that recruiting occurs. That’s a given. You can talk geography, neighborhood, economics or whatever as to why some schools get better athletes than others, but the fact remains that without an open enrollment policy, it is next to impossible to win year in and year out. These kids, after all, are not signed to long-term contracts.
Naclerio has always treated me with respect and class, and I have had a longstanding relationship with the man that I value greatly. He is clearly a great basketball coach who knows how to attract the best players around to his consistently winning program. The best recruiting tool any coach can have is a history of winning and producing quality athletes. Naclerio has that pedigree.
That said, I still can’t help but shake my head at this situation. Matesic, whom I have never met, is coaching his first year of varsity ball this season and it was a pretty decent year, in fact. Maybe too good, as it turns out. (Bayside lost to Cardozo in the borough championships and was eliminated from the PSAL playoffs by Boys & Girls last week.)
The way the PSAL is set up, there should be new contenders for the city title every year, a constant rotating system that highlights the best players from all over the city. Good coaches, no matter what kind of talent they have, are always good coaches. Just look at Tim Leary at St. Francis Prep or Howard Furman at Townsend Harris — these guys can beat you with four jockeys and the tall kid from the chess club.
Recruiting, no matter who does it or how, is cheating — maybe not overtly, but tell that to the kids on teams that didn’t make the playoffs because all the best basketball players from their neighborhood are playing basketball for another school across town.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.