Quietly, Mount Vernon erupts for Flushing Red Devils

By Mitch Abramson

“My coach asked me to make sure everyone is where they're supposed to be,” he said. Teel, a 6-foot-3 senior point forward on Flushing's basketball team isn't just a leader in the hallways. He has guided Flushing to a 7-4 record in Queens 1-A by coaxing his players into playing winning basketball.”He has a high basketball IQ,” said Flushing coach, Charles Richardson. “He tells his teammates what they should do, but he doesn't yell.”Maybe if he did, he might get more attention.As Teel puts up incredible numbers this season – he is averaging 31 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists a game – he remains an oddity in the PSAL, a circus act who dominates games so effortlessly he seems out of place.”I bully kids in this league, nobody can stop me,” said Teel, who is second in the PSAL in scoring. “I can score whenever I want, I'm a leader on the court.”Despite going 21-6 last year and tying LIC for the division title, Flushing remains above all, a soccer school. The Red Devils lost in the finals of the 'A' soccer playoffs this past season and were in the semis the year before. If you're serious about basketball, the thought goes, head to Cardozo. The media usually does. Coach Ron Naclerio lures reporters to games by producing a winning product and attracting the best players in Queens every year.No such tradition exists at Flushing, where Richardson has won plenty of games but has yet to establish the program as one of the elite. So Teel puts up numbers, like he did last year when he averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds a game, and he still can't crack a local paper's All-Queens' team. Maybe losing in the first round of the playoffs last season blurred some of his accomplishments.”I went to Flushing to be with my friends,” he says, arguing that it shouldn't be about basketball.Originally, Teel wanted to go to Holy Cross to be with friends from his childhood. He grew up playing with Holy Cross's Kevin Ogletree and Anthony Clarke at IS 192 in Hollis. The Catholic school's tuition ended his dream of suiting up in a Knights' uniform, and Teel matriculated at Flushing, a 5-foot-11 point guard who was slotted to play JV basketball until a group of varsity players quit the team. Teel, a natural scorer, spent his first season learning how to pass the ball. He spent his sophomore year cursing his bad grades and watching from the stands because he was academically ineligible. When he showed up his junior year, Richardson hardly recognized him.”He grew four inches,” Richardson said. “Failing off was the best thing that could have happened to him. He came back a better player. He started attaching the basket more. He was surprised me how much better he got.”During the summers, Teel played AAU ball for the Long Island Panthers and Lamar Odom's New York City Heat. Competing against some of the best players in the country, he was invited to Seton Hall's basketball camp and made the All-Star team the summer before his sophomore and junior years.””Right now, I think he's a mid-level Division I player,” said Nate Cadogan, his coach on the Heat who has known him since he was 12. “If he gets bigger and stronger, he'll probably get some Big East looks.” Providence College sent him a letter of interest, inviting him for a tour of the school. Teel wants to go to a big Division I school, and thinks a year of Prep school might lead to more offers.”He's a born leader,” Cadogan said. “Kids tend to follow him. They listen to him”When Teel walks the hallways of Flushing, they had better.Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.

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