By Dylan Butler
Ivey returned to the Bayside school for the first time last Thursday. This time he was a conquering hero, a second-year pro with the Atlanta Hawks.He is no longer scrawny, and he is no longer a kid. Wearing a three-quarter length wool coat, dress shirt and slacks, Ivey, who is about three inches taller (6-foot-3) and 30 pounds stronger than he was seven years ago, returned a 24-year-old man.”Cardozo's been great to me,” he said. “I'll never forget this place.”And Cardozo is not soon to forget Ivey, the ultimate example of an underdog achieving through hard work. When he left Cardozo in 1999, Ivey had a few offers from mid-major colleges. Undeterred, Ivey went to Blair Academy, drew interest from the University of Texas and he became a four-year starter for the Longhorns.His lunch pail work ethic and defensive ability allowed him to be picked by Atlanta 37th overall in the 2004 NBA Draft.There may have been higher profile players at Cardozo, Blair Academy and Texas, but Ivey is the one left standing, living a dream by playing in the NBA.”A lot of people said I couldn't do this, but I got to this level and I continue to prove people wrong,” he said. “I got a chance to play at the highest level and I'm going to put my stamp on the NBA when it's all said and done. I'm looking forward to playing some years in that league. It's the best job in the world.”What might be Ivey's best attribute is his humility. He didn't walk into Cardozo fashionably late with an entourage, wearing gaudy bling, arriving in the newest and hottest souped up SUV.No. Ivey took the train from the Hawks' Midtown Manhattan hotel. And then he took the bus.”I'm not a changed man,” he said. “I'm not going to come up in a limo.”Ivey was introduced by Rich Parascos at halftime and was given a brand new orange Cardozo jersey – in his old No. 12 – from coach Ron Naclerio”He surprised me with the jersey presentation,” Ivey said. “The new uniforms look nice, they're not like the ones we had when we were playing. I'm just glad to be back in the neighborhood.”And true to form, Ivey didn't bolt after halftime. He took pictures with security guards and former teachers and sat with former teammates Ryan Williams and Daryll Hill – an impromptu reunion of that 1999 championship team.”I haven't seen him in a long time since he was at Texas,” Williams said. “We were mainly talking about how he was doing, he asked about how we were doing with our season. I'm going to get some pointers because he's been through it. I'm going to call him and get some advice.”And Ivey sat until the end, until Cardozo put the finishing touches on a 63-47 league win over Francis Lewis. That wasn't lost on current Dozo guard Wes Frederique.”It feels good to see he still has the school spirit, he still loves Cardozo High School,” he said. “That means a lot.”Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.