By Robert Elkin
All eyes were focused on Canarsie’s junior, a future College Division I player if he continues his tremendous performance during the second half of the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) basketball season and into the playoffs. Nathaniel Lester scored 37 points in three quarters or 24 minutes mostly from the field in leading Canarsie to an 88-46 trouncing over Valley Stream Central in the second game of a triple header during the seventh annual Brooklyn Basketball Challenge, sponsored by Forest City Ratner Companies, at Long Island University. Last winter Canarsie reached the first round of the playoffs, only to lose to Curtis of Staten Island. Now Tom Allen, in his 15th year as coach, feels confident that his team will go further, especially the way Lester and his teammates have been performing. After 16 (14-2) games, Lester is the talk of the PSAL, for he is among the top point getters in the league with a scoring average of 23 a contest. His high game this year is 39 points against New Utrecht. Lester is taking down an average of 10 rebounds and assisting at a rate of five times an outing for a team that faces a tough schedule. In addition to basketball, he also plays volleyball for Canarsie. And Allen also coaches volleyball. “It keeps the basketball guys together,” Allen said. “He enjoys it as he’s a good athlete.” Lester is an all-around player and gets his field goals on jumpers, dunks, lay-ups, and from three-point range. He rebounds and plays a great defensive game as well. All he scored was 22 points by intermission at LIU. Everybody in the crowd was talking about his performance. “Nat stepped up and played very well,” Allen said, after the Valley Stream Central game. “He made a lot of shots and rebounded and passed well. He played a great game.” “I like to put on a show like this,” Lester added. “Every game and every team we play the same way.” When Lester entered Canarsie High as a freshman, he was good enough to start. And he has started ever since. “We competed in a very good classic,” Lester added after the game. “It gets us ready for our league games. And we got a good workout.” “He’s a great player and has the whole package,” Allen continued. “He works hard, and is a great team player, looking to pass first. He has excellent footwork. “He’s a personable kid who has a great upside. He’ll be a great college player. He has to maybe work on his dribbling and ball handling skills. Allen said that as a team, Canarsie relies on its defense as its major strength. The last time Canarsie won a city PSAL title came in 1976. In 2000, Canarsie advanced to the Final Four where they lost by two points to Kennedy. In other games at LIU, Benjamin Banniker edged Bishop Loughlin, 76-75, in a battle of schools located in Fort Greene on a jump shot by Jay Wisalk with 6.2 seconds left, and Hempstead defeated Van Arsdale, 58-53. Banniker battled back from a 15 point deficit in the third quarter. At New York City Tech a few blocks from LIU at the same time, Shaker Heights of Ohio defeated Tilden, 70-51, JFK of Patterson turned back Westinghouse, 61-46, Livingface Academy of Pennsylvania got by McKinney, 64-45, and St. Edmund’s lost to Wagner, 67-44. The games were attended by former Net player and Fort Hamilton High and Fort Greene resident Albert King who is working with Forest City Ratner Companies helping to put on community events. Proceeds will benefit the youth development programs of Youth America Inc. and the Rights Bounce organization. Since 1984 Youth America has operated a wide range of educational, cultural, recreational and health programs for the enrichment of community residents. Keith Lewis, executive director of Youth America, helped in the selection of the teams and the match-ups. He also announced the games at LIU.