Knight Moves: An inside look at no-frills college hoops in Queens

By Dylan Butler

For one week, Kyrk Peponakis got to see how the other half lives. For one week, he was just Kyrk Peponakis, the Queens College basketball coach, not Kyrk Peponakis, the dean and physical education teacher at Cardozo/part-time Queens coach. With Cardozo closed for winter recess, the Queens Village native was able to be a full-time college coach, if only for one week. And he took advantage of it. “I got to recruit, I got to watch a lot of games, I got to hold practice in the afternoon,” Peponakis said. “It was good. It was just basketball, which is fun. I'd like to take a month of that.”For his players, it's a month-long hiatus from the student part of the title student-athlete. Until the end of January, all they have to worry about is basketball. And Bradd Wierzbicki couldn't be happier. “This is my favorite part of the season,” Wierzbicki said. “You can go harder when you don't have school to worry about. You can take a nap after practice if you need, but I'll probably be in here even more this month than I usually am.”That's not to say things are easy. The Knights haven't played since Dec. 21, when they lost to Northwood, a first-year NAIA school in Florida coached by legendary Rollie Massimino. They have a very pedestrian 4-4 record as they enter 2007 and were scheduled to return to the court Jan. 3 against Bloomfield Tech at Dominican College in Orangeburg. But until then, it's been all about practice, every day. On Saturday, it was a two-and-a-half hour practice, a half-hour longer than usual, with the final 30 minutes dedicated to learning Bloomfield's tendencies.After the tournament at Dominican, Queens' ECC schedule kicks into high gear and they play an NBA-like three games a week. Then the practices are more like walk throughs, it's more difficult to install new plays and schemes when the games are every other night. That's what makes this time so critical. “It makes it a little easier not having school to worry about, it's great to come in and just play ball,” Lance Hazel said. “You start in early September and then you've got practice every day to go along with your school work and once that's out of the way you feel like the weight is off your shoulder and you just have to worry about basketball.”

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