Chris Knez was one of a select few players at Long Island City who was in favor of moving up to Queens AA, the newly formed division made up of the borough's top 10 teams.
The Bulldogs do not recruit or receive transfer students from Catholic schools like the area's other powerhouses do. Still, in Knez they have Queens' top low post presence, and one of the top five in the city.
So far, the 6-foot-8 center is enabling LIC to hold their own, averaging 28 points and 18 rebounds a game. The Bulldogs are a respectable 4-4 in league play, and 7-4 overall, having lost in overtime to Bayside included. It all starts with the agile big man, who often leads them in assists.
“Everything we run,” LIC Coach Harvey Watstein said, “is through him.”
But if Knez is to enjoy any success come March, his teammates will need to continue to improve. When LIC plays the weaker competition in Queens AA, Knez dominates, but when they see heavyweights Cardozo or Campus Magnet, he has trouble getting the ball.
“We have really one AA player who can play with anybody,” Watstein said, referring to Knez. “And we have a bunch of guards around him. As long as we can take care of the ball, we are going to be in every game. The games we lost, we didn't take care of the ball.”
It is the supporting cast, an inexperienced, youthful bunch that will decide if LIC is to make any kind of a playoff run. They have fared better as of late, helping Knez and the Bulldogs to a 65-35 thrashing of Brandeis in the Second Annual Queens Jam Christmas Classic at John Bowne Saturday afternoon.
In the win, Watstein praised the play of senior point guard Ali Mahi. And without the team's second leading scorer, talented sophomore forward Kaseem Harris, injured in a recent scrimmage, that the Bulldogs could earn such a lopsided victory was surely a reason for optimism.
“Everybody's getting better,” Knez said. “They're not scared on the court, they're not nervous, they don't turn the ball over as much, they make better passes.”
Senior guard Geordan France said, “This is a good win for us. It gets us ready for the second half of the season.”
Knez was a late bloomer, but still was offered the opportunity of transferring after his sophomore year. Instead, because of a comfort level at the school and the various friendships he formed with teammates, remained, he decided he wanted to make it in the same place he has developed.
“He could've gone somewhere bigger or better,” Watstein said. “He deserves all the accolades he's getting.”
Christ the King's Erving Walker gave a verbal commitment to Florida, the defending NCAA champion, over the weekend. At the Academy National Invitational in Houston, TX, the 5-foot-8 junior told Gators Coach Billy Donovan of his intentions, moments after he was offered the scholarship. The sharp shooting off guard averaged 14 points a game for the Royals last season.