Queens stars shine at Classic

By Joseph Staszewski

Benjamin Cardozo guard Rashond Salnave was having flashbacks as he watched Christ the King’s Rawle Alkins operate in the fourth quarter of the Big Strick Classic to ensure his team a victory.

Unlike when their teams squared off in this year’s state Federation Class AA boys’ basketball semifinal, Salnave was on his side. Alkins does what it takes to win.

“It kind of looked like when we played them in the states,” Salnave said. “He showed up. That’s what he did.”

Alkins scored eight of his 18 points in the final five minutes of the game to lead the New York City area all-stars past their USA counterparts 137-135 at the Big Strick Classic Saturday at Gauchos Gym in the Bronx.

The annual high school hoops all-star game features some of the best players from around the country and is held in memory of streetball legend John Strickland, who died in 2010.

Alkins, a rising junior, earned one of the two most valuable player awards given to Team NYC with his performance. Antonio Blakeney (Oak Ridge, Fla.), who had 33 points, was the team’s other MVP.

Alkins’ biggest play came with 39 seconds left in the game. He skied across the lane to rebound Salnave’s miss and scored over the late arriving 7-footer Steven Zimmerman to give NYC a 137-133 lead.

“It was big,” he said.

The only one not impressed with Alkins’ performance was himself. He enjoyed playing in the contest, but acknowledged that the isolation style of all-star games and the lack of team defense is not “real basketball.”

Still, it was hard not to like what Alkins showed. He made jumpers, moved well without the ball and defended well.

“I showcased my ability a little, but I got all my points, like garbage points,” Alkins said.

The two-time state Federation Class AA state champions and reigning TimesLedger Newspaper All-Queens player of the year is coming off a big summer that found him adding scholarship offers from Louisville, Indiana, Providence, North Carolina State, Miami and Kansas.

Alkins returned home for the Big Strick Classic after leading his team to a title at the Adidas Nations tournament in Las Vegas. The sneaker company’s tournament pitted some of the nation’s best high school players against teams made up of stars from around the world. He was the third leading scorer at Adidas Nations with 18.2 points per contest.

“I’ve been traveling a lot, but I’m always representing New York,” Alkins said.

Salnave did his fair share of putting New York City in a good light as well. The rising junior scored nine of his 14 points in the second quarter to get New York City back into the game after a slow start. He hit two three-pointers, including one to end the third. He got to the basket, scored on put backs and did an excellent job running that team at the point guard spot.

“I want to show what I could do,” Salnave said. “What I like to do is go at whoever is the best player. So whoever I had on me, whoever they were, if they got a name, I want to make my name bigger so I want to go right after them.”

He and Alkins certainly helped New York City’s names while competing against the nation’s best players.