Royal Ivey comes home for induction to Cardozo’s Hall of Fame

By Bill Parry

Since opening in 1966, Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside has generally been considered one of the best-rated schools in the city and has appeared as one of Newsweek’s top 100 schools in the nation. On Saturday the school celebrated its athletic prowess, welcoming back three star athletes and one coach for the inaugural induction into its Hall of Fame.

The inaugural class included Royal Ivey, a basketball star at the University of Texas who played in the NBA for a decade; Peter Munro, who made it as a pitcher in the Major Leagues; and Neal Kitson, a soccer goalkeeper who starred at St. John’s University before a pro career in Major League Soccer.

Howie Arons, who coached the winningest tennis team in New York state history, having gone to the playoffs every year since 1978 and getting to the city finals 26 times, became a Cardozo Hall of Famer. “This school has always been known for its athletic intensity,” Arons said.

Cardozo baseball coach Peter Douglas, after singing a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” introduced Peter Munro, telling the crowd, “There are seven billion people on the planet and only 300 are pitching in the Major Leagues at one time.”

Drafted by the Red Sox, Munro broke into the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays but gained fame as a Texas Ranger when he combined with four other pitchers to no-hit the Yankees on June 11, 2003.

“They put us in an exhibition at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown for that, but I’m proud to be inducted in this Hall,” Munro said, sliding his sunglasses down over his eyes to hide tears.

Many in the crowd were waiting for “Dozo” royalty. A basketball player who caught the coach’s eye at the age of 13 during a tryout.

“I saw this kid wearing a size 13 sneaker as a ninth grader,” Coach Ron Naclerio said. “He played on the varsity in his second year, started as a junior and led us to a city championship as a senior.”

Royal Ivey went on to star for the Texas Longhorns, starting in a school-record 126 games and reaching the NCAA Final Four in 2003. Then he took it to the next level as a draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks, eventually playing in the NBA Finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“It’s been quite a journey for me, but coach—I was wearing a size 14 in ninth grade,” Ivey said with a smile. He is now a coach with the Thunder’s D-League team, hoping to one day be a head coach in the NBA.

“I was never the fastest, the strongest or the tallest, but my parents taught me all about hard work, dedication and resiliency,” he said with his mother Jennifer and father Rod, a layout artist at the TimesLedger Newspapers, beaming with pride in the audience. “I don’t want to be known as an NBA journeyman but as a community leader.”

Ivey has returned home to Hollis every summer for the last decade to coach a free three-day basketball and life-skills clinic.

“We don’t just teach the kids basketball, we teach them finance and health, too,” Ivey said. “We want to help them get a leg up in life, and it’s also a chance for them to get off the streets for a few days.”

He added that 150 kids attend the camp on a first-come, first-served basis and that applications can be found at royaliveybasketballcamp.com

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.