By Joseph Staszewski
It wasn’t long after missing out on being the first team to win a third straight state Federation Class AA basketball title that Christ the King’s focus shifted to its second chance at rewriting the history books.
The Royals can become the first program to win four consecutive CHSAA “AA” Intersectional crowns if they hoist the trophy again at Fordham University this year. The CK players wanted to get to work on that goal as soon as possible.
“We asked coach after that game if we could go to the gym on Monday,” said Holy Cross-bound wing Tyrone Cohen. “As soon as we could, we were back in the gym.”
Christ the King returns as the favorite to win the CHSAA, despite losing its best player over the last two seasons because of eligibility issues. Senior Rawle Alkins, the No. 9 ranked player in the country according to Rivals, is finishing his career at Word of God, a prep school in North Carolina. Despite the loss of Alkins, the Royals are chock full of veteran talent that is determined to prove they can win without him.
“I feel like we are going to be a great team still,” junior point guard Jose Alvarado said.
CK coach Joe Arbitello, who has won four city titles in the last five years, isn’t expecting one person to replace Alkins. Instead he wants just a little more from everyone. In early scrimmages, his team has had five or six players scoring in double figures.
“I think they understand that is the way they have to score and they are willing to score like that,” he said.
Leading it all will be Alvarado, who saw his college stock soar this summer. He has matured into more of a leader, improved his jumper and can still attack the basket with ease. He will have plenty of help around him with returning starters Cohen, Jared Rivers and Yashawn Bright. David Cole, a 6-foot-7 center and Robert Morris commit, will move into the starting five. Cohen, who was known for his defense last year, said Arbitello expects regular double-doubles from him this year.
Arbitello has plenty of impact players to choose from off the bench. Guard Tracy Cleckley is a proven scorer and classmate Ronald Jefferson is expect to make big contributions off the bench. CK is deeper in the frontcourt, thanks to 6-foot-6 sophomore Malik Anderson. Classmate Tyson Walker will also be asked to contribute.
The constant is the drive and expectation to win. The Royals don’t plan on stopping that anytime soon despite St. Raymond, Iona Prep, Molloy and Cardinal Hayes potentially standing in their way. Chist the King will settle for nothing less than making history.
“We are trying to make history and keep it going as long as we can,” Cohen said. “We want to get a fourth this year and we definitely want to get a fifth year and win and win as long as we can until somebody is good enough to beat us.”