Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Chris Gaston got about three hours of sleep on Saturday night and then had one of the best games of his life Sunday morning.
After waking up at 4:15 Sunday, Gaston made a five-hour drive from the New Hampton (N.H.) school to Queens with New Hampton head coach Pete Hutchins.
The 6-foot-7, 210-pound Gaston then scored 26 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and made 3 blocks to lead the Playaz Seniors to a 96-81 victory over Lance Stephenson and the Juice All-Stars in the is8 championship game. Gaston, who will play for Fordham next season, was named MVP of the championship game.
“It feels great,” said Gaston, who was 11 of 16 from the field and 4 of 8 from the line. “Two years in a row we came in second place. It feels good to finally get the 7-foot trophy.”
“He was the best player in the gym,” Playaz coach Kyle Anderson said of Gaston. “He was dominant shooting percentage wise. He probably had seven or eight blocked shots. He was a beast inside. He was unstoppable inside.”
Stephenson, a senior at Brooklyn Lincoln, scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half, after the Playaz had taken a 48-38 halftime lead. He added 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block in a losing effort. Darwin “Buddha” Ellis scored 19 points and Karron Johnson added nine points and nine rebounds for Juice. Stephenson, who poured in 30 points in a semifinal victory over New Heights, was named Most Outstanding Player of the league.
St. Anthony star Dominic Cheek, fresh off his trip to Kansas for Late Night in the Phog, added 17 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist for the Playaz. Rice-bound guard Tamir Jackson of St. Benedict’s tallied 18 points and was named First-Team All-Tournament. Fordham commit Lance Brown of Paterson Catholic added 14 points, and Georgia Tech-bound forward Brian Oliver and Robert Morris commit Karon Abraham also played well.
Anderson said he was especially impressed with Jackson, a 6-foot point guard from Paterson.
“I thought Tamir Jackson played excellent in the playoffs as far as being a point guard and trying to get everyone involved,” he said. “He wanted to score, but for the most part he got everyone involved. I thought he did an excellent job.”
He added: “Karon Abraham did much better than people think. He could easily have been the MVP.”
Instead, that honor went to Gaston, who wasn’t even able to play in Saturday’s Playaz semifinal victory over Durand Scott and the Gauchos.
“I couldn’t make it,” Gaston said. “I didn’t have a ride.”
Gaston said he wasn’t even certain he would get a ride from New Hampshire for Sunday’s final until Hutchins found someone else to take over his dorm duty and agreed to drive him.
Now Gaston, who previously played at St. Anthony under Bob Hurley and St. Benedict’s under Dan Hurley, is focused on getting his academics in order. He recently took the SAT and is awaiting his score.
“It’s going great,” Gaston said. “I’m getting the work done, trying to lift and stuff. Trying to build my game.”
Gaston lit it up on the summer circuit. He had 42 points and 19 rebounds in a game in Orlando and 35 and 17 in another game there for the Jersey ShoreShots. He was also named MVP of the Triple S Harley Davidson Shootout at West Virginia.
Had he waited to commit until this fall, he probably could have ended up in the Big East. But he’s happy to be headed to Fordham in 2009 where he will reunite with his former St. Anthony teammate Jio Fontan (left), who will take over the team this year.
“I probably could’ve gone Big East but I’d rather be in Fordham,” he said. “It’s a family atmosphere.”
FIRST TEAM ALL-TOURNAMENT
Sean Johnson, NYABC
Durand Scott, Gauchos
Tristan Thompson, MetroHawks (Texas)
Jeronne Maymon, Unique All Stars (Marquette)
Tamir Jackson, Playaz (Rice)
Brian Oliver, Playaz Seniors (Georgia Tech)
Isaiah Epps, Playaz Juniors
Tobias Harris, Unique All Stars
John Underwood, Princeton Day Academy (James Madison)
Sherrod Wright, Mount Vernon
Sterling Gibbs, New York Panthers
Lance Brown, Playaz Seniors (Fordham)
Mike McCloud, D.C. Eagles
Marcus Henderson, D.C. Eagles
Joe Swift, Brooklyn Ballers
Freshman of the Year: Kyle Anderson Jr., Playaz Seniors
Player of the Year: Lance Stephenson
MVP of the Championship Game: Chris Gaston
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.