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Friday, April 22, 2016: Witt, Foster and Nichols land player of the year honors

   Leading off today: Everett Witt of Collegiate (Class B), Gary Foster of Buffalo Middle Early College (C) and Terry Nichols of New York Mills (D) have been selected 2016 players of the year in boys basketball by the New York State Sportswriters Association.

   The announcement was made Friday as the NYSSWA released its all-state selections in the small-school classifications.

   Witt, a 6-foot-5 senior, averaged 10.8 points a game for Collegiate. He scored 20 points in the Federation championship game and was selected tournament MVP as Collegiate ended Olean's perfect season 49-45.

   He is the sixth Collegiate standout to earn player of the year honors since 2008 and the first since Connor Huff and Ryan Frankel shared the honor in 2012.

   Foster led his school to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C championship, averaging 18.7 points in his senior season. He was a second-team all-state selection in 2015.

   Nichols averaged 24.6 points a game in his senior season for the Section 3 Class D runner-up to repeat as a first-team selection.

   The complete 2016 B-C-D list can be found here. The Class AA and A teams will be announced next week. Here are some helpful links to basketball-related material from the NYSSWA:

Past NYSSWA players of the year

Recent all-state teams    Power of 'Pearl': There were many memories of Dwayne "Pearl" Washington shared this week by mainstream media as well as people posting on various social media. One tidbit that I didn't see mentioned was how the format of the Federation tournament for New York boys high school basketball was blown up in 1984 with the introduction of what came to be known by many as the "Pearl Washington Rule."

   Washington, equal parts talent and charisma, was a star player and one of the state's best-known scholastic athletes his final two seasons as a guard for Boys & Girls in Brooklyn. But the Kangaroos were bounced from the postseason during the PSAL tournament in Washington's senior season in 1983, depriving upstate fans of the opportunity to see the gifted guard who was attracting all sorts of attention and adulation.

   The long-dormant state tournament was revived in 1978 and the Federation tournament was very much in flux with significant changes each year. As recounted in a 1984 newspaper column by Steve Grandin (BTW, kudos to Steve for editing the NYSSWA all-state team once again this season), the tinkering included adding the PSAL and CHSAA in 1979, trimming the field from six classes to four in 1980, moving the event to Glens Falls in '81, playing the whole tourney at a single site over three days in '82 and completely overhauling the format in '83 so that overall large- and small-school champs could be crowned.

   In that span, big names went missing -- Sam Perkins (Shaker), Tony "Red" Bruin and Vern Fleming (Mater Christi), Kenny Smith (Archbishop Molloy), etc. -- from the season-ending event because of losses in sectional or association tournaments, and the effect on attendance -- and interest in the event in general -- was unmistakable.

   However, it took Boys & Girls' early exit in Washington's final season to finally prompt Federation organizers to act. It was decided that a committee would select two "lucky losers" from the postseason to be restored to the latter stages of the tournament draw, giving them an unprecedented second chance.

   And so it came to be that North Babylon from the

NYSPHSAA and Andrew Jackson from the PSAL were awarded wildcard berths in 1984 to what was still known as the "Super 16." North Babylon was the defending NYSPHSAA large-school champ and Jackson had been ousted by Harry Truman in the PSAL tourney.

   North Babylon beat Long Island Lutheran to advance to Glens Falls before losing its quarterfinal to eventual champ Truman. Jackson lost its quarterfinal to Christ the King.

   I don't recall what happened from there, though I think the committee recognized the flaws of the "Pearl Washington Rule" after one more year and did away with wildcards.

   More Pearl: Veteran New York high school basketball talent evaluator Tom Konchalski isn't a man given to hyperbole, but he will hand out praise when it's been earned.

   "He had a fabled high school career and his nickname made him even bigger,'" Konchalski said of Washington. "If I had to have a Mount Rushmore for Boys (& Girls) High School it would be Sihugo Green, Lenny Wilkens, Connie Hawkins and Pearl. There is no accomplishment that big.

   "He was a mesmerizing, galvanizing presence on the court and he was better than those other big-time guards because he was a national name."

   Whoops: A man believed to be 30 years old was posing as a 17-year-old, 6-foot-10 high school basketball player for six months before Canadian border officers arrested him Wednesday under the Immigration Refugee Protection Act.

   The Windsor Star reports Jonathan Nicola started to gain attention playing basketball at Catholic Central High in Windsor. He left South Sudan and arrived in Ontario last November on a student visa.

   His coach, Pete Cusumano, believed his player had the chance to play in the pros.

   Nicola told the paper in January that he arrived in Windsor on Nov. 22, 2015, three days before his 17th birthday. He said he left his disease-ridden, war-torn home for a better life in Canada.

   "A few of my friends know of my background, how we live over there," he said in the January story. "I don't know how many of them have a clue of how it is in Africa."

   More later: There were several non-basketball developments around the state Thursday that I'll catch up to in a separate blog Friday afternoon.

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