New-look Lincoln Railsplitters have same championship aspirations
Lincoln High School’s former head coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton — responsible for producing NBA talents like Stephon Marbury and Lance Stephenson — has gone off with his latest star, Isaiah Whitehead, to Seton Hall University. In his place is new head coach Kenny Pretlow and an entirely new group of starters that includes two promising freshmen.
Despite the changes, one thing remains constant at Lincoln — it’s championship or bust.
“I’m very happy with the team so far,” Pretlow said. “I have freshmen and sophomores playing hard, sharing the ball. The upperclassmen are doing their part. Everyone is getting along, and we’re getting better every game.”
The biggest new piece on the court is Jahlil Tripp, a senior who transferred to Lincoln from Brooklyn Collegiate. He’s finally playing at 100 percent after he missed all of last season because he was recovering from a gunshot wound he suffered while walking home from school. Helping him out in his difficult transition has been his former Collegiate head coach Jacob Edwards, who joined Lincoln as an assistant coach this season.
“I finally got to 100 percent toward the end of last month,” said Tripp, who had surgery to repair a cracked tibia last January. “I got my legs back, I’ve been working very hard on that and my cardio so I can play the full 32 minutes without getting tired. I feel good right now, and I’m just excited to be back on the court.”
Pretlow calls Tripp his one-through-five guy because of his versatility and recognizes him as his biggest weapon. He added that all five starters are scoring options. Four players are averaging at least 10 points per game and another who is over nine points a game and is still improving.
The key this season will be the freshman guards — Tyler Bourne and Paul Person Jr. They’re getting a lot of playing time even though they’re still learning the game. Pretlow said he feels they’ve already made big strides since the start of the season, and they look a lot more comfortable on a varsity court.
“They’re two very talented freshmen guards,” said Pretlow. “I told them in the beginning of the year that they are getting over on their talent. It’s going to be scary when they actually know the game. It’s going to be impressive when they get their acts together.”
In order to keep everyone together, to get the freshmen to adapt to the varsity level and to help Tripp adjust to being back out on the court at a new school, Pretlow is leaning on his veteran seniors including Gregory Poleon and Ezekiel Charles.
“They’re good leaders because they know about the Lincoln way so they help keep everyone straight,” said Pretlow. “This is the Brooklyn AA. Players need that killer instinct to survive in this division. This is Lincoln so our ultimate goal is to win the championship. We need everyone on the same page and buying into the system if it’s going to work.”
Lincoln is now 11-2 overall this season and 8-1 against Public School Athletic League competition. Its lone regular season loss came at the hands of Jefferson High School. Everyone on the team feels that they have improved team chemistry since that game, though, and they expect to beat Jefferson when they play it again on Feb. 6 in their final test before the playoffs
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