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A tough season for the one left behind at Brooklyn Collegiate

March 13, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Craig McKenzie had a big year on a losing Brooklyn Collegiate team this season after as his coach and teammates all left the school. Photo by Rob Abruzzese.
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Brooklyn Collegiate was one of the top teams in all of New York City last season. It lost in the semifinals to Cardozo, the eventual champions, and with five juniors returning, the team looked primed for a huge season this year.

But for Brooklyn Collegiate, that huge season never came.

Collegiate’s head coach Jake Edwards left the team following disagreements with the school’s principal, which caused many of the team’s stars to leave as well. So instead of challenging for the city title, like it was expected to do, Collegiate finished this year with a 1-13 record and missed the playoffs entirely. 

While its top players left for big programs — Jahlil Tripp went to Lincoln, Davere Creighton went to Jefferson and Cheyenne Nettleton went to South Shore — Craig McKenzie stayed at Collegiate.

Losing was quite a shock for McKenzie. He went from being one game away from playing at Barclays Center to winning just one game all year. With Collegiate out of the playoffs, he spent most of February and March watching his old teammates from the sidelines. 

“It’s very tough, because I could have been out here with my friends, my family and teammates playing in these big games, but instead I’m out here watching,” McKenzie said. “It’s real tough watching everybody else knowing that I could be playing with the best.”

Not only was he missing out on some of the biggest games of the season, McKenzie was also forced into a different role than he is used to — that of a leader, and sometimes a coach as well.

“You are playing with a lot of kids that have never played in this environment before,” McKenzie said. “Brooklyn AA is one of the toughest divisions on the East coast, so when you step on the court, you can’t have any mishaps. I had a lot of young guys that weren’t ready for this, and it was a learning experience for me in that way.”

His former coach, who is now an assistant coach at Lincoln High School, thinks that even though this season was hard for McKenzie, in the long run, it might have made him a better player.

“I don’t think it was a total loss for Craig,” Edwards said. “Coaches notice what he’s done. He was leading the way, he played point guard for the entire season, he was one of the league’s best defenders, he hit some big shots. I think it really helped him grow as a player and I think it will help him as he moves forward and goes on to college.” 

Despite playing for a 1-13 team, McKenzie made the most of his season. He averaged 15.9 points, good for fifth place in the Brooklyn AA division, to go with 8.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. He said those numbers were good enough to get him interest from Albany, Maryland and Alabama, but added that he may have to go the junior college route. Still, the dream of playing for a Division I school is very much alive. 

“He’s always been a leader,” said Tripp, his former teammate. “Being in that role by himself was tough, but I think he handled it well, and he finished in the top five in scoring, so people will not overlook that.”

McKenzie has watched as one of his former teammates won the Brooklyn Borough title with Jefferson and the rest going deep into the PSAL playoffs. The toughest part for him, and for everyone who left Collegiate, is wondering what could have happened if everyone had stayed put.

“I think the team that we had coming back probably would have been one of the favorites to win it all,” Edwards said. “And in a blink of an eye, everything changes.”

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