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Scholastic Roundup: Lincoln grad is really flying high now

May 5, 2023 Andy Furman
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Israel Abanikanda is a Jet.

New York’s Gatorade Player of the Year who led the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) in rushing and scoring as a senior at Abraham Lincoln High was selected in the fifth-round by the New York Jets in last week’s NFL draft.

As a senior, playing for coach Shawn O’Connor at Lincoln, Abanikanda  rushed for 1,350 yards and totaled 166 points – scoring 25 touchdowns and eight two-point conversion runs. He scored touchdowns three different ways – 20 rushing, three receiving and two on kickoff returns. And he collected 30 tackles and two interceptions as a defensive back.

The new Jet was drafted as a running back and was a New York State Sportswriters Association (NYSSWA) Class AA Co-Player of the Year. As a senior, he weas an All-Class AA First-Team selection, and was a second-team member as a junior.

A two-time First-Team All-City performer, he was named New York City Coaches New York City Player of the Year, a two-time Brooklyn Borough “Big 44”, selected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Famer 2020 NFF Team of Distinction, which honors graduating senior players across the country who best capture the scholar-athlete ideal through exemplary academic achievement, athletic accolades and community involvement.

In track he was a two-time 100-meter Gold Medalist at the New York City Mayor’s Cup Race; a 100-meter Bronze Medalist at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Outdoor Track and Field Championship.

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At the University of Pittsburgh, Abanikanda finished his three-year career with 2,177 yards and 28 touchdowns on 390 carries (5.6 avg.), while catching 38 passes for 354 yards (9.3 avg.)  And three touchdowns. He totaled 194 career points on 32 total touchdowns and a two-point conversion.

In 11 total games played for Pitt last season, he rushed for 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns on 239 carries (6.0 avg.). He added 12 receptions for 146 yards (12.2 avg.)  and a score.

Abanikanda finished as the NCAA statistical champion in scoring (11.6 points per-game), total touchdowns (21) and rushing touchdowns (20).

He compiled nine 100-yard rushing games last season, the most by a Pitt player in a season since Dion Lewis had 1 0 in 2009. In Pitt’s 45-29 victory over Virginia Tech, he went-off for 320 yards and six touchdowns on 36 carries (8.9 avg.). He broke the legendary Tony Dorsett’s school single-game rushing record of 303 yards set against Notre Dame on Nov. 15, 1975. Additionally, Abanikanda tried the 112-year-old school record for rushing touchdown in a game, set by Norman Budd against Ohio on Oct. 29, 1910.

Abanikanda joined LaDainian Tomlinson and Ricky Williams as the only players from current Power 5 programs to rush for 300 yards and score six rush TDs in a game over the last 25 seasons.

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Here is what The Athletic’s Dana Brugler had to say about Abanikanda:

“A two-year starter at Pittsburgh, Abanikanda was the featured weapon in offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr.’s balanced run attack. After a pass-heavy offense with quarterback Kenny Pickett and former coordinator Mark Whipple, Pitt dedicated the offense to the run game in 2022, and Abanikanda responded with a career-year, finishing No. 2 in the FBS in all-purpose yards (164.1 per-game.

“Banyana has eyes that are able to keep up with his lower body athleticism, which allows him to use a variety of rush paths and run with rhythm. His body tends to weaken once defenders make contact (only 45.2 percent of his 2022 yardage came after contact), and his workload will need to be monitored at the next level.”

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Danny Landsberg, the successful Erasmus Hall High School coach, boasts three of his former players – all performers at Rutgers – signed NFL contracts after the draft.

Aron Cruickshank signed with the Chicago Bears, Christian Izien with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Sean Ryan inked with the Baltimore Ravens.

Izien was a three-star 247 high school prospect at Erasmus Hall. As a freshman in 2019 he saw action in 12 games and played a total of 5432 snaps at safety for the Scarlet Knights. He recorded solid 57 tackles, nine assists, while adding 16 stops.

He played 759 snaps in 12 games as a senior; and logged solid 84 tackles – second on the team — 17 assists and made 22 stops.

He was voted honorable mention All-Big Ten by the coaches and media. He became just the 14th player in Rutgers history to surpass 300 career tackles with eight stops at Maryland, Nov. 26th. On his career, he collected 303 tackles.

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Aron Cruickshank was a four-star high school recruits by ESPN, coming out of Erasmus Hall. He helped lead the Dutchmen to the New York City PSAL Championship game in back-to-back seasons, winning the title as a junior, when he was also named All-City.

The wide-receiver finished with 24 touchdowns and 1,009 rushing yards his junior season – and he also competed in track and field.

After operating primarily as a returner and gadget piece for the University of Wisconsin, Cruickshank transferred to Rutgers to get more involved in the passing game. He finished the 2022-23 campaign with career-highs in receptions (42) and receiving yards (385), but he’ll likely begin his NFL career with the Bears as a return specialist.

He played in all 12 games – with 10 starts at wide receiver for the Scarlet Knights last season ands was voted Third Team All-Big Ten as a return specialist by the coaches and honorable mention by the media.

He led Rutgers with 913 all-purpose yards (385 receiving, 370 kickoff return, 115 rushing, 43 punt return) and ends his career with 4,0423 all-purpose yards and ranks sixth in Rutgers history with 1,357 career kickoff return yards – and first on the offense with 42 receptions. He had seven receptions for 62 yards against fourth-rankled Michigan, Nov. 5th and had 64 rushing yards on five attempts in a win over Indiana, Oct. 22nd.

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Sean Ryan played wide receiver for coach Danny Landberg at Erasmus Hall and was a four-year letterwinner help leading the Dutchmen to a 44-8 record with a 12-1 mark as a senior.

He was named conference wide receiver of the year; earned All-City, Brooklyn “Big 44” and All-Conference during sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

The future Baltimore Raven played in all 12 games with 10 starts at wide receiver, for Rutgers last season. He led the Scarlet Knights with 440 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He had 26 receptions overall with multiple catches in nine games and led The Big Ten with 16.9 yards-per-reception. On Senior Day he recorded a season-long 55-yared reception with 76 yards overall against No. 11 Penn State (Nov. 19th).  In the Indiana win (Oct. 22nd) he recorded 59 receiving yards on three receptions; had 50 receiving yards on two catches against Nebraska (Oct 7th).

In Rutgers’ debut at Boston College (Sept. 3rd) he had a 16-yard reception.

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The Basketball Old Timers of America – celebrating 64 years – gather at Sirico’s (8023 13th Avenue) tonight with 2023 inductees: Jay Wright, Irma Garcia, Barry Rohrssen, Gene Doris and Jeff Ruland.

Xaverian High’s boys’ tennis team topped Archbishop Stepanac, 5-0 in their home opener, Monday. In singles, George Sfouggatakis, James Schmidt and John Paskowski all were winners.

George Robokos and Giovanni DeSantis won 6-1, 6-0 in first doubles and Bartosz Foremny and Vincent Parente won 6-4, 6-1 in second doubles.

Bishop Loughlin’s boys’ baseball team topped Cathedral Prep, 13-1 at MCU Park on their Senior Night.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: andyf@#brooklyneagle.com Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR


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