For his final season at Farmingdale, Dalique Mingo is not exactly shying away from the spotlight. Not with those shiny, silver sneakers adorned with lime-green laces. Not with that flashy, aggressive playing style. And not with his boldly-stated goals.
"I believe we can go upstate," Mingo said of the Dalers' chances to win the Long Island Class AA title and earn a trip to Glens Falls for the state tournament. "It will be a heartbreaker if we don't do it."
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Mingo, who averaged 19.2 points last season, moved to Farmingdale from Roosevelt in the ninth grade. As a sophomore, he and four others formed a very youthful starting five. "I started three sophomores and two freshmen. Has that ever been done on the varsity level?" wondered Dalers coach Jim Pastier.
"We were 4-8 that year in conference play, but you could see they were going to get better," Pastier said. "Dalique helped them grow and get over the hump."
Mingo's mates are all at least occasional starters this season: Senior Matt DiCarlo, junior Jack Burke, junior Curtis Jenkins and senior Kevin Petit-Frere. Of course, they suffered growing pains during their first season together in 2010-11. But it made them stronger. They became friends while enduring the agony of defeats and are still bonding as they enjoy the thrill of victories.
"We're really close; like a family," Mingo said. "We play games together at each other's houses and we look at each other as brothers. I feel like this season is now or never for us."
For Mingo, that doesn't only mean Glens Falls or Bust for him and his buddies. It also means College or Bust for the 6-2 combo guard who hopes a big senior season will earn him a scholarship.
"I don't feel a burden. I just try to get better. I want to showcase all of my skills this season," said Mingo, who is comfortable dishing or swishing and is effective driving to the hoop. "I want to play at the next level. Playing better defense and working on my jump shot will impress college scouts. I can play the one [point] or two [off-guard] but I know that in college, I'll have to be a point guard. Whatever is there from the defense, I'll take."
And when the defense takes everything away, as Long Island Lutheran did on Dec. 11, holding him without a field goal in a 61-54 loss, Mingo still took something from the game. "I think you can learn something from any game, whether you win or lose," he said afterward. "If you step between the lines, you should always play hard, no matter how bad things are going. If you take plays off, you shouldn't be on the team."
With that attitude, and an impressive skill set -- "He can shoot; he can handle; he gets kids in the right spots on the court," Pastier said -- it was hardly a surprise when Mingo rebounded after the LuHi loss.
In his next four games, Mingo scored 15, 21, 17 and 25 points. demonstrating why Pastier believes Mingo's goals are unrealistic.
"These kids are shooting high. That's why our schedule is what it is," Pastier said of a non-league slate that includes highly regarded teams like Lutheran, St. John the Baptist, Amityville and Central Islip. "I would feel horrible if they don't win the county and Long Island championships."
Mingo would feel worse.