A.J. Price is no longer a high- schooler. Sure, he

still has another six weeks of classes before officially graduating from

Amityville. But with his stellar three-year basketball career behind him, the

gifted point guard finds himself in the purgatory that every high school star

must face along the journey to college.

It's a time of uncertainty and excitement. So many have tried and failed at

the next level to recapture the magic that made them kings of the playground

when they were younger.

One era ended the moment Price stepped off the Glens Falls Civic Center

court for the final time after playing his eighth stellar game there. Despite

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25 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals from Price, Section III champ

Jamesville-DeWitt upended Amityville, 56-52, to capture the Class A state

public schools championship in March.

Rather than dwell on it, Price simply shrugged off the game. "I didn't see

the loss as a disappointment," said Price, the 13th recipient of Newsday's

@Newsday

Richard Sandler Award as Suffolk Player of the Year after averaging a Long

Island-best 29 points and 8 rebounds in 15 games. "I would have liked to go out

winning. But basketball for me is just beginning. I hope to have a long

career."

Of course, enjoying the confidence of his future coach can ease any

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jitters. With the defection of Ben Gordon to the NBA and the graduation of

Taliek Brown, UConn loses two of the top assist men in the Big East. The

Huskies are bringing in just one player with the requisite ballhandling and

passing skills to fill the void. Weeks after guiding Connecticut to its second

national championship, Jim Calhoun gushed about the 6-2, 189-pound Price. "We

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put all our eggs in one basket with A.J.," he said. "He's got a chance to be a

tremendous player."

Calhoun and the Connecticut faithful may come to know the same Price whom

Long Island fans watched in wonder for three seasons. He led Amityville to

three Long Island championships and a pair of Class B state crowns. After

serving an early-season suspension this season, Price returned to the lineup

and the Warriors surged into the Class A state Final Four.

His dazzling shooting ability and leadership made Price an easy choice as

the Sandler winner. He won it for the second year in a row in an overwhelming

vote of coaches, officials and sportswriters. "He's the best clutch shooter

I've ever seen," said his coach, Jack Agostino. Brentwood junior forward John

Garcia was the other finalist.

Price finished as Amityville's most prolific three-point shooter (130) and

was third in points (1,394) behind previous Sandler winners Jason Fraser and

Tristan Smith. That's great for the resume, but Price has moved on. His goal is

to forge a new reputation at Connecticut. "They're not going to give me

anything," he said. "But I expect to start."