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Chaminade's Hargrove a tall order for opposition

St. John the Baptist's Dante Thomas (15, rear),

St. John the Baptist's Dante Thomas (15, rear), and Khaleev Ginyard (1, right), provide some tough defense against Chaminade's Kevin Hargrove (54, center). (January 19, 2010) Credit: Newsday/Photo by Richard Slattery

For Kevin Hargrove, the days of shopping for clothes at department stores ended two years and four inches ago.

At 6-10, the 18-year-old senior center for Chaminade has outgrown sizes stocked by retailers. Now he resorts to the big-and-tall section of catalogs or the closet of his 6-11 father.

"He steals my pants all the time," Kevin's dad, Rich Hargrove, said Thursday night. "I have to lock my closet because he takes my clothes."

Although Hargrove's height has limited his wardrobe selection, it has added new dimensions to his game and the Chaminade basketball team. His size-15 shoes carry his 82 inches and 220 pounds up and down the court with the agility and athleticism of a guard.

"I can run up and down quicker than most big men," he said. "I don't really like playing sets. I'd rather just play a fast pace all day."

As the tallest player in the CHSAA and one of the tallest centers on Long Island, Hargrove enjoys a height advantage of four to five inches on a nightly basis. His biggest impact has come on the defensive end, where he negates his team's mistakes by blocking five shots a game and altering countless others.

Hargrove averages 13 points and 12 rebounds per game, with a majority of his points coming in the low post and on putbacks. His offensive game is raw but filled with promise, sparking interest from Division II and III colleges.

"His potential is unlimited," Chaminade coach Jim Quinn said. "He still has a way to go on his offensive moves, but he is improving rapidly over the course of the season and he will keep improving. Two years from now, I think he will really be outstanding.''

In addition to polishing his offensive game, Hargrove hopes to improve his free-throw shooting and his aggressiveness around the basket.

He also has a tendency to get into early foul trouble. Not that the opposition gets a reprieve when Hargrove goes to the bench, given that the only player in the CHSAA taller than his 6-8 backup, Rich Zoller, is Hargrove himself.

Born the second son to Rich and Leonor - his brother Richard, 22, stands six inches shorter than Kevin at 6-4 - Hargrove measured a very average 21 inches at birth, and his future size didn't become evident until he reached elementary school. With his father at 6-11 and his mother at 5-1, it's not difficult to see from whom he's inherited his height genes.

"I'm quite sure it comes from my side," Rich said with a laugh. "But the good looks come from his mother's side."

Raised in Bellerose, Hargrove attended St. Gregory's, where - as he approached the 6-foot mark - he developed an interest in basketball while in sixth grade. After reaching 6-5 during his first year of high school, Hargrove played on the freshman and junior varsity teams at Chaminade, then spent last season coming off the bench for the varsity before earning a starting role this season.

Also a member of Chaminade's crew team through his junior year, Hargrove proved that he not only could fit but succeed in a boat ill-suited for someone so tall. His lengthy wingspan created an advantage that allowed him more leverage with the oars. So much so that it earned him Most Valuable Rower honors during his freshman year. But his third year on the crew team became his last so he could focus entirely on basketball.

Hargrove's height intimidates on the court and intrigues off it.

"I haven't gone a day where somebody hasn't asked me how tall I was," he said. "I'm used to it. I don't blame them because I do stick out."

Answering the questions of strangers, sleeping diagonally on his full-size bed and struggling to find the perfect fit all become worthwhile once he hits the basketball court.

With continued experience and fine- tuning, his already dominant defensive play soon should be complemented by an offensive arsenal that includes a series of post moves and perhaps a mid-range jumper.

And as those skills develop, the points - along with interest from college coaches - will come easy.

Much easier than finding a pair of pants.

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