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Young and learning in school of hard Knox

The Knox School's Brandon McCreesh #24 goes up

The Knox School's Brandon McCreesh #24 goes up for a shot while pursued by Cardinal Hayes' Mamadou Torre #23 during the Shooting Stars Boys Basketball Showcase at Long Island Lutheran High School in Brookville on Jan 4, 2020. Credit: Daniel De Mato

As transitions go, Brandon McCreesh’s couldn’t have been smoother.

The Knox School sophomore was the top boys basketball junior varsity player in the Falcons’ program a year ago and confessed that he’d initially been nervous about making the transition to the varsity this season. On Saturday, jitters were not apparent as Knox took the big stage and faced Cardinal Hayes of the Bronx in the Shooting Stars Basketball Showcase at Long Island Lutheran.

McCreesh, a 6-foot shooting guard, had 19 points including five three-pointers, though the Falcons suffered a 73-44 non-conference loss.

“It was going to be a big jump to our varsity with all the hard games we play,” McCreesh said. “I admit I had nerves about it. I’ve been putting in the work though and I now know I can play at this level. I just have to keep developing.”

Knox coach Majestic Mapp knew he had a young team but did not shy away from a very tough non-conference schedule that included a high-profile tournament in Florida. “I always want us to play the best teams because the experience is so valuable down the road,” he said. “Games like this get players the environment they want to play in and the exposure.”

It’s possible that Knox (3-5) hasn’t developed to the point that it will be competitive anytime soon against the Cardinals (6-4), who are ranked No. 13 in the NYSSWA Class AA state poll, but it also didn’t help that the Falcons were without a two top players; forward Jaden DeJesus was sidelined by an illness and forward Josh Uduje had an out-of-state commitment.

“Not having two of your best players isn’t good,” McCreesh said. “It was going to be hard to hang with them and that made it harder.”

“The goal for us right now is to develop to the point where we can embrace the moment,” Mapp said. “I want to believe that as the season rolls on we will get there. And I know that games like these will make us better for [PSAA] league play.”

Aaron Tolbert, a sophomore forward, added 12 points on four three-pointers for the Falcons. Shemani Fuller had 24 points, including an array of impressive dunks, and Thomas Hoffman had 11 points for Hayes.

Fuller had eight points in an early 11-0 run that led to a 13-3 lead in the first quarter. He added six points in an 11-3 run to start the second period, which made the score 31-13 and broke the game open.

“At the end of the day, we’re a young team,” Mapp said. “We won’t be forever.”

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