The Thomas Jefferson Orange Wave have been to Madison Square Garden for the Public School Athletic League finals during each of the past two years. However, those teams are gone and this season it has been a much younger, more inexperienced squad taking the court in East New York.
“We have a lot of young guys on this year’s team,” head coach Bud Pollard said. “Even the guys that were on last year’s team mostly played small roles so we’re asking a lot of these kids this year. You can’t rebuild in the Brooklyn AA, you have to reload and that’s what we’ve done.
“They might not have the experience of our past teams, but they have the talent. As the season goes on, hopefully we’ll be just as good as we were last year.”
One of the few returning names this season is Pat Brown. A senior guard, he was the same one that was involved in controversy two years ago when his father, Pat Brown Sr., and Pollard got into a verbal argument in the middle of a game. That’s in the past though as Brown has taken a larger role on this year’s squad and has averaged 14.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in 10 league games.
Brown’s biggest support is senior guard Daquaise Andrews, who transferred from Bayside in Queens and has averaged 16.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 10 PSAL games.
“He transferred in from Bayside, but I felt like his aggressiveness really fit well into this team,” Pollard said. “His biggest issue this season was adjusting to the Brooklyn AA. I think it is a little tougher than he’s used to and he was getting beat up a bit, especially early.”
One name that has emerged throughout the course of this season has been that of Shamorie Ponds. As a sophomore, he’s a little undersized, but he’s emerged as a real weapon for Jefferson as he has averaged 13.7 points, 6.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.
“He’s one of those inexperienced, nice guys,” Pollard said using the word nice as more of a knock on Ponds. “He’s young though and he’s improving. Hopefully the AA will toughen him up a bit.”
Aside from their top three threats, the Orange Wave has a wild card nicknamed “Big Sexy”. At 6-foot-6 and coming in at 300-pounds, Justin “Big Sexy” Barton plays a small role on Jefferson, but his size has made a big difference at times this season and the school loves him for it.
“The kids love him, the school loves him,” Pollard said. “When he comes in, he can rebound and be a big presence. He can stand up, contest shots and there isn’t a lot that other team’s can do about it. He’s so big, he’s just in their way. The put-backs and tip-ins, and the way that other teams can stay active, they can’t do that when he’s on the floor. They have to find a way to move him and they can’t.”
Having such an inexperienced squad makes Jefferson an exciting team that can go on big runs when things are clicking right. There are some obvious drawbacks as well as the Orange Wave were forced to forfeit a game against Lincoln earlier this season when too many players broke team rules. That also led to a one-game suspension for Pollard and his team lost to Westinghouse 64-59 that game he sat out so it was a two-game slide.
Since then, Jefferson has looked renewed though with big wins against South Shore, Grady and Boys and Girls High School. It has a bit of an easy schedule the up coming week and half, but by February the Orange Wave better have everyone on the same page because things get tough quickly when they face Brooklyn Collegiate, Lincoln and South Shore to close out the season.
“I think there is a lot of parity throughout the city especially in our division,” Pollard said. “In any given night anyone can beat you. From 1 to 6, you can lose to everybody. We’ve been one of the better teams in the city the last few years with a couple of trips to the Garden. Every looks at us as a team that hasn’t won it and a team that people put on their radar because if they beat us they can get to the Garden.”