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A Vote for Stokes

I've been following our 50th anniversary all-Western New York basketball team with great interest. I never covered high school hoops as a beat, but I've attended my share of games and, naturally, have a few opinions to offer. I'll be interested to see next Saturday's selections for the 1990s. I saw all the top players in those days and it'll be tough for Allen Wilson to whittle it down to five. Allen covered the high schools in that era and was a passionate observer.

Jason Rowe and Tim Winn were great players. It would be hard to keep either off the list. Mike Heary of Fredonia was an epic scorer. I think Allen was there the day Heary went for 50 against Traditional, so I wonder how he could keep him off the list. I'll tell you a player who might have been the most gifted of all but probably won't make it: Malik Campbell, who briefly played both football and basketball at Syracuse and was a better football player.

My top player, though, would be Leonard Stokes, who led Turner/Carroll to two state Federation titles in 1998 and 1999. Stokes was a complete player, a 6-5 swingman who didn't need to hog the ball to make his team win. He was a good teammate on a supremely talented team which also had Julius Page and my favorite glue player of his day, Ka'Ron Barnes. Talented rosters don't always win. It helps to have a guy who makes everyone else better and plays everywhere on the court. Stokes could pass, shoot, defend. He had great court vision. He was the first player since Christian Laettner to be recruited by a Top 10 college program (Cincinnati) and had a solid career under Bob Huggins.

I'd like to put in a plug for Gary Raimondo, who was a terrific player for St. Joe's and one of the more complete players in the area when he was a senior. I saw him go for about 50 one night against that great Traditional team with Rowe and Damien Foster. He was the best player on the court. I believe he went on to have a solid career in the Ivy League at Columbia.

Check the links to the series and the Prep Talk blog here.

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High school sports
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