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Andrew Bianco

Kings Park’s boys basketball tournament won its fifth chamber of commerce tipoff tournament title with a win over Huntington. Photo from Chris Rube

By Jim Ferchland

Gene DeGraw was a fixture in the youth basketball scene in Kings Park, cultivating talented players and poised young men. Now in its fifth year, the Kingsmen hosted an annual tipoff tournament in memory of their former coach. Four schools — Kings Park, Huntington, Plainedge and Commack — played two games each over the two-day event Dec 1. and 2.

Gene DeGraw worked with current Huntington head coach Brian Carey who coached at Kings Park and grew up with DeGraw. Photo by Jim Ferchland

King Park head coach Chris Rube met DeGraw when he was 22 years old in his first year teaching in the district. He volunteered as an assistant coach on the varsity boys basketball team, where got to know the seasoned coach. Rube remembers him as much more than a well-versed instructor.

“He was always the epitome of class,” Rube said of DeGraw. “I admired how he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. I’m a basketball coach after a teacher,and I’m a teacher after father and a husband. His grandson Michael McSloy was on the team. I remember talking to him and really understanding how special that moment was for him. Not only was he a great coach, but a better person.”

Huntington head coach Brian Carey is a Kings Park alumnus who said he practically grew up with the former head coach. Carey said he admired how much DeGraw loved his players.

“Pop was the perfect assistant — he knew the kids,”Carey said. “He knew me; we were both Kings Park guys. No one could have been more perfect for Kings Park basketball.”

The Kingsmen won the Long Island championship title in 2007 when DeGraw was the assistant coach. Carey coached Kings Park for 10 years, from 1997 to 2006, leaving just before the Kingsmen put up their magical season.

The tournament is in memory of former Kings Park coach Gene DeGraw who coached current Kings Park varsity leader Chris Rube. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“When I got here at Kings Park, the team wasn’t doing so good,” said Carey, who has been coaching for 20 years and was inducted into the Kings Park athletics department hall of fame in 2003. “A few years before I was at Kings Park, the team won four or five games, but the players have been through a system by Gene DeGraw. He was a gentleman and he was the best at getting the kids to come together.”

The now Huntington head coach gave DeGraw the unpaid assistant coach position at Kings Park, having known and graduated from high school with DeGraw’s cousin.

The former assistant coach’s life was cut short due to a heart condition. Aside from being a coach, DeGraw was also a detective in the Suffolk County Police Department.

Bill Denniston, a four-year Kings Park athletic director who was the Shoreham-Wading River athletic director back in 2013 said although he didn’t know DeGraw, he’s heard plenty of good stories.

“From what I’ve heard, he was a well-respected coach,” Denniston said. “It’s always nice to have this tournament to kick off the season in his honor.”


Since 2013, Kings Park has an annual chamber of commerce-sponsored tipoff tournament. This year, the Kingsmen, Commack, Huntington and Plainedge competed over the two-day event.

Huntington’s Mekhi Harvey passes the ball. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Game 1

Huntington beat Commack 62-58 Dec. 1. Blue Devils senior Mehki Harvey led with 17 points, while classmate Nat Amato added 16.

Commack’s top players were
senior Nick Guaglione and junior Aidan Keenan, who scored 24 and 21 points, respectively. They were the only players in double figures for the Cougars.

Game 2

Kings Park easily outscored Plainedge 69-35. Senior Jason Hartglass and freshman Jack Garside each tallied 11 points for the Kingsmen. Senior Andrew Bianco added seven and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Game 3

Commack took down Plainedge 60-41 in the consolation match.
Game 4

Kings Park’s Andrew Bianco looks to the rim. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Kings Park edged out Huntington 57-53, winning the tournament title for the third time in five years.

Andrew Bianco, who was named tournament MVP, recorded 23 points and 12 rebounds.

“He’s just tough as nails,” Kings Park head coach Chris Rube said of Bianco.

With eight seconds left, Kings Park was up by two, 55-53, when freshman Jack Garside buried both free-throw attempts to seal the victory.

Kings Park senior guard Zach Wolf scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half. He had three three-pointers in the third quarter.

“It was hard fought,” Rube said of the win over Huntington. “Huntington is pretty talented. Beating them was an achievement.”

Up next

Kings Park travels to Islip Dec. 7 for the first game of their regular season. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

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Jason Hartglass shoots from the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

In his third year as Kings Park boys’ basketball head coach, Christopher Rube looks to turn the corner after two losing seasons, and will rely on his core of returning players to do so.

Co-captain Paul Cooper, a returning All-Conference player brings experience and senior leadership to the court in his fourth year on the varsity team. He is on track to score his 1,000th career point this season.

Paul Cooper leaps up to the rim during practice. Photo by Bill Landon
Paul Cooper leaps up to the rim during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Rube said that his player is an excellent ball handler who has a nose for the rim. Cooper, who has received two All-County nods while on the football team, is being actively recruited by Division III colleges to play both sports.

“I see a lot of improvement — we were competitive in my freshman year, but the last two years we’ve been rebuilding,” Cooper said. “Everyone’s getting used to the new coach and now everyone is buying in and we should have a good season.”

Rube said the last two years have been steppingstones. The Kingsmen finished 5-10 last year, and 4-11 the year before. Rube indicated his returning players have improved drastically over that time.

“Compared to where we were the last two seasons, we’re at a spot where we should be much more competitive,” he said. “I’m pleased with our efforts defensively — their unselfishness and willingness to pass the ball and find the open man. This year they did more work in the offseason than the previous two years, and they’ve developed a work ethic.”

He’s also looking forward to what co-captain Richie Price will bring to the court.

“This year it’s serious — everyone is invested in the program and no one’s selfish,” said Price, who is a three-year varsity returner. “This season everyone’s focused about the success of the team. Our defense has come a long way, so if we can be a solid defensive team we’re going to be hard to beat.”

Andrew Bianco scores with a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon
Andrew Bianco scores with a jumper. Photo by Bill Landon

Bolstering the core of this year’s squad is returning sophomore Andrew Bianco, who started as a freshman. Rube expects big things from his player.

“He has improved tremendously and will be one of our primary scorers,” the head coach said. “He’s tough around the ball, he can crash the boards and can step out and shoot 3-pointers.”

Bianco agreed with Price that everyone is focused on the greater good of the team.

“We share the ball more and we have good shooting,” Bianco said. “But we’re going to need to work on our plays on offense to be ready for Bellport to open the season [at home, Dec. 20].”

Price agreed with Cooper that the two teams to beat in League IV this season will be Half Hollow Hills West and Deer Park. Bianco sees Babylon as a greater threat than Deer Park, though.

The Kingsmen will host Half Hollow Hills West Jan. 3, travel to Deer Park three days later and return home to face West Babylon Jan. 10.

“They’re at a point where they know that everybody needs to be able to shoot the ball, make the extra pass and work on being more consistent,” Rube said. “We look very good in flashes, but we need to put that together for all 32 minutes of play.”

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