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BY ALINE REYNOLDS & JOHN BAYLES | No one could’ve predicted the buzz created by the rise of New York Knicks’ off-season acquisition Jeremy Lin; not even the founder of Basketball Stars of New York (B.S.N.Y.), Dave Brown. But “Linsanity” could be a contributing factor to the success of the fledgling organization, founded barely over a year ago in September 2011.
One of the organization’s coaches, whom provide one-on-one training tailored to each position for citywide youth ages 5 to 18 hoping to hone their basketball skills, happens to have a direct connection to the hoops star that has taken the city, country and world by storm over the last three weeks.
Erik Groszyk, a part-time coach for the organization, was Lin’s backup at Harvard University for two years. Brown admitted that Lin did come up when he interviewed Groszyk a year ago, but that “Linsanity” wasn’t yet a catch phrase and it was Groszyk’s dedication and teaching skills that sealed the deal.
“What separates us from other [programs] is the quality of teaching,” said Brown. “Players that received the best coaching in the world are passing on their experiences to kids who want to improve.”
Brown, who spent five years working with Five Star Basketball, a national youth basketball organization that has existed for over 50 years, decided to create Basketball Stars of New York a couple of years ago. The one aspect he wanted to focus on that would separate his organization from others, especially in the city, was the coaching. Groszyk easily fit that mold.
“We wanted to hire coaches that could be role models,” said Brown. “Erik expressed enjoyment working with kids and we had him perform a lesson and the feedback from parents was positive. He even made an impression on our other coaches.”
All of the coaches at B.S.N.Y. must have Division-I experience. But the program strives to stress more than just on-the-court skills to its participants.
“We want our kids to be well-rounded people,” said Brown.
As for Groszyk, his Harvard background fit perfectly into Brown’s scheme. Brown pointed out that the difference between attending a school like Harvard and other traditional powerhouse basketball schools like Memphis or Kentucky was the course load and the emphasis on academics.
Groszyk did however note that it was the dedication and commitment to his dream of reaching the NBA that has made Lin a role model for B.S.N.Y. participants, particularly because of his exceptional work ethic. As a coach, Groszyk warns the children they’re only cheating themselves unless they give it their all during training.
“I tell them that Jeremy is not the biggest or the strongest,” said Groszyk, “but he played with passion and worked tirelessly at it.”
Thanks to Lin, B.S.N.Y. youth Josh Brownridge, who plays on the junior varsity high school basketball team at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, now has ambitions to play on a college Division-I team at the University of Pennsylvania or Princeton University.
“Lin had to go through a lot to get to where he is—it’s impressive,” said Brownridge.
Asked about the program, Brownridge said, “The coaches know what they’re talking about, they’re nice and they give us good instruction.”
Brownridge’s father, Larry Brownridge, admirably watched from the sidelines last Saturday as Groszyk led a floor ladder drill meant to hone the young players’ agility on the court.
“Dave has probably got the best group of former college players you’re going to find,” said Brownridge. Groszyk, he noted, “Has a lot of good energy and enthusiasm in terms of showing the kids how to play.”
After a couple of tries, Poly Prep eighth grader Hassan Folks aced the drill. Folks said he especially enjoys the strength training B.S.N.Y. offers, in which he and his peers weight-lift with black duffel bags filled with basketballs.
“It really helps my skills develop and makes me become a stronger basketball player,” said Folks.
Collegiate School eighth grader Stephen Green, who pushed himself through 50 crunches during a water break, aspires to Groszyk’s speed on the court. “He’s fun to watch and a good teacher,” said Green.
Brown attributed the children’s success to Erik’s coaching and encouragement.
“He has this amazing ability to relate to kids and talk to them,” said Brown.
“Linsanity,” Brown added, has brought a new positive energy into the gym. “Three or four months ago, they all showed up with Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire jerseys. Now, all of them have Lin t-shirts and jerseys,” he said.
During a pep talk with the kids at the close of practice that day, Brown reminded them that if they don’t put in the effort, they’re not going to see the results.
“Most of the kids in our program aren’t gifted athletically enough where they’ll get the attention without putting in the work,” said Brown. “They have a lot of potential, they just have to reach it by continuing to focus and commit themselves to excelling in basketball.”
Brown and Groszyk plan to approach Lin about visiting the kids once the NBA season is over. “It’s not that great now that everyone wants Jeremy’s attention,” said Groszyk. “Before [he became a celebrity], training would have been his pleasure for $100!”
For information on B.S.N.Y’s upcoming spring after school and weekend camps, held at Leman Prep in Lower Manhattan, visit www.basketballstarsofny.com or call 646-543-9004.