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Bay Academy hoops player named finalist for Brooklyn Nets All-Star Award

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The ball is in his court.

The Bay Academy Bobcats will aim for the Brooklyn title in the city’s Middle School Basketball League on March 24, but for star power forward Lawrence Veksler, that isn’t the only competition he has going on. This month, he was named one of only six finalists for the Brooklyn Nets All-Star Award — a tri-state competition for scholar-athletes.

Veksler, who is confident he will win the award in April, says doing so would help cement Bay Academy’s legacy as a top basketball program.

“We’re number one in the city,” said Veksler. “And everyone on the team will know a player did this for us.”

The Brooklyn Nets All-Star Award is for middle-school basketball players who “demonstrate grit, determination, and a desire to succeed both on the court and in the classroom,” according to its website. The award, which is sponsored by the Hospital for Special Surgery, gives all of the finalists a spot at the Nets’ Summer Basketball Clinic, and the overall winner will receive a $3,000 grant for their school’s athletic program, as well as being honored at the Nets’ April 9 game against the Chicago Bulls at the Barclays Center, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Votes from the public will determine the winner, and anyone can vote on the awards’ website until March 31. Veksler believes the Sheepshead Bay middle school’s support will carry him to the finish line.

“The school sent out a mass message telling people to vote,” he said. “Everyone at my school says ‘I voted for you.’ ”

Veksler, who lives in Mill Basin, said he first popped up on the Nets’ radar at a summer camp the team held last year, where he showed off his dribbling skills and quickness.

“I keep my dribble low, which makes it hard for defenders to guard me, and I’m a fast player,” he said. “I stay low and speed off them and score.”

Thomas Finale, who coaches the Bay Academy team along with John Bomarito, says that Veksler’s work ethic and leadership qualities also impressed the Nets — as well as his ambidextrous ball-handling skills.

“He has a very strong left hand, but can also go right,” said Finale. “Teams begin to take away his left and he goes right. It makes him very hard to defend.”

Veksler credits his passion for basketball to the game’s popularity in Mill Basin and the surrounding nabes, and said he often plays at Lindower Park.

“For people from Marine Park, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay, it’s one of the top parks,” he said. “In the summer you see guys playing from 6 am until night.”

Veksler is considering attending St. Edmund Preparatory High School next year, and dreams of playing college ball. In the meantime, his success inspires the other kids at Bay Academy, according to his coach.

“It amped them up a little bit more,” said Finale on when the team learned Veksler was a finalist. “We had hit a lull, but this picked up their games again.”

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at alucente@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 1:34 am, July 10, 2018
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