It’s nothing but net!
13-year-old Brooklynite Lawrence Veksler has a passion for basketball and giving back. Thanks to his skills on and off the court, the Bay Academy eighth grader was recently announced as one of the six finalists for the Brooklyn Nets All-Star Award presented by the Hospital for Special Surgery.
The award recognizes junior high school basketball players within the tri-state area who demonstrate grit, determination and a desire to succeed both on the court and in the classroom. It rewards the winner with a $3,000 grant for his or her school’s athletic program.
Veksler was helped in garnering the nomination by participating in the Nets summer camp program.
“We learned so many skills,” Veksler recalled. “They had such great coaches there and I became top six because there are a lot of good players that went to the camp and I guess they liked me a lot, which felt great. I loved the experience because I learned new drills that I never knew about before and new exercises and they also taught a lot of movement without the ball exercises and plays off the ball so it was great.”
The Mill Basin resident plays in several basketball leagues, including AAU Boys Basketball and his school team.
“Playing at Bay Academy is great because we are the number one middle school in Brooklyn,” he said. “We just lost in the semi-finals by a bit so it was rough but we still had a good experience playing.”
Veksler’s love for the game started early in life.
“I started to fall in love with basketball when I was about like five in kindergarten,” he said. “I always wanted to play it. It was always my dream to play in the NBA and Division 1 college basketball.”
Although he plays other sports like baseball and soccer, his passion remains hoops.
“They don’t ’t compare to basketball. There’s more movement,” Veksler explained. “In baseball, you basically just stand there, wait for the ball and throw it. But in basketball, there’s action and movement everywhere, even when you’re without the ball.”
At the moment he plays power forward and his favorite player is Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns.
“As power forward and center, you have total vision of the whole court,” Veksler said. “You get to see where everyone is going, where the cutters are. You can see where the ball is going.”
Although his basketball career is still young, he’s already notched a few memorable moments.
“I had a championship game a few months ago where we won and I got MVP and then after, that we had a tournament and I also won MVP in that as well so I got two of them in one day,” Veksler said. “I was so excited. I couldn’t believe that it just happened. Also AAU is where the competition comes to the max. You play against top teams in the country, and you can travel the country to play. We went to Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. It was a great experience.”
During his free time, Veksler helps out at school during different events like parent teacher conferences, and also assists teachers.
His coaches are a big influence.
“They help me a lot,” Veksler said. “I have two coaches for my school team. Thomas Finale is one and he played Division 1 in Hofstra. He knows his stuff and John Bomarito is great too and he actually trains at Thomas Jefferson High School. They’re two very good coaches.”
The winner of the Nets award won’t be revealed until early April, but winning would mean a lot to Veksler.
“It would be great because the award would be $3,000 to my athletic program,” he said. “That would be great since we could get gear and stuff.”
He has also been moved by the support of his school
“I enjoy it there (at Bay Academy),” he said. “It was great because when I got nominated, they actually posted it on the website and put a mass message that everyone should vote for me. That really meant a lot to me to know they’re here for me.”
His parents are huge supporters of his dream to play basketball.
My parents are really proud,” he said. “I got accepted to one of the top AAU teams in the country. After I tried out for them, when I got home I said, ‘Mom, they put a star next to my name which means I’m on the team.’ They were thrilled because it’s a really good team.”
Bay Academy is located at 1401 Emmons Avenue.