Kristen Korzevinski's coach calls her his point forward -- a quirky amalgamation of ballhandling and defense that's carried New Hyde Park girls basketball through an already-stiff non-league schedule and a win in its Conference A-I opener against Jericho.
In ideological terms, though, "point forward" also defines Korzevinski's high school career so far. The 5-10 point guard, who began her varsity tenure with New Hyde Park in eighth grade, transferred to Holy Trinity in 10th, spending time at the two-guard spot and also the point. The Catholic league, with its high caliber of talent and high-profile matchups, can be a boon to a basketball star on the rise, but after two years, Korzevinski was ready to return to New Hyde Park.
It was a difficult decision and a big change to make her senior year, she said, but she was ready to move on.
"I realized it wasn't the best fit for me," she said before her game against Jericho -- a game in which she had 31 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists. "All my friends were here, the same girls I grew up with, my coach, who's been coaching me since the eighth grade. He was always there for me. Even when I left, he was always supporting me and helping me any way he could, and I really wanted to play for him again."
Coach Hugh Flaherty said he stayed in touch with the girl whom his daughter, Melissa, scouted as a sixth-grader in AAU. He never pressured her to come back, not even last year, when having Korzevinski join his already large roster could have meant big things, he said. Whatever was best for Korzevinski was fine with him, though he couldn't help the charge of excitement he felt on on the first day of school. Korzevinski had expressed her desire to return, "but I never expected it," he said.
"I was really surprised," Flaherty said. "I didn't know until the first day of school. I called admissions and I said 'Is Kristen registered?' and they said yes she was and I said now I'll believe her."
It was a case of not wanting to believe something that was, perhaps, too good to be true. One look at Korzevinski's numbers shows why: 211 points in seven games (30.1 per game) and 11.7 rebounds per game. She's one of the tallest girls on New Hyde Park, meaning that she's often guarding the other team's big girl, racking up the highest rebound totals, and creating many of her points in transition.
"She's aggressive on defense," Flaherty said. "She knows that her defense will create her offense. She's a tremendous shooter, you know, but she gets a lot of points making steals and going to the basket. A lot of points come in transition, but you'll see she'll hit two or three threes a game. She takes -- and this is like the old school -- she takes what the defense gives her."
Looking at her totals, it's easy to conclude that Korzevinski could be a one-girl show, but both she and her coach maintain it's not the case. New Hyde Park is young (four ninth-graders, two of them are starters), but talented. They're 4-4, with bright spots, such as freshman forward Laila Chadli, who's flourished under Korzevinski's tutelage.
"I learned a lot of things," Chadli said. "Like the moves she does going to the basket. She'll teach me and I'll do the same thing and get better at it -- like the layup, she takes the ball over and fakes the pass and goes up."
They've got some nifty court chemistry, Flaherty said, adding that he expects Chadli to eventually be where Korzevinski is now. Meanwhile, Korzevinski, who has committed to Division II Queens College, is focused on squeezing as much as she can out of 2012.
"I think we're going to do well if everyone keeps working hard and playing together as a team. That's all you can ask for," she said. As for personal fulfillment: "I'm definitely so much happier than last year."
As it so happens, sometimes happiness (and success) entails turning back to finally point forward.