When the Brooklyn Prospect High School (BPHS) Varsity Basketball team stepped onto the court for the championship final on April 1st, it marked the last high school game for five of the team’s seniors. It was a nail-biter game with a tie score with 49.5 seconds to go, but the Hawks drew a foul in that last minute of the final quarter and took home the trophy to end a memorable season.
For many involved with the team, two graduating senior student-athletes—Gabriel Brown and Issam Saleh—will forever be considered the fire, heart, and soul of a team that only had three seasons because of the pandemic. In short, these two are a big reason the team was so tight-knit, hard-working, and positive this past season, something the head coach expects to have a lasting impact on the rest of the team.
“Gabe is obviously our leading scorer, our captain, and has played Varsity for three years,” said Rodney Frazier, the head coach for the varsity team. “Issam is like the heart and soul of the whole entire school—forget just basketball. Having both of those guys on the team brings two different dynamics and community, family, and brotherhood within our organization.”
Frazier, who also teaches physical education at BPHS, also pointed to the role the pair play when it comes to setting examples when it comes to sports and academics at Prospect Schools.
“Gabe’s in IB [International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme], he’s such a role model. These are two guys who take care of what they need to take care of in school, do their extracurricular activities, I mean, they’re just great human beings,” he said, adding that the pair tend to take the younger players on the team, including one freshman, under their wings.
“I like to show him techniques,” Brown said of the freshman on the team. “When I was a freshman, I was a little more advanced. I’m showing him things he can do from now, so by the time he’s a senior, he can go farther than I did.”
For a school that isn’t a powerhouse of sports compared to many public and private schools in New York City’s storied history, the Hawks are an exciting team to watch. On March 8, Brown, a quiet, yet scrappy and laser-focused point guard, scored his 1000th high school career bucket in a game vs. A.C.E. high school. A week later, he had the standing-room-only BPHS gym shaking as he scored a bucket from the ground, while on his back after being knocked down—but clearly not out, by the opposing team’s defense.
“It was great,” Brown said about the milestone. “I missed a year because of Covid, but accomplishing my goal in regular time was pretty exciting. I’m the first person to do it here, it was a great feeling. Everyone was so supportive.”
Brown, who grew up in Canarsie and had attended an IB elementary school, was enrolled in Clinton Hill Middle School when his mother discovered the school was opening near her job.
“It was a new school starting, and I wanted the IB Diploma for him,” said Debbie Scott, who added that Gabriel started playing in local programs as a child. “I’m glad I trusted my gut. He was always a little thing. I didn’t know he’d do so well. He kind of just took off.”
Brown has a sister who is a junior at BPHS. Next, he has a big decision in front of him—which college to attend. He plans on majoring in sports medicine.
“The ball is in his court,” Scott said. “He wants to go to school in the DMC (DC/Maryland/Virginia) area.”
Saleh, of Puerto Rican and Palestinian descent, followed his older brother and cousin as a 9th-grader at BPHS. He is considered the heart and soul of the team because he is often found, as depicted in the photo in the slideshow below, cheering on his teammates with motivational sayings and amping up the crowd to kick up their applause and chanting.
With Prospect Schools Comes Care and Support
When asked what they liked about Prospect Schools, their responses were in the same vein—personal care from teaching and support staff.
“There is lots of support,” said Brown, who named Ms. [Zahra] Rehman (Science) and Ms. [Darlyn] Gomez (English) as his favorite teachers. “They offer things like office hours, which helped me, especially last year when I lost my grandmother. Not only did they help me with my schoolwork, but emotionally, too.”
Saleh said Ms. [Heather] Williams (English) has always supported him.
“She taught me when I was a freshman, and she kept on top of me,” he said. “Even when I miss a step, she helps me with it.”
The pair said they have the utmost respect for their coach, Mr. Frazier, because he’s a straight shooter.
“He’s never going to tell you something that’s not honest,” Brown said. “He’s going to give you the real.”
“Whenever you make a mistake, he gives you a chance to fix it. He preaches discipline so that you know what to do right the next time,” said Saleh.
Saleh wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after high school, but now he’s set on attending a college that has an automotive program, and he has his college counselor, Krystal Bostick, to thank for that.
“Miss Krystal really pushes me to be the best,” he said. “She helped me find what colleges to look into. I fell in love more with cars, and she found schools with an auto shop.”
Bostick said she hand-picked Saleh as an advisee after encountering him in the hallways during his freshman year. “He always said his goal was to make money, that his goal was to make a million dollars,” she said. “He listens, he’s so respectful. He’s grown so much from junior year to now, he’s gotten so much more consistent. He’s a wonderful kid. I’m excited for his future.”
Meanwhile, Brown’s counselor, Nora Elnagar, referred to Gabriel as “persistent and hard-working.”
“Wherever you end up, Gabe, I know you’re going to be successful,” Elnagar said.”You’re going to do great things in life.”