NEW YORK CITY — Manhattan is known for its glitz and glamour, the bright lights of Broadway and the World’s Most Famous Arena.
DNAinfo New York's list includes athletes from powerhouse programs around the city, including Robert Irimescu and John Strehle from the nationally ranked Xavier rugby team, as well as speedy Trey Solomon, a running back on the all-boys Catholic school’s championship football team.
Public schools are also represented with Amara Sesay from PSAL champion Martin Luther King, one of Manhattan’s top soccer players, and Wesley Rodriguez, a sophomore trying to become the next Manny Ramirez out of George Washington.
In the first of a five-part series, DNAinfo New York brings you the top 10 rising stars in Manhattan (in alphabetical order).
Regis basketball (Upper East Side), sophomore guard
A preseason injury resulted in a slow start for the combo guard, but once the CHSAA league season kicked off, Gavigan went from productive sixth man to the Raiders' best starter. The sophomore, who can run plays, make outside shots and drive to the basket, led Regis in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game. Gavigan, who scored a season-high 28 points against Salesian, was named first team all-league.
“He’s a very low-key player who keeps to himself, not very emotional, but his outbursts on the court make him a very special player,” assistant coach Tony Negrin said. “He can score at will with his jump shot and his driving ability.”
Xavier rugby (Chelsea), junior flanker
The son of a former Romanian rugby player, Irimescu is among the top members on a squad currently ranked No. 2 in the country. A two-year starter who has the perfect combination of speed and strength, the junior also played for the Xavier football team that won the CHSFL Class AA title in the fall.
“He’s one of the fastest kids on the team and he’s also the strongest guy on the team,” rugby director Joe Sweeney said. “He can play a lot of different positions and he’s an impact player, a true student of the game.”
LaSalle Academy boys soccer (East Village), junior forward
In a school known for producing NBA star Ron Artest, aka Metta World Peace, Haruna-Iya is helping to put the soccer team on the map. The Nigerian native scored 18 goals as a freshman, 19 as a sophomore and 26 goals and 16 assists as junior, guiding LaSalle to the CHSAA Class A quarterfinals.
“From the day he walked in and I saw him practice for the first time, he really stood out,” said soccer coach Al Barbosa, who is in his seventh year. “He’s got a pro skill set and his talent is really superior to anyone I’ve seen before.”
Wadleigh boys basketball (Harlem), sophomore guard
A two-year standout, Kadisha was an undersized double-double machine this season, averaging 14.8 points and 14.2 rebounds per game, helping a young Wadleigh team win the PSAL Manhattan AA division title. The 6-foot-3 guard picked up his game in the postseason, averaging 19.6 points and 14 rebounds in three playoff games and has interest from Marquette, Florida, Rhode Island, DePaul, Providence, Arizona and St. John’s.
“He’s a three position player and if he continues to grow he will physically be a monster,” coach Mike Crump said. “Next year I’m predicting big things from him. He’ll be right up there in the top three to five players in the PSAL.”
Murry Bergtraum girls basketball (Downtown), sophomore guard
Although just a sophomore, McLaughlin, who averaged 17.1 points per game, is a two-year starter who helped guide the Lady Blazers to the PSAL Class AA title in each of her first two seasons. She scored 17 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter of a come-from-behind win over Curtis in the semifinals and was named the MVP of the title game when she scored 15 points against South Shore at Madison Square Garden.
“She’s a gamer,” coach Ed Grezinsky said. “She rises to the occasion in the big games. She’s won a lot of games for us this year and hopefully she can continue to do that the next two years for us.”
Regis baseball (Upper East Side), sophomore shortstop
Mature beyond his years, Nagel is already considered a leader of the Regis baseball team and he’s only a sophomore. The leadoff hitter is second on the team with a .345 batting average and has an on base percentage of .457. With his lightning speed and quick jumps off the bag, the hard-working Nagel is a constant threat to steal. Defensively, Nagel, who started the season at second base, but has since moved to shortstop, has a strong arm and a solid glove.
“Evan has been an extreme boost to our team both on the offensive and defensive side,” coach Keith Del Valle said. “He has a bright future ahead of him and he will only get better as the years go on.”
George Washington baseball (Washington Heights), sophomore third baseman/pitcher
Although he’s only a sophomore, Rodriguez is already one of the city’s top baseball players, helping lead the Trojans to the PSAL final as a freshman a year ago. Primarily used as a third baseman, Rodriguez is hitting .531 with four home runs and 25 RBI, second overall in PSAL Class A, for the perennial powerhouse, among the favorites to again reach the PSAL final next month.
“He’s kind of like the Miguel Cabrera of the PSAL,” said coach Steve Mandl, referring to the Detroit Tigers third baseman. “He’s got a lethal bat and a more lethal arm. He’s very, very competitive. He always wants the ball in the big situation.”
Martin Luther King boys soccer (Upper West Side), junior forward
Sesay wasn’t able to compete in the PSAL Class A title game in November because he was at a tournament with his club team; however, the Knights captured a 14th city title in large part because of the junior’s ability in the attacking third. Sesay scored 22 goals and added 10 assists for an MLK team that ended the season ranked No. 10 in the country.
“Amara Sesay is an extremely fleet-footed player whose movement on the ball is smooth,” Martin Luther King coach Martin Jacobson said. “His ability to score and place the ball in the back of the net is what makes him a great player.”
Xavier football (Chelsea), junior running back
There was arguably no more dominant running back in New York City last fall than Solomon, who led the CHSFL with 2,334 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns.
He saved his best for the playoffs, rushing for six touchdowns in a win over The Bronx's Mount St. Michael Academy in the Class AA quarterfinals; three touchdowns and 218 yards in a semifinal win over rival Fordham Prep in the semifinals; and two touchdowns and a key interception in the championship game against St. John the Baptist.
“He runs the 200-meter for the track team because the track coach says, and rightfully so, he gets stronger in the second half of the race,” Xavier football coach Chris Stevens said. “That’s indicative of how he plays for us.”
Xavier rugby (Rockaway), junior inside center
Strehle never played competitive rugby before his freshman year at Xavier, but he soon fell in love with the rugged sport. The junior inside center from Rockaway, who has quickly excelled for the perennial national powerhouse, is an excellent athlete with great vision — a big reason why the Knights are ranked No. 2 in the country and will compete for another national title later this month.
“He’s very intelligent,” Xavier rugby director Joe Sweeney said. “A game like this is kind of like basketball where you see a field, you see opportunities and you see gaps. And John is excellent at that. He’s a very good defender, plays within our system very well and he’s an athlete.”