St. Francis Prep's Cavataio Has Rave Reviews

Reporter Brian Towey highlights a player who is starting to receive more recognition for his play on the court ...

Mike Cavataio could be the best player out of the class of 2007 in New York City you don't know. If it's possible to get lost in the CHSAA, one of America's most visible high school leagues, he's done it.

Circumstance has conspired to keep Cavataio under wraps, but the bouncy 6-foot-4, 175-pound small forward from St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows, New York, is beginning to get his name out there, little by little.

Cavataio's prep career started at CHSAA rival Christ the King. He showed promise on the team's JV squad as a sophomore, but missed nearly the entire season due to an ankle injury.

Then came the transfer. Not satisfied with his situation at CK, he left for Prep. CHSAA transfer rules dictate that you must sit out a year if you transfer into one the league's programs. Cavataio appealed the league's decision, to no avail.

Last year was plenty of sitting, watching. It wasn't until this summer that the breakthrough came.

"I finally got my name out there, I think," said Cavataio. "After not playing the past two years."

Cavataio turned in a middling performance at the second week of the Eastern Invitational Camp. He impressed coaches with his deceptive athleticism at the live event at Holy Cross High School later that month.

Then in West Virginia, playing with the Long Island Lightning at the Triple S Harley Davidson Jamfest, he had that moment when coaches said, "Whoa".

"He had a breakout tournament down there, " said Joe Walsh, who coached Cavataio with the Long Island Lightning in West Virginia, and is also an assistant coach at CHSAA rival All Hallows. "We had a game against King James from Ohio with the big seven-footer who's going to Ohio State. He must have had 24 points, 20 rebounds. The kid was tremendous, to say the least."

Cavataio is a spindly forward with a long, live body. He'll slash, attack the rim, and is extremely active on the glass. He's a fundamentally sound player who can have an affect on a game with his rebounding, shot blocking, or passing.

"His number one strength is his athleticism," said Bob Paul, who coaches Cavataio with the Long Island Lightning and is an assistant coach at Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York.

Paul added: "He's a fantastic athlete. I think he's got enough perimeter skills to be a tough match-up for bigger guys and the size and athleticism to give smaller guys problems. He creates mismatches every time he steps on the floor. He is also one of the fiercest competitors I have come across."

"He doesn't do anything great, but he does everything well," said Walsh. "He moves really well without the ball, and he goes to the basket well with either hand.

"Mike is 6-3, maybe 6-4, but he plays like he's 6-7. He's a tremendous rebounder at both ends of the court. When the ball goes up, there aren't many guys that I've seen in 15 years of coaching that get after it as hard as he does. He does things on the basketball court that you cannot teach. He has tremendous instincts. He does the little things that, as a coach, when you watch him over time, you pick up."

Cavataio still needs to work on his perimeter game. Walsh likens his shot to more of a standstill jumper. And he has to make a priority of adding weight and strength for the next level.

His recruitment is still catching up. Based on his play during July, Davidson had extended an offer. He scheduled an official visit for mid-September. A week before the visit, Davidson got a commitment at his position.

At the moment, he's got one D-II offer and some interest. "The one offer I have is UMass-Lowell," said Cavataio. "Northeastern is showing interest, New Hampshire, and Lehigh."

Cavataio is working on setting up a visit with Northeastern. Mike is a guy the Ivies and Patriots would be well-served to take a look at. He carries a 91 average at academically competitive St. Francis Prep.

It won't be long before Cavataio is a marked man for longtime Prep coach Tim Leary. But at the moment, he's still enough of a novelty that at last week's Metro Classic tryouts, one rival CHSAA coach asked: "Who's that guy play for?"

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