Arthur Dukes Jr. played in pickup basketball games whenever he could, which is why he showed up for an open-gym session at Public School 92 in Harlem one evening last year. At 21, he was living at home in a two-bedroom apartment with his parents and seven siblings while working as a security guard at a shoe store.
His college ball aspirations had fizzled, and he was taking a break from school altogether after failing to make a go of it at three different institutions.
That night, however, he was approached by Paris Underwood, a local teacher who saw that he had raw talent. “Give that number a call,” Mr. Underwood told him, as he handed him a business card.
On it was the name of Jarrett Lockhart, head coach of the men’s basketball team at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens.
One year later, Mr. Dukes is captain of LaGuardia’s team and the leading scorer among all players in Division III of the National Junior College Athletic Association. He’s averaging 31.2 points per game for the regular season, which ends this weekend.
“I have always known that basketball was going to be my only ticket out,” said Mr. Dukes, now 22.
In his first game for LaGuardia, against Borough of Manhattan Community College, Mr. Dukes scored 27 points. He had 50 points when his team lost in a 97-93 heartbreaker to Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. That was one of two games in which Mr. Dukes, a point guard, has scored 50 points. “Pretty quickly I realized, OK, this is your go-to guy,” Mr. Lockhart said. “He’s one of the hardest workers that I’ve ever coached.”
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