Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Start of A new Season

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It is wonderful writing a Blog that again will be very expressive with my thoughts and insight about the state of basketball on the East Coast especially New York, New Jersey, and parts of Pennsylvania.
Those who know me understand I will not pull any punches but will be always be fair and honest in my posting. Do grimy stuff and I see it, I might just talk about it. Mistreat a signed recruit? I will talk about it! Not really coach your team? I might just say a thing or two. Under perform? That would be something to talk about.

I also will talk about the games and the potential of many of the players I watch. One thing I will not do much of is report a score of a recently played game. But I will talk about performances of the players and coaches as well as what happened in the gym before the game, during the game, and especially after the game. All the stuff folks rarely post about. Like who was talking to who, who came with who, who seemed to be upset, deals in the works, and much more.

Hopefully you will enjoy the blog more this time around than in the past. Again this is done based on my love of the game and not to get a contract with the NY Daily News or The Newark Star Ledger. So if there is a mistake or two or three, or a thousand please do not crucify me. Just sit back read and enjoy what I AM ATTEMPTING TO SAY! You might just enjoy it!

So lets get started right now!

College Basketball

We are off and running! During the pre season there was plenty of  hype about the coaches and recruits at St. Johns and Rutgers. It was almost as if Seton Hall had down graded to the Patriot League based on the local media coverage given the Pirates. It was all about the great recruiting classes at both St. Johns and Rutgers. Before anyone comes at me I will say I was included in the behavior I described. I also thought St. Johns was ready to pack Madison Square Garden for home games played there. In fact I thought St. Johns was back and again a national program contending for a NCAA bid. 

Well,  it is December of year 2 of the current coaching staff and I do have to ask if they seem any better than the last year of Norm Roberts regime? Seriously!  And I do understand Steve Lavin has been under the weather with post surgery illness etc. and for that they do get a pass. But I do remember everyone saying this Mike Dunlap is the greatest Assistant Coach on the planet! The staff was supposed to be hand picked and perfect for the resurrection of the St. Johns basketball program.

They are certainly running but to where? Players are transferring, recruits are de-committing,  and many others are not expressing as much of an interest in St. Johns as  they did a year ago. Could it be St. Johns is no longer the sexy choice among the HS elite? Well, time will tell what happens from this point on but are they are pleased thus far in year 2?  Can turn it around and become a force with added recruits including one this week?  Stay tuned!

Lets look at Rutgers! Ok lets start with the building they call The RAC.  It is the same and so are the turnouts for games it seems. Again I need to ask does anyone other than the coaches there really care? Do they not notice the ragged chairs fans pay to sit in? Do they not even notice the building would be great as is if they just re-do the seating and sound system while adding a practice facility? Ok I have to admit I have not been to a Rutgers game in a very long time. But looking in from the outside I do feel they have a great coach in Mike Rice, have recruited well in NY, NJ, and even in Washington DC. Are they playing hard? I hear they are and really could be very good in the near future. Maybe Jim Carr (Thank God The Old Jim Carr is back!), one of the GREAT Guys again in college basketball will invite me to a game. By the way is there a discount for AARP members?

Now lets look at  Seton Hall University. Thus far they are 9 and 1 heading into a difficult part of their season.  Some would argue the teams they have beaten are not exactly title contenders. And that would be a very stupid statement because they have been consistent and have won most of the games they had to win. I always have thought that the very good teams do not lose to teams not on their level. So to be 9 and 1 is what I call holding serve and jump starting what could be a nice season with a post season birth at the end. I also feel the early wins are  what seasons are built on. The Seton Hall team understands winning. 

What makes all this come together is how both St. Johns and Rutgers, teams often compared to Seton Hall, are having down seasons thus far although there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for both of them as well. No one was even putting SHU in the same category as SJU and RU in terms of being attractive programs. Silly them! Silly me!  We all became caught up in the glamor and glitz of  the recruiting classes of both RU and SJU. We got caught up in the new super coaches in Steve Lavin and Mike Rice and forgot that COACH WILLARD could actually coach and had learned from the best including his dad Ralph, and his mentor Slick Rick Pitino.  Well, maybe slick is not the correct term because he sure has not done much slick stuff lately and really is a terrific coach and teacher who understands program building and winning. 

So right now the best team in the entire NYC Tri-State area is The Pirates of Seton Hall University. The second best? Could easily be Iona which has assembled a great group of players. And with a coach who could be the best actual coach in the tri-state area when it comes to X and Os, they are destined to have a very good season.

Not far behind is Hofstra with what could be the best coaching staff in the area. I am watching and noticing how they are inn the homes of many recruits who would never even think Hofstra normally. But put 3 well respected ex D1 Assistants together who have Big East experience and you are looking at a great staff for a mid major program. 

Tom Green Emerges
I saw Tom green at the Hoop Group Tipoff event at West Orange HS on Sunday. Interesting to find out he is the new coach at D3 City College of NY. I applaud CCNY for being smart enough to hire Tom  Green. But at the same time I frown on all the local D1 schools who did not snatch him up as an Associate Head Coach etc. This guy is a GREAT PERSON who was treated very bad at FDU after putting them on the map. Well, what goes around comes around and FDU is nothing more than a glorified JC or D4 school playing a D1 schedule in a horrible building with an administration who couldn't care less. Sad!!! They even messed up what was a nice gym by removing end court bleachers that  gave the gym a small arena feel.

If the right AD ever gets there and they do it the right way by re-doing the inside seating etc.? Watch out! I still feel they are a sleeping giant. Problem is they are sleeping like a bear in the winter. And we all know that bears hibernate for a long time. Make up your mind FDU. Is it to be respected D1 basketball or will it be D3 games against FDU Madison, and others because as it stands now I am not sure you could beat the Ramapo's, and William Paterson's. 

Hoop Group Tipoff at West Orange HS

Drove down to the Hoop Group Tip-Off at West Orange HS on Sunday expecting to see some great games and even better talent. Honestly I was not disappointed!  I would bet neither was Rick Pitino, Mike Rice, Steve Demeo of Hofstra, Ron Brown of Binghamton, Danny Hurley (My Grandsons future coach), Phil Martelli (sp)  of St. Joes, and many others.   

Let me start by saying Martelli had an Interesting personality to say the least. Maybe it's a Philly thing, but guy was brushing off folks all over the place like he was Pitino or Calipari, which he is not. I always spoke highly of this guy based on watching him recruit and even talking to him. But watching him Sunday made me realize he is full of himself in the worst way. How does he even get players? Wow!!! By the way all the other coaches I saw were engaging to kids and fans alike and that included Pitino who did not even sit where the other coaches sat. He sat in the area where the basketball fans were and chatted and waved at people looking to say hello or get an autograph.  

The gym was nice but very dark. Maybe I am just use to the gyms in the Pocono Mountains. Huge gyms better than most colleges. All they need there are better teams although Pocono Mountain West and Pocono Mountain East, could compete with most public schools and are indeed HS Programs as opposed to HS Teams.  

Back to the actual event. I missed the first game and honestly had no idea who even played. Funny thing is no one around me, even though they had watched, could tell me anything. So lets start with the second game which was won by Rutgers Prep. Yes, Rutgers Prep upset NJ HS Power Hudson Catholic despite being down close to 20 points in the first half. For a team with 4 D1 players Hudson Catholic sure did not look like a NJ Power. When you have players being recruited by The Big East, ACC, and A10, how do you lose to a school with maybe one player being looked at by an Ivy or Patriot school?  Let me tell you how. By playing as a team to win games as opposed to playing for exposure and to be recruited to colleges and universities. Rutgers Prep was a true team and seemed to really get along. They were a unit and did not rest on past achievements and press clippings. Rutgers prep used the St. Anthony's TEAM PLAY MODEL! Hudson Catholic also lost because maybe Reggie Cameron and Mike Young did not make themselves available for the ball nor were the guards looking to get them involved. I am sure the Coach will get them back on track. 

Watched a great game between Teaneck, a traditional but often overlooked power, against St. Josephs of Central Jersey. It was a pleasure watching one of the top freshmen in AMERICA play. I will be able to tell people many years from now that I watched Karl Towns Jr play his freshmen year (Thanks SPK). At 6 ft 9, this young man is special. Skilled, coordinated, can shoot the 3, and passes like a young Larry Bird. After watching him play, I am positive he has watched many games with his Dad and fully understands things most seniors do not. By seniors I am talking about College Seniors. Again what a pleasure! His team also had a tremendous wing player headed to Temple in 6 ft 5 Quinton Decosey. Smooth as silk, and oozing with potential. I honestly feel this kid will be an amazing College player in the A10. 

Teaneck, which has a great feeder system run in the Richard Rodda Center with two state of the art courts and over 500 young participants, is good year after year after year. Not a community you would expect to have such good teams and potential D1 players, but they always have both  going all the way back to the days of Tony Campbell.  This year is no different with  possibly 4 D 1 talented players in Chris Jones, Neville Flincher, Juel Hernandez, and Shakir Lindsey if he continues to develop leadership skills. Chris Jones is a star although he does not realize it.  A hard worker and great performer to say the least. How this guy does not have RU and SHU all over him I will never understand, Well, after scoring 25 and getting 10 boards I am sure Mike Rice will be calling Coach Jerome Smart if he has not already done so.  Neville Flincher, when using his head right, is pretty good. His future is bright when he brings his A game and has his thinking cap on. But when he and Karl Towns Jr. were jawing back and forth, with Karl Jr. never backing down, I was concerned that Neville would do something to open up a spot on the bench for him.

Teaneck won the game and the war. Chris Jones outplayed everyone including Quinton Decosey to get MVP. But it was a Juel Hernandez shot that was the game changer. Up to that point he did very little. But good players always come through in the end. Lastly Shakir Lindsey did a great job running the team and with more leadership skills to go along with his natural ability at 5 ft something, he could be very good. It also does not hurt to have a very good coaching staff  including  Jerome Smart who gets the best out of his players. 

Next up was St. Anthony;s vs Trenton Catholic. I love the St. Anthony team first approach. They actually play great team basketball and work hard on defense. Do not believe me? Ask Trenton Catholic, a team that won big the game before this one with Bob Hurley in the gym scouting. Can you imagine that? A Hall of Famer driving to Trenton NJ to scout a future HS opponent. Who says he is not serious about his program and winning? I sure hope he stays for at least 20 more years. I really like Josh Brown Jr. a Jr.  who has committed to Temple, Jimmy Hall, Jerome Fink, and Tyrek Carey. These kids could win it all again! But I LOVE Kyle Anderson Jr. who always plays team ball and makes all the others I have mentioned better! 

On Trenton Catholic the highlight was Malachi Richardson, a 6 ft 4 Freshmen who is destined for greatness. I wonder if he will be at Trenton Catholic 3 years from now. Also standing out was Charles Cook, who has committed to James Madison University of the CAA.  A slight disappointment was Penn State recruit Brandon Taylor. Brandon is a 6 ft 7 or 6 ft 8 forward with a body and lots of hair. If you ask me too much!  I always say you have to play like Lebron or Mike to play on my team with long braids or Locks! Well, he sure was a non factor, but St. Anthony's does that to teams. Only way Trenton Catholic could have played better is if the Coach, Mel Weldon suited up and played. For those who do not remember him,  he was a standout many years ago in Trenton and was National JC Player of the Year when Mercer Community College won the National Tournament under Howie Landa in Hutchinson Kansas. 

Final game was a blowout from the start. St. Benedicts is back and better than ever with two Canadian imports in Tyler Innis, and Isaiah watkins, both D 1 talents, to go with Rice HS of NYC transfer Melvin Johnson who has committed to Miami of the ACC. Add to that Isaiah Brisco, a Nate Blue (Real Scout) protégée  who could be on the same level as Karl Towns jr.  as a top 5 or 10 national freshmen player, and a host of others and you have a bonafide HS power team. Roselle Catholic, who from what I understand, has the best basketball environment in North Jersey, was without several key players sitting out 30 days after transferring into the school.  

Well,  all this makes the Playez Basketball Club New Years Jump Off very interesting and exciting. The games taking place at Hackensack HS has a feature game of St. Anthony's vs St. Benedict's to go along with Teaneck vs St. Patricks, and Plainfield vs Hudson Catholic. Honestly this event is so good the games could have taken place at FDU. Oops, I forgot they made the gym smaller and not attractive. My bad!

Until next time, enjoy the games!!!! 

No comments: