Saturday, January 3, 2015

What A Friday Evening in Roselle, New Jersey

They came from far and near to see what was supposed to be an exceptional basketball game. From Bergen and Passaic Counties up north to Essex County and even Morris, Sumerset and yes Hudson County as well.  They all came to Roselle Catholic HS to see two of the best HS teams in America play for Garden State bragging rights, though I still feel The Patrick School or St. Patricks will make a statement on that very soon.

Driving in from NEPA I did not know what to expect except a good hard fought game.  Having heard from friends that Roselle Catholic had a gym with old school charm and character made me eager to enter the building and see for myself if it was a HS version of Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke or something similar. Well, it was not Duke but it sure was unique and old school gorgeous not to mention packed to the rafters. Even Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins and Charles Smith the ex Knick were in attendance.  There were even some serious VIPs from entertainment, business, and industry in the building that people failed to recognize.

Its always amazing when I see guys walk into HS events free by flashing credentials for a blog or website they  rarely post on. I saw this yesterday as I patiently went inside and purchased a ticket 3 minutes before they stopped selling tickets,  This was at 4 PM and the game started at 6!  Little did I know there were games all day long and entering the gym which was packed with over 2000 people I had an opportunity to see a nice Plainfield Team get beat by Rutgers Prep. The joke in the stands was that it's a shame to get beat on the basketball court by people you will also work for one day!  Ok-Ok horrible joke sorry.  

The first game had a super talented Life Center with numerous D1 players beat up on Bloomfield Tech. Nuff said!  Now it was time for the final game and the game everyone came to see. St. Anthony's, who has the absolute best family and friends support group I have seen in years, entered the court first along with 6 Assistant coaches with 3 more sitting behind the bench. Somtimes I wonder if certain people would pay to be an assistant there?  Next came Roselle Catholic with fatigue T shirts on representing the purpose of the games,  which was supporting our troops. What a great cause!

St. Anthony's took control and their fans were going berserk making the gym seem like it was in Jersey City. If you came in blindfolded you would think you were at a game in Jersey City right near the Holland Tunnel (smile).  It seemed St. Anthony's who will always be well coached,  play great defense,    play hard, and play with class, was there to win it. Roselle Catholic and its star player Isaiah Briscoe had a rough 1st Quarter keeping up with the St. Anthony intensity and desire to win. But in the 2nd quarter it was the the Briscoe show as he closed it out like the player he is, despite some flashes of immaturity similar to what another player who John Calapari sent packing years ago exhibited,  Briscoe has all the moves and you can tell hours and hours have been spent in gyms working on his game.  But he sure has a nose for getting into it on the court, something he needs to learn to channel before he meets up with the wrong people.

Interesting that the highly rated freshmen, 6 ft 9 Nazren Reid, did not enter till late  in the first half but in my opinion  the complexion of the game changed after he entered despite him not scoring one point. It was his presence and energy and many noticed.  Of course the second half became more Briscoe and Chris Silva who really will be a terrific College Player if his coach Frank Martin does not yell at him every time he does something wrong.  Great place,  but there over Seton Hall, Rutgers, St. Johns?  Well, it is a great campus with a big time arena with all the bells and whistles associated with a SEC program.  

Many felt the game was over with 2 minutes left but as Bob Hurley, who could be the best HS basketball coach in the history of the game,  yelled "THIS GAME IS NOT OVER"   And truth be told it was not till the final whistle sounded with St. Anthony's coming back again to within 3 points with a chance for a tie.  But despite Briscoe missing multiple free throws, something no star guard should ever do, Roselle Catholic held on for the win with Chis Silva being huge down the stretch.

Tid Bits

Markis McDuffie really is better than advertised.

Jagan Mosley is a star in the making

Taurean Thompson really is a very good player

Briscoe is better than advertised but with attitude that could be good or bad depending

Chris Silva is special

Roselle Catholic equals  Great Players, very little offensive sets, good defense, unselfish play, and despite it all well coached!

St. Anthony's equals tradition, very good players, consistent defense, hard work, great sets, patience on both offense and defense, and very well coached!

AAU and Travel Team guys seem to have a lot of say these days.  Saw Roselle Catholic players communicating with summer coaches during the game.

Lastly, to the young man I knew when he played for Teaneck HS and was a good little Player but better yet a wonderful young gentlemen.  Just because you now are an Assistant Coach at Teaneck  and with The Playaz, an organization I think the world of who are doing wonderful things, do not change who you were because you never know who knows who. Follow the lead of those you work with who always exhibit class while being humble.

Finally, saw a guy who has done so much for the Newark NJ community being unnecessarily hassled by a Roselle NY Police Officer inside the game. Was it really that important for them to attempt to embarrass him? . Maybe the game should have been at Kean University!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Exciting Basketball

I have to start with the huge game between nationally ranked St. Johns and soon to be ranked Seton Hall if they can hold off Villanova on Saturday at the Prudential Center. A great win by Seton Hall in an atmosphere that seemed to be electric as I watched from the emergency room of my local hospital.  

We all know the final score and who did what. What I thought was great is the outstanding game atmosphere. On TV it seemed like at least 15,000 people similar to what Seton Hall often drew back in the days of Ramos, Bryant, Morton, Salley, Green, Advent,  and others (please excuse the spelling of some names) . I think it might have been right after the Mountain Arena bomb that did not work with SHU even losing  to Columbia in a home game at the Hockey Arena.  

Well, I always wanted to see SHU, SJU, and RU excel and have true natural rivalries that meant something other than just a win. SJU and SHU seem headed in the right direction but there still remains a question of how SJU will bounce back and what will SHU do if  VU beats them badly at home? If they can win more than they lose both SHU and SJU are headed for a possible NCAA Birth or at least a NIT birth.  Heading out to buy snacks for the huge game tomorrow.  

Rutgers is still  finding its way  but is 8 and 6 despite losing to Big 10 foe Northwestern.  Northwestern is the team they should always circle on the schedule as a must win along with a few others because we already know its about 4 or 5 teams they have almost zero chance of beating till the program improves in most areas. No need to again say all that I think they need.  I will say the coaches they have are fine and with the correct support facility and program wise the improvement will come sooner than later. Hard to even compete with what those other schools are showing to potential players. 

HS basketball was great on Monday evening in Paterson NJ. Hats off to the NJ Playaz Organization for putting on the Jingle Bells Jubilee and making all of the games competitive ones as opposed to matching schools who recruit from 10 states against local HSs who compete with players from the town. I think the Hoop Group, which is still a great organization, needs to change it up next season and get the great match ups with power teams going against power teams and good players matched with good players. $13 is a lot of money to see Roselle Catholic with 25 D1 players at the school (smile) matched up with Blair Academy who has a few good D3 players and two big future role players on the high D1 level.  The Playaz tournament had some great talent and wonderful match ups.  They even had decent concessions and gave out real meaningful trophy's

Loved watching Teaneck HS who I will see again Sunday in the New Years Jump-off at the same location, Paterson Charter School (the old Paterson Catholic) against East Orange who seems to have a pretty good team this year. I cannot wait till the well coached Teaneck Squad matures next season, though they could still win the Bergen Jamboree. Next year they could be a special bunch led by top 5 sophomore guard Deondre Washington and Top 5 freshmen guard Ja'Quaye James, who just happens to have a very famous hip hop Uncle.  Life Center might just be the 2nd most talented team in NJ man for man. Well,  maybe 3rd because The Paterson School is loaded also. Life Center is coached by Never Nervous Pervis, the ex Louisville Star and he has at least 4 high major players on the roster but the record despite beating a very young Teaneck in the consolation game, is nowhere near what it should be. Being an ex great player is not all thats needed to be a great coach. But in time this team could be rolling. How much time? I wonder! 

Paterson Eastside gave all it could against a very talented and well coached Hudson Catholic who seems to be jelling early in the season. Paterson Eastside could still possibly win the North group 4 championship based on some very good talent. Unfortunately it seems people in the stands realize how talented the players are but the players and coaches seem to not know.  Shakur Juiston is a beast who does not realize it. Every high major program between Connecticut and Virginia should watch him. If this kid goes to JUCO he could end up at Kentucky, UNLV, NC State, etc. Yes,  that much natural ability but so unselfish it makes the average fan scream. This young man needs to stop being afraid to be a star! If it does not come out in HS it certainly will come out in college. You cannot go by his stats you have to watch him perform.  Hudson Catholic has a few D1 players as well and seems to have quietly snuck up on everyone and if people blink this could be a future program on the same level nationally as St. Anthony's, Roselle Catholic, St. Benedict's, and the team that I feel just might be the best in NJ, The Paterson School. 

Speaking of St. Antony's they play a huge game Friday evening against Roselle Catholic at Roselle Catholic. Game time is 6 PM and I hope to be there by 4ish to secure a ticket.  Two things for sure are St. Anthony's will not back down and they will play defense! Roselle Catholic? They have the best player in the state and at least 6 or 7 others we will be watching on TV one day. 

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