At one time, Secaucus High School had a phenomenal female athlete named Cory Roesing, who played three sports flawlessly and collected gaudy basketball statistics like some girls collect Barbie dolls and pop star pinup posters. Roesing culminated her career at Secaucus by being named the Athlete of the Year by The Hudson Reporter.
Then, after Roesing packed up her record book and headed off to Caldwell College, Jenna Totaro came along. She did a lot of the same things that Roesing did, playing the same three sports and making the “triple-double” stat line in basketball almost become commonplace and status quo. Totaro was also a Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Year and headed off to Montclair State last fall.
So there was a pretty huge legacy for some current Secaucus athletes and particularly basketball players to follow.
Last season, Shannon Waters was a freshman member of the Patriots’ girls athletic programs, and she was a teammate to Totaro in all three sports – volleyball, basketball and softball.
“Jenna was a big role model for me,” Waters said. “She helped me a lot. She also motivated me.”
Waters, who averaged a little better than eight points per game last season as a freshman, knew that she was going to have to pick up her game a little, now that Totaro and some other key players had graduated.
“I think I had to be able to get everyone started and going,” Waters said. “I had to become a leader, even though I’m only a sophomore. I knew I had to work harder and get the team going. I knew I was going to be a key player with a much bigger role than last year.”
Secaucus girls’ basketball head coach John Sterling knew that Waters was going to have to become more of a scorer and a leader, despite her youth.
“We lost quite a bit, including Totaro, who was a fine all-around player and good leader on the team,” said Sterling, who is in his second season at Secaucus. “Jenna was by far our best player and anytime we needed a basket, she was the one we went to. She’s one of the best players in the history of the school and it’s never possible to replace someone like her.”
Added Sterling, “But Shannon had a great summer and I could see how much she improved. Last year, when I first saw Shannon, I knew that she was a great athlete, but I didn’t really appreciate all she did.”
Sterling took his team to a team camp in Hilton Head, S.C. for a week in July.
“It really helped the team come together and they played a lot together,” Sterling said.
It was in South Carolina when Sterling realized Waters was developing into something special.
“Most of her success comes from her drive and intensity,” Sterling said. “She just works hard all the time. She’s the best defensive player on the team and she plays with such great intensity.”
So Sterling knew that the 5-foot-6 Waters was ready to become more of an impact player.
But no one could have ever imagined just how much of an improvement Waters would show. She’s turned into a scoring machine for the Patriots.
In one recent three-game span, Waters had 34 points, 16 rebounds and 12 steals in a win against Lyndhurst, followed it with a 26-point, seven steal game against Northern Valley-Demarest and had 25 points and an amazing 19 rebounds in a win over Wayne Valley.
Yes, these were the kind of statistics that Roesing and Totaro would post on a regular basis. It looked as if Waters was the one to fall next in line.
But the scoring explosion (19.2 points per game) is coming after Waters averaged just eight per contest last year.
“I never thought this could happen,” Sterling said. “She’s really shocked me. It’s more than just a pleasant surprise. She’s giving us great production and I never expected it. She’s exceeding my expectations.”
Even Waters is somewhat stunned by her instant scoring prowess.
“Yes, I have to say that I am surprised,” Waters said. “I never could have predicted this. I wouldn’t have even thought about it. It’s shocking. I just want it to continue.”
For her efforts, Waters has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Sterling believes that Waters’ style of play has led to her success.
“She is just a relentless performer,” Sterling said. “In practice, she wins every sprint and goes hard in every drill. She does the same in games. A lot of her offense translates to her defense. Her work ethic and her defensive skills get her points.”
“I basically go after everything,” Waters said. “I play with aggressiveness. Since I’m not that tall, I just go after the ball all the time.”
While Waters plays three sports, she says her favorite is basketball.
“It’s my time of year,” Waters said. “I like playing all three, but I love playing basketball. I just go out there and get the job done. Basketball is an aggressive game and I’m aggressive. I can get my points off steals and turnovers. Coach Sterling always tells me to be aggressive, so that’s what I do.”
Waters knows that her offensive explosion can only help her down the road.
“It gives me a lot of confidence,” Waters said. “I’m just going to keep trying to get better, but it helps to know that I can do it. It’s amazing that I’m doing what I’m doing as a sophomore and yes, it’s a lot more fun than last year.”
“She is going to keep getting better,” Sterling said. “It does help that she plays all the sports. It’s a strength for her. You always look to see who will step up and be a leader. It’s nice to see Shannon do what she’s done. However, it doesn’t get easier now, because once you get into the limelight, then everyone shoots for you and you’re not going to sneak up on anyone. I just hope it can last all season.”
And the next. And then the next. A budding star has been born in Secaucus. – Jim Hague