It was also a distinction given to local superstars such as Bobby Hurley, David Rivers, Rodrick Rhodes, Anthony Perry, Elijah Ingram and Kyle Anderson – all of whom played their high school ball at the now-closed St. Anthony in Jersey City.
When Jahvon Quinerly and Louis King were little boys, the Hudson Catholic teammates dreamed of someday holding the same distinction as the aforementioned hoop greats – namely becoming a McDonald’s All-American.
Last Tuesday, that dream became a reality for the Hudson Catholic seniors, as they were presented with their jerseys as McDonald’s All-Americans.
Quinerly and King became the first teammates from New Jersey to be selected for the game since Luol Deng and Charlie Villanueva of Blair Academy were chosen in 2003 – the same game that James was the Most Valuable Player.
Needless to say, it was a historic moment, considering the two were the first ever honorees from Hudson Catholic. It was such a big moment that there was a school assembly with the student body in attendance in the Joe “Rocky” Pope Memorial Gymnasium. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop was there to present the young men a special proclamation honoring the day.
“It’s a great achievement for me,” said King, who has already signed a national letter of intent to attend the University of Oregon next season. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid. It took a lot of dedication, a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”
“I’m so humbled to be here,” said Quinerly, who was moved to tears while addressing the assembly, especially when he referred to his family in particular his little brother, Jules, who is eight years old and soaked up the festivities to the fullest. “It’s really an amazing honor, when you consider how prestigious of a selection it is. A lot of hard work has paid off, but this is just the beginning.”
More than 700 players nationwide were officially nominated for the honor, but only 24 were chosen to play in the game.
For their historic accomplishment, Quinerly and King have been selected as The Hudson Reporter Co-Athletes of the Week for the past week.
Hudson Catholic head coach Nick Mariniello addressed the achievements of his talented teammates.
“It’s great for the program, great for the school and incredible for the two boys,” Mariniello said. “It’s a prestigious honor. We’re lucky to have two guys on the same team who became McDonald’s All-Americans. New Jersey has such a rich tradition of guys who became McDonald’s All-American. It’s a dream come true for them. This is what they worked for. Everyone who has ever played wants to be a McDonald’s All-American.”
Mariniello said that the historical impact of the accomplishment will hit the youngsters as they get older.
“I think it will resonate as time goes on,” Mariniello said. “I think all of the personal accolades are falling into place. It’s been a long journey to get to this point, but I’m extremely proud of both of them.”
Quinerly has been on a tear of late. He had 37 points, seven assists and three steals in a win over Archbishop Molloy of New York in the SNY Invitational last Saturday and had 27 points in games against Cardinal Hayes and 27 with eight assists against Union City last week.
“I think once he became a McDonald’s All-American, he relaxed a little,” Mariniello said. “He’s enjoying games because after all, they are just games.”
Life hasn’t been so much of a game for Quinerly this season. He originally gave a verbal commitment to the University of Arizona, but then reneged on that commitment when he was somehow implicated in a scandal involving former Arizona assistant coach “Book” Richardson paying recruits money from sneaker companies.
Richardson never officially named Quinerly, but two Arizona newspapers named Quinerly as the recipient of the funds.
Quinerly has not committed to another school, but admitted a decision is “pretty close.”
“That stuff is still going on,” Quinerly said of the investigation and controversy. “Getting this McDonald’s All-American was definitely a burden off my shoulders. Every year around this time, I tend to pick it up a little. That’s just how it’s been. But getting this [the McDonald’s All-American] took a huge burden off my shoulders. I feel like we’ve brought the team together.”
Quinerly would not even hint at any school in the running for his services, but the other two finalists when he was being courted by Arizona were Villanova and Stanford. Quinerly is an excellent student, a member of the National Honor Society, so academics will play a part in his decision.
“That will be the next big burden off my shoulders,” Quinerly said.
Quinerly said that he has relaxed tremendously since he received the honor.
“I had a conversation with my parents and they told me that I looked like I wasn’t having fun out there,” Quinerly said. “So I just wanted to have fun and that’s what happened.”
He went out, had fun and dropped a season’s best 37 on Archbishop Molloy in a regionally televised game.
“I think his best basketball is ahead of him,” Mariniello said. “It’s been difficult for him to focus with all the distractions going on. I think Jahvon can bring it to another level if he wants to.”
King will now focus on the remainder of the season. The Hawks will be shooting for an unprecedented seventh straight Hudson County Tournament championship later this month and will head to the NJSIAA Parochial B North playoffs looking to repeat as state sectional champions – and maybe further.
“With two McDonald’s All-Americans on the team, there’s no way we shouldn’t win the [NJSIAA] Tournament of Champions,” said King, who scored 32 in a recent win over John Carroll of Maryland and 26 in a win over the Patrick School in the Dan Finn Classic.
King said that he was glad to share the day with Quinerly.
“He’s been like my brother since seventh grade,” King said. “We’ve always dreamed about having the same goals. I love him. This is great to share with him.”
Needless to say, it was a historic day at Hudson Catholic, as two of their all-time greatest received the highest accolade given to a high school basketball player.
The two young men will play in the McDonald’s All-American Game in Atlanta on March 28. – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.