The Hoboken High School boys’ basketball team was in deep despair. The Red Wings couldn’t have dropped any further than what they were experiencing early in the season. After nine games, the Red Wings had a disappointing record of 1-8. A few games later, they were standing at a dismal 4-10.
At that point, the Red Wings could not afford another loss. One more setback would have been the end of all postseason playoff hopes, especially qualifying for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I tournament.
Throughout the tough times, veteran Hoboken coach Buddy Matthews could always count on one player, junior guard Eddie Canary. The 6-2 Canary was consistently the Red Wings’ leading scorer, averaging almost 14 points per game.
“He was certainly our most consistent player,” Matthews said. “He never had to change his game. He was our high scorer every game. I never had to worry about his offense. He was the one constant who kept us going.”
But with the entire season hanging in the balance, it was time for Canary to pick up his play and give a little more.
“We did get a little frustrated and we may have lost a little faith,” Canary said. “But the three captains [namely Mark Moorman, Ray Maldonado and Canary] called a team meeting without the coaches. We knew that we had a good team and we had to turn things around. We knew we could do it. We needed to stop being soft and play stronger. We needed to share the ball and have more confidence. And we needed to play better defense.”
It also meant that Canary had to lead the way.
“It was crazy,” Canary said. “Things weren’t looking good at all. I’m not usually a defensive player, but I figured that if I played harder on defense, then the rest of the team would work hard on defense as well.”
“He’s also picked it up defensively,” Matthews said. “He wants the challenge of being the one to guard the other team’s top player. He’s become more of a complete player and it’s come at a perfect time.”
That’s for sure. Since the Red Wings started the season with the poor 1-8 record, they have done a complete 360-degree turn, winning 11 of their last 13 games, earning a berth in the NJSIAA playoffs.
And since they were faced with playoff elimination with one more loss, Hoboken has won eight straight games to improve to 12-10 overall and advancing to the HCIAA Seglio Division semifinals, where they were slated to face St. Mary’s of Jersey City.
A lot of the credit has to go to Canary, who saved his best games for the best opponents. For example, Canary had 18 points and 10 rebounds in a recent win over Lincoln. In games against HCIAA Seglio foes St. Joseph of the Palisades (22 points, 12 rebounds), St. Mary’s (27 points, 15 rebounds) and High Tech (21 points, 11 rebounds), Canary really stood out.
“We would not have made the state playoffs if Eddie wasn’t willing to pick up his game,” Matthews said.
For his efforts, Canary has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
“I felt like I was pushing everyone else and it was definitely working,” Canary said. “I’m rebounding better now and that’s helped me. I’m also passing the ball more and then I get the ball back to score. It’s all coming together for me.”
In years past, Canary tended to get frustrated, lose his temper and cause a scene.
“I had a very bad temper and that got me in trouble,” Canary said.
According to Matthews, that attitude has changed dramatically this season.
“When things didn’t go right, he tended to have problems,” Matthews said. “He let it get to him. But this year, he’s been tremendous. He has worked hard to deal with adversity.”
Matthews believes that it’s a case of just growing up.
“I think it’s all about maturity and responsibility,” Matthews said. “We’ve given him more responsibility with the team and he’s accepted it. And sure, he’s more mature.”
“I knew that I was going to be a starter this year [Canary was the sixth man a year ago] and I had a more important role. I knew that people were going to be looking up to me, so I had to change. I learned to keep my cool if something happens and just play the game. It’s helped me a great deal.”
Canary’s seasonal average now stands at nearly 19 points per game. It’s a rapid rise, especially after the team had played nine games.
“It’s a tremendous feeling to see him succeed,” Matthews said. “He’s really put it all together this year. It’s been great to see.”
“It feels real good to be able to turn everything around,” Canary said. “It’s good for me, for the team. They really put it all together as well. But I feel better about the way I’m playing. What’s happened in the past is done. I’m not going back. I’m going forward.”
And as for his name? It’s only fitting that the leader of the Red Wings should have a name related to the bird family – and we don’t mean Larry.
Canary was asked if he thought it was fitting that he had a bird name playing for a team named after a bird.
“When I jump high, people have said that I fly like a canary,” Canary said. “I don’t mind it. I just laugh.”
The laughter is better than the anger – and the composed kid with a bird last name is leading the Red Wings to new heights after failing to get off the ground early on. – Jim Hague