After two straight undefeated seasons and two consecutive NJSIAA Tournament of Champions titles featuring powerful inside big men, the St. Anthony High School boys’ basketball team will go back to the style that made the fabulous Friars a national powerhouse in the first place.
The Friars are once again a guard-oriented team, thanks to returning stars Hallice Cooke and Josh Brown. Both have already signed national letters of intent with major colleges – Cooke with Oregon State (where he will join former Friar Jason Collier) and Brown with Temple.
“We have two senior guards who have to lead us,” said legendary Hall of Fame head coach Bob Hurley, who begins his 40th year as the head coach at St. Anthony. “We need them to play well. They’re a little slow right now getting to where we would like them to be. But we have to have the two of them play consistently well. We need to have something like 17 points per game from both. We can’t have like 21 one night and like eight or nine the next. Consistency in their performance is the issue.”
However, both guards have already proven to be quality high school basketball players, even when giants like All-American Kyle Anderson (UCLA) and Jerome Frink (Florida International) were dominating down low.
But Cooke and Brown are not the only talented guards on the Friars’ roster, as they prepare for their season opener Sunday, Dec. 16 at the Hoop Group Shoot-Out against Neptune.
“We have a large group of kids in the backcourt,” Hurley said. “Competition is always good there. We have a lot of underclassmen that can play.”
Jaire Bolden, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, has a ton of potential and a very bright future.
“He had a very good offseason and will be right in the middle of what we do,” Hurley said.
Jagen Moseley is a 6-foot-2 freshman and the younger brother of junior Cheddi, a 6-foot-1 guard. Both Moseley brothers are battling for playing time, but Hurley is not worried about keeping the freshman with the varsity.
Terrence Smith is a 5-foot-11 junior guard who is also in the mix.
“In high school and college basketball, you can never have enough of them,” Hurley said of his deep backcourt. “At times, we’re going to play a bunch of them together and give the other team all kinds of match-up problems.”
Hurley should know a lot about developing guards and playing them together. After all, he was once a point guard and so were both of his sons, Bobby and Danny, currently the coaching tandem at the University of Rhode Island.
Hurley won national championships in 1996 by playing three guards together and another national title in 2007, also featuring a host of guards, some of whom, like Tray Woodall, Mike Rosario, and Jio Fontan, are still dominant college basketball players, and another, Tyshawn Taylor, who is in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets.
“They’re all being challenged,” Hurley said. “We have six guys who can play on the perimeter and they’re all going to play. For example, in our first scrimmage, Jaire Bolden was our leading rebounder and had more than our big guys. We have a lot of depth back there.”
But the Friars are not bereft of inside players.
Senior Kentrell Brooks, a 6-foot-8 forward who has already signed with Marist College, is the Friar big man with the most experience.
Aaron Amiri, a 6-foot-8 senior transfer from Toronto, is a find.
“He has a chance to be a player, but he really doesn’t have experience at this level,” Hurley said of Amiri.
Kody Jenkins, a 6-foot-5 senior, has put on some upper body muscle and can be more of a force now.
“He’s definitely a little stronger now,” Hurley said of Jenkins.
Tim Coleman, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, has already signed a letter to attend NJIT in the fall.
“He’s a strong lefty who can shoot the ball pretty well,” Hurley said. “He would make Jerome [Frink] work in practice all the time.”
Jordan Campas, a 6-foot-4 senior, is another inside player who could see playing time.
The best of the lot could very well be 6-foot-8 freshman Torian Thompson, who has all the tools to be a very good one.
“We’re going to keep two freshmen and a sophomore,” Hurley said. “They’re all going to be in the middle of things.”
Hurley said that the Friars were also hurt by Hurricane Sandy and the aftermath.
“We have an awful lot of kids who come from outside Jersey City now,” Hurley said. “Because of the storm, they were totally shut down for two weeks and they lost their rhythm a little. We have to get them back to where they were.”
The Friars will head to Boston for the Christmas break and play in a tournament against Central Catholic of Boston and Brighton. During the break, they will also travel to Cape May and play Camden, the first time the Friars have faced Camden in almost a decade.
The Friars begin the 2012-13 season with a 65-game winning streak, one shy of the school record.
“We haven’t given one second of thought to that,” Hurley said. “We’re just trying to figure out what we have. We have a lot of depth. We have a lot of good-to-very good players, but we have to figure out who belongs where. The young kids will push the older ones and that’s good. I think it’s the same as any year. We expect to be very competitive, but the goal is to always get better.”
As for the streak?
“We won’t even talk about it at all,” Hurley said.
However, you can count on the Friars holding onto that streak for as long as possible during the course of this season. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.