“We’re very young,” Gibbs said. “We have six sophomores on the team that are playing a lot and doing well.”
The Tigers have hit a rough patch recently, losing consecutive games to North Bergen and rival Lincoln, both in very close fashion, within the past week to fall to 11-8 overall and 7-4 in the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League standings.
What the two losses will mean for the Tigers when the Hudson County Tournament seeding is released later this week remains to be seen.
But one thing is for sure. No one in the county should sleep on the Tigers, because there is enough talent on the roster to scare the daylights out of any opposing coach.
“I really believe that Corey [Manning-Floyd] and [Rockquan] Richburg is the best sophomore combination in the county,” Gibbs said. “They’re very good and they’re getting better.”
Manning-Floyd stands 6-foot-6 and plays taller. He’s lean and lanky and will remind local basketball fans of another Snyder great Roy “Pooh” Hairston, who went from Snyder to have a great career at Purdue University.
The similarities between Manning-Floyd and Hairston are downright scary, down to the way Manning-Floyd carries his hands at his side.
“Now, we just have to get him to play like Pooh,” Gibbs laughed. “Those are big shoes to fill.”
Manning-Floyd is averaging 13.2 points and seven rebounds per game, but in recent weeks, he’s posted five double-doubles (double figures in points and rebounds) including a 25-point, 13-rebound outing in a win over Bayonne and 19 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Columbia of South Orange/Maplewood.
Richburg, who stands 6-foot-2, is averaging 13.8 points, four rebounds and three assists per game. He’s collected double figures in scoring in each of the last five games and had 19 points in the loss to North Bergen.
“We have a very unselfish team,” Gibbs said. “We share the basketball and that’s a big help. Rockquan is only going to get better. It’s good to know that I have both of them for two more years.”
It’s hard to find another team in New Jersey with a pair of sophomores as talented as Manning-Floyd and Richburg.
Junior DaeShawn Emanuel is a 6-foot-3 power forward who is averaging nearly 13 points per game and almost 11 rebounds per contest. Emanuel had a streak earlier this season of nine straight games of double figures in rebounds with a season-best 17 boards against both Union Catholic and Barringer.
“We’ve had five different guys scoring in double figures,” said Gibbs, who was a great player at Snyder and then St. Peter’s College during the early 1980s and is a member of the St. Peter’s Athletic Hall of Fame. “That shows how well we’re sharing the ball.”
Senior forward Nasir Smith is one of the team’s lone upperclassmen. The 6-foot-3 Smith, a two-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree in football as a wide receiver, is averaging 10.6 points and almost seven rebounds per game.
Dante Thomas is a 6-foot-1 senior guard who transferred to Snyder from Colonia this year.
“He didn’t play last year because of a knee injury,” Gibbs said.
Thomas is averaging seven points and three assists per game.
Dajer Muldrow is a 6-foot-5 freshman forward who is breaking his way into the Tigers’ regular rotation.
“He’s going to be very good,” Gibbs said of Muldrow.
Sophomore Ray Ortiz is also getting playing time. The 5-foot-10 Ortiz is the son of former St. Mary’s of Jersey City and Seton Hall University standout Ray Ortiz, Sr. The younger Ortiz transferred to Snyder from Marist.
Senior Taha Salahhdine is a 6-foot-2 forward with good quickness and jumping ability. Salahhdine is a key contributor off the bench and is averaging four points per contest.
The Tigers will head to next week’s Hudson County Tournament with a goal in mind.
“We would like to finish among the top four teams in the county,” Gibbs said. “If we do, it will be our third year in a row. I think we’re doing well. We just have to come of age.”
The Tigers have a roster filled with sophomores and freshmen. The future certainly looks very bright.
But there’s the present to contend with. The Tigers expect to be the sixth seed in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs when the brackets are released this week. It’s a sectional that could be there for the taking if things play according to plan.
The Tigers were also robbed of a win recently in a game against Barringer, when an official called a technical foul against a Barringer player and inadvertently awarded the Barringer player the two free throws and the ball in the closing seconds. The Tigers lost the game, 78-76, in what was one of the sloppiest errors ever made in high school basketball.
Still, the Tigers know that they can contend in both the upcoming county and state playoffs – and then definitely in the years to come.
“I think we can,” Gibbs said. “I like the way we’re playing. We have three guys averaging 13 points per game. We had three guys get double-doubles in a recent game. We’re sharing the ball and that’s a good thing. I like the way we’re playing. We’re playing smart and together. It should be interesting to see what happens in the county.”
But there is a rewarding aspect to the season – and that’s the youth of the Tigers as a whole.
“We’re still so young and so immature,” Gibbs said. “I’m trying to get them to focus on the game that they’re playing. The response has been very good so far. We just have to keep it going.”
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.