By Jim Whelan
Summer basketball is usually the season where the high school hoops fan salivates to hear, read, and even tweet on every move indicating that the next high school sensation is announcing his future college intentions.
He is announcing this weekend.
He shortened his list.
What schools he is visiting? When is he visiting? How was the visit?
What summer camp did he get invited to?
This is not the norm for every player who puts on a basketball uniform in the winter. Most hoops players are not “the fortunate basketball sons.” Their summer is usually spent working for the recreation department or family friend’s company as the awkward summer hire. After working all day, hopefully a teammate or friend who has a driver’s license can drive you to the summer league game.
The summer leagues are the opportunity to earn a spot on a varsity roster. Most coaches will agree with this Hall of Fame college coach Bobby Knight edict: “Players are made in the off season.”
Roselle Catholic head Coach Dave Boff was one of those hoops players and now he spend his summer examining his team in competition in the Elizabeth Summer Basketball league and is happy with the results. After this week’s play, the Lions are holding a 7-1 record against good competition.
The Roselle Catholic summer starters are a nice mix, with three sophomores and two seniors. The lineup includes guard Dominick Gonzalez, 6’4 forward Leslie Cherry, and 6’6 center Jameel Warney, all sophmores and seniors Rich Perriera and Kendall Henderson, with Brian Petruzelli working in time.
“I like what I see,” said Boff. “In the summer you want to make sure your players develop and compete for minutes not only for varsity, but also for JV players.”
The building block for this year’s Lions team is Jameel Warney. The 6’6 Plainfield native could have stayed in his hometown and played for a Group IV powerhouse. Or he could have been like fellow Plainfield natives Derrick Gordon and Chase Plummer, who commute to the other side of Union County to play for the St. Pat’s Celtics. Warney took a road less traveled; he enrolled in Roselle Catholic.
“Roselle Catholic is a special place for Jameel,” said Warney’s mentor. “He is thriving academically. He is a great kid and RC is a great fit for him.” Warney is getting some Division I attention. Just as Warney is a good fit in a RC classroom, he is a better fit on the basketball court. “He is going to be a special player for us,” said Boff.
After a 12-11 first year and a lackluster second year, the summer success was not an overnight process. The past two seasons, Roselle Catholic has failed to qualify for post-season play. This year’s young team has scratched out four wins in their last seven games. The foundation has been laid for a good summer at the Roselle school. The team also plans to attend the Rider University summer camp under Boff’s old mentor and Rider head coach, Tom Dempsey
After beating Cranford 54-51 in overtime, the Lions will face Elizabeth A in the league finals. Elizabeth A, one of two teams from the high school in the league, beat up and coming Middlesex County school Monroe 40-39. Roselle Catholic beat the Elizabeth A squad in earlier action. Elizabeth Head Coach Chris Balent is trying to cement the foundation for next year after losing nine seniors to graduation.
With the end of the Watchung/Mountain Valley Conference format and some key Union County players (Isaiah Epps/Plainfield and Aishon White/Union- NIA Prep) leaving the county, the opportunity for Roselle Catholic might come quickly on the county level. Roselle Catholic competes in the Non Public A, which might be the best group in the state this year. With powerhouses like Seton Hall Prep, Immaculata, and St. Joe’s of Metuchen in their division, and even Nick Mariniello taking the reigns at Hudson Catholic, how far the Lions can go remains to be seen.
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Another member of 1989 St. Anthony’s National Championship basketball team has died. Sean Rooney, a Bayonne native, played center for legendary coach Bob Hurley for the Jersey City school. Recently, he was best known for introducing the Wack Packer Beetle Juice to the Howard Stern show. Mark Harris, the Jersey City firefighter in the mentioned in the opening chapter of the book “Miracle of St. Anthony,” also passed on.
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