BELMAR, N.J. –– Games at the Verizon Fios Jersey Shore Basketball League are often defined by little semblance of order on offense and even less defense. With the helter-skelter style of basketball present, now imagine a group of recently-graduated high school players trying to pull that off against teams full of present and past high-level college players in addition to guys playing professionally in Europe.
With six incoming Rutgers University freshmen playing, that is exactly what Stevens Gutter Cleaning has been up against. The group, which has been joined by sophomores Austin Carroll and Austin Johnson in addition to Kansas State transfer and former McDonald’s All American Wally Judge, looked very overwhelmed in an 0-3 start, but has begun to see the light a little bit and has since won back-to-back games to the surprise of many.
When you look at how far the six freshmen have come over the first half of the JSBL regular season, guys are getting more comfortable and everyone is starting to play a little more together. Look a little closer and you’ll realize that two specific guards, Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears, have arguably made more strides against older competition than anybody.
“This is the offseason and anything you can get in now, whether it’s games, workouts or just getting to know your teammates is a plus,” Seagears said. “This has been a good experience so far and a good league, a very good league.”
The quick maturation of these two guards is good news if you’re a Scarlet Knights fan for one reason. Despite being just freshmen, Mack and Seagears are very likely to see the floor and plenty of it this winter. Mack, a 5-foot-9 point guard who led St. Anthony of Jersey City to an undefeated season, NJSIAA Tournament of Champions crown and a consensus national title, is viewed by some right now as head coach Mike Rice’s best option at the point without ever having been through even a practice.
The 6-foot-2 Seagears has been scoring in bunches this summer and has shown he can be a competent combo guard. He is capable of contributing immediately, but Mike Poole will likely have something to say about the Baltimore native starting at the 2-spot.
Whether it happens this season or in the future, it is very likely Mack and Seagears are going to be manning the Louis Brown Athletic Center backcourt together at some point. With that being all but a given right now, it is imperative that they jell and form good chemistry, both with each other and with their Stevens Gutter Cleaning teammates. From the looks of things lately, the chemistry is not a problem.
Most recently, Mack scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half, including two long bombs, to complement a 27-point outburst from fellow-freshman Eli Carter in an 84-80 Stevens Gutter Cleaning win. Meanwhile, Seagears has had several outbursts so far this summer and has shown he can score and handle the ball with almost anyone at the JSBL. After rough starts to the summer, both kids have shown a willingness to lead the team, specifically and most importantly in crunch time with the game on the line.
“We could possibly be playing with each other for the next four years, so we’re gonna have to jell together, get to know our ups and downs and how we play. We’ve got a lot more learning to do,” Mack said of Seagears. “It’s very important to find some chemistry and play together now. This is the time now to get to know each other well.”
**Mack wins battle of Rutgers guards at IS8Follow Adam Zagoria on TwitterAnd like ZAGS on Facebook
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.