Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The most recent basketball banner in the gym at Hudson Catholic Regional High School dates back to the 1975-76 season and the Jim Spanarkel/Mike O’Koren Era.
When 6-foot-7 junior wing Reggie Cameron looks up at that banner nowadays, he longs to add a more updated version.
“Yes, definitely,” he said. “That’s what we plan on doing.”
With the emergence of the talented junior trio of Cameron, point guard Kavon Stewart and power forward Mike Young, the Hawks are poised to challenge St. Anthony and St. Patrick among the Garden State’s elite.
Because of the NJSIAA’s offseason realignment, Hudson Catholic figures to be St. Anthony’s main challenger in the North Non-Public B bracket next March. St. Patrick, St. Anthony’s longtime foil, was moved to the South (even though it’s off Exit 13A of the New Jersey Turnpike), meaning St. Anthony and St. Patrick could not meet until the Non-Public State final.
“If everything plays out how it should, I think we should match up with them again,” Cameron said of St. Anthony, which hammered Hudson Catholic, 68-35 in the North quarterfinals last year en route to winning the New Jersey Tournament of Champions title and a mythical national championship behind the backcourt of Kyle Anderson and Myles Mack. “We’ll be ready.”
The North Non-Public B bracket used to include a murderer’s row of Catholic powerhouses, including St. Anthony, St. Patrick and Paterson Catholic, with any one of them capable of winning the whole thing in a given year.
But St. Pat’s is now in the South, and Paterson Catholic closed in June 2010 due to financial reasons.
The breakup of that program, in turn, fed both St. Anthony and Hudson Catholic. While Anderson and Mack opted to play for Naismith Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley, Stewart and Cameron landed at Hudson Catholic.
“I think the closing of Paterson Catholic helped us out tremendously with Reggie and Kavon,” said Hudson Catholic coach Nick Mariniello, entering his third season at the school.
Mariniello, 44, came over from Bloomfield Tech, where he posted a career record of 186-50 during his nine-year tenure. He led the Spartans to four Group 1 state titles, two Tournament of Champions finals and one Essex County championship.
“I think I learned how to build a program and when I took this program over, to me it wasn’t about winning and losing,” he said. “It was about building a program and the packaging and marketing of the kids in the program, and really, really giving the kids an opportunity to get to the next level, whether that level be Division 1, Division 2, Division 3.
“I can’t guarantee a State championship. I can’t guarantee a county championship, but what I am able to guarantee because of my experience is the fact that I’ll be able to put kids at the next level.”
He has sent 14 players to Division 1, led by former West Virginia star and San Antonio Spurs forward Da’Sean Butler, Rashon Dwight, now a grad assistant at Seton Hall; Casiem Drummond, Wesley Jenkins, R.J. Hall and Courtney Nelson.
“We’re able to do things now as a program because of what we did in the past,” Mariniello said. “The kids know the kids and the success of the kids during college. Da’Sean Butler, him playing for me has helped a lot with kids knowing that we can get kids to the next level.”
On Tuesday, Louisville coach Rick Pitino is expected in to watch Cameron and Young.
Bob Huggins of West Virginia, Mick Cronin of Cincinnati, Kevin Willard of Seton Hall, Brandin Knight of Pittsburgh, Norm Roberts of Florida, Van Macon of Rutgers, Dan Hurley of Wagner and Jared Grasso of Iona are among the coaches who have come through recently.
“I’m not going to be gauged as a success here if we win a State championship or a county championship,” Mariniello said. “I’m gauged on the schools that come in to see our kids.”
(Photos courtesy NJhoops-journal.com, Hudson Reporter)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
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.