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Saturday / December 15.
  • New Prep Team in Newark; Bergeron to Blair Christian

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    LauryA new prep basketball team is coming to New Jersey and it hopes to take the nation by storm.

    The NIA Eagles, based out of the Alif Muhammad Nia School in Newark, will debut with two teams in the 2008-09 season and play a national schedule. The program will be run by Mike Rodgers, a noted skills teacher who coached last season at Monmouth Academy.

    “We’re going to shock the prep school scene a little bit,” Rodgers said Monday by phone. “We have a lot of 6-5, 6-6, 6-8 kids, a couple 6-10s. It could turn out to be something that’s big time. I don’t want to get too optimistic. We’re putting together a nice schedule.”

    The program will only take fifth-year seniors or postgrads, no underclassmen, said Rodgers, who sent four Monmouth players to Division I programs, including UNLV commit Deshawn Mitchell.

    Among the committed players are David Laury, a 6-7 East Orange grad (pictured above); 6-5 guard Steve Spinelli, a Colts Neck grad; 6-2 point guard Isaiah Wilkerson from Curtis (N.Y.); and 6-9 Ron Spencer of Monmouth Academy.




    “David Laury has a chance to be the real deal,” Rodgers said.

    Two years ago, the team featured Kenneth Faried, who last year averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds as a freshman in 20 minutes a game at Morehead State.

    Rodgers, 65, will serve as Director of Operations and Athletic Director, while the coaching will be handled by Donald McCombs, Vincent Robinson and Frantz Pierre Louis.

    Rodgers said he has already lined up numerous games, including a pair of contests against Kevin Boyle’s St. Patrick of Elizabeth team. He said he also hopes to play Bob Hurley’s St. Anthony squad, the defending Tournament of Champions winner, and Dan Hurley’s St. Benedict’s team, which finished No. 2 in the national polls last year behind St. Anthony.

    The Eagles also either have games lined up against, or are working to get games with, traditional prep powers South Kent (Conn.), St. Thomas More (Conn.), Patterson (N.C.), Hargrave (Va.), Notre Dame Prep (Mass.), Winchendon (Mass.) and the West Point JV.

    He said a game with Union has been scheduled and he’s in talks with Plainfield coach Pete Vasil.

    “We’re also trying to get Blair, Lawrenceville and Peddie,” Rodgers said of the New Jersey prep programs.

    The team will kick off next season at a prep tournament in Maryland Oct. 24.

    In the first season, many games will be played on the road and Rodgers said Nia is negotiating to play home games at the Newark YMCA.

    Muhammad, the founder of the school, said tuition would be about $3,000 and that the school would not offer dormitories. The school itself is located inside the Robert Treat Hotel.

    Muhammad said he has been helping student-athletes from Essex County become college eligible for years and has worked with Horace McGloster (Houston) and Keon Lawrence (Missouri), as well as numerous female players from Newark Shabazz.

    “They became Division I players and didn’t have the grades,” Muhammad said. “A lot of the schools in the greater Newark area didn’t understand the NCAA Clearinghouse.”


    Muhammad said he’s been thinking of launching a prep program for a couple of years and this seemed like the right time.

    “We’re putting players together, there’s been a lot of interest,” Rodgers said. “We’re still entertaining the possibility of other players.”


    In other prep school news, the Philly Inquirer reports that former American Christian coach Tony Bergeron is going to Blair (Pa.) Christian and taking junior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones and freshman guard Achraf Yacoubou with him.

    “We are 90 percent certain that we will be at Blair Christian Academy,” Bergeron told the paper. “Right now, it’s not done, only because we haven’t signed the contracts yet.”

    Darryl McCoy, a 6-foot-10 junior from Connecticut, is expected to be one of the team’s standouts, the coach told the Inquirer. He also plans to bring in 5-10 junior point guard Danny Lawhorne of Connecticut, 6-7 junior power forward Mike Haynes (Chicago), and 6-3 junior guard Lamount Samuels (New York). All were scheduled to enroll at American Christian in the fall.

    (Photo courtesy Scout)

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    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.