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.
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The game of point guard musical chairs in the Garden State is moving at a dizzying pace.
Tyrone Johnson’s decision to leave Plainfield for Montrose Christian was just the latest in a flurry of high-profile point guards opting to either move from one New Jersey school to another or, in Johnson’s case, leave the state altogether.
**In May, St. Benedict’s point guard Myck Kabongoannounced he was leaving for Findlay Prep, the two-time National High School Invitational champ.
**After it was announced that Paterson Catholic would close its doors, highly touted floor generals Kyle Anderson (a rising junior)and Myles Mack (rising senior) both opted to play for Hall of Famer Bob Hurley at St. Anthony.
**Their rising sophomore teammates, point guard Kavon Stewart and wing Reggie Cameron,both chose to play for Nick Mariniello at Hudson Catholic.
**Vaughn Gray, a wing from Don Bosco, later said he would transfer to St. Benedict’s to play a national schedule.
**Jevon Thomas, a rising sophomore considered arguably the most talented guard in New York City, then said he would also come to St. Ben’s to fill in for Kabongo.
**Da’Shawn Suber, Thomas’ Gauchos’ teammate and fellow sophomore, will also play in the Garden State, moving to St. Patrick from Rice.
**And now Johnson, a Top 50 player in the Class of 2011, is leaving the state altogether before heading off to Villanova.
“Point guards are leaders to the team,” the 5-foot-10 Suber said. “If you have a good point guard, you really don’t need a lot of good players around you. If you’re point guard’s good, you can make your team good.”
With the exception of the Paterson Catholic situation, most of these moves were made so players could compete in a higher-profile environment on a national stage against elite competition, while also being able to focus on their academics.
“I wanted to try something new and get in a better environment and it was a family decision that we made,” Suber, who has interest from West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Arizona and South Carolina, said last week at the Peach Jam.
Paul Suber, Da’Shawn’s father, said the decision was motivated in part by former Rice coach Moe Hicks’ move to St. John’s to become Director of Basketball Operations.
“Now with Moe taking the job, I said that I wanted him to get taught by a real good guard coach,” Paul said. “And me and [St. Patrick coach] Kevin [Boyle] worked at Five Star for years. I knew Kevin always had success with the New York City guards. You’re talking about Shaheen Holloway from Queens, Corey Fisher from the Bronx.”
He added: “Kevin Boyle’s an animal. He loves coaching. He loves getting the kids better…And I knew the educational part was going to be great. Hands on. Seventeen, 18 people in a class, that’s what you want.”
Suber, a Mount Vernon, N.Y. native, will replace incoming Duke freshman Kyrie Irving, a McDonald’s All-American who is projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
But he’s not daunted.
“We got a lot of big tournaments this year,” Suber said. “We got the No. 1 player in the country [Michael Gilchrist]. They’re expecting me to do big things and lead the team to a national championship.”
Suber said Irving has already shown him a few pointers.
“He comes to workouts and shows me things that he did in high school and he showed me things that will lead the team to a national championship,” Suber said.
Thomas, meantime, is taking over for the Texas-bound Kabongo, who opted to leave St. Ben’s after former coach Dan Hurley took the Wagner College job.
“I’m not trying to go in there and try to follow his footsteps,” the 5-10 Thomas said of Kabongo. “But I’m trying to keep the same thing going. I’m trying to go there and keep the winning going, keep the legacy going, do that with a new coach and a new program. So I’m basically the first generation of the new coach.”
St. Patrick and St. Benedict’s traditionally play one another annually and the Gauchos teammates have already begun talking some smack.
“We’re gonna beat St. Benedict’s,” Suber said.
“We’re gonna beat them [St. Patrick],” Thomas said. “We’re gonna be the No. 1 team in the country.”
St. Anthony and St. Benedict’s never squared off while Dan Hurley was at the Newark school because Chris Hurley, Bob’s wife and Dan’s mother, wasn’t down with it.
But now that Roshown McLeod has succeeded Dan Hurley, the two schools could face off for charity in the coming years, meaning Thomas and Gray could square off against Anderson and Mack.
“We’re looking to schedule the game,” Thomas said. “We might set the game up for our senior year.”
The Paterson Catholic situation is somewhat different.
St. Anthony and Hudson Catholic will benefit from the closing of the school that produced NBA forward Tim Thomas.
“Because of Paterson Catholic closing we had the opportunity to have two of the better players in the state come to play for us and they fit in very, very well,” Mariniello said.
Mariniello did extremely well at Bloomfield Tech with multiple point guards in the backcourt and hopes to continue that trend at his current stop with Stewart and fellow sophomore Travis Flagg.
Hudson Catholic also features Rakwan Kelly, who scored more than 400 points off the wing last year. He and the 6-6 Cameron will now provide multiple scoring options off the wing.
“We’re going to be a guard-oriented team,” Mariniello said.
That about sums things up in the Garden State.
(Photo courtesy Kelly Kline/Nike)
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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.