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.
For the better part of a decade, St. Anthony and St. Benedict’s never played one another even though they are located eight miles apart in North Jersey and were both perennially at the top of the national rankings.
But it wasn’t Bob or Dan Hurley who objected to the matchup of high school superpowers.
“It was only at Mrs. Hurley’s behest we weren’t playing the game,” Bob, the Naismith Hall of Fame coach at St. Anthony, told SNY.tv by phone.
Now that Chris Hurley’s son, Dan, is coaching at Wagner College, St. Anthony, ranked No. 6 in the Five Star Basketball Power Rankings, and St. Benedict’s will meet for the first time in more than a decade when they face off in the New Year’s Jump Off Jan. 1 at Hackensack High School (7:30 p.m.).
“The kids who come to St. Benedict’s love to play the best competition available and to them, this is why they come to St. Benedict’s,” first-year coach Mark Taylor told SNY.tv.
“They come to St. Benedict’s to play the best teams in the nation and to be in that environment and to rise to the occasion and there’s no one better to play than St. Anthony.”
The other three games on the bill feature Hackensack against Dwight Morrow, Teaneck taking on St. Patrick and Plainfield versus Hudson Catholic.
Taylor said St. Benedict’s is also slated to play St. Patrick and first-year coach Chris Chevannes in the PrimeTime Shootout Feb. 12 at Kean University.
St. Patrick was ranked No. 1 nationally for most of last season before falling to St. Anthony in the North Non-Public B title game before a capacity crowd of more than 8,000 fans at Rutgers.
“We have some big games, no question,” Taylor said. “Those are going to be some of the better games this year and that’s what we want.”
St. Anthony and St. Benedict’s finished the 2007-08 campaign ranked 1-2 in several major national pools, when both Mike Rosario of St. Anthony and Samardo Samuels of St. Benedict’s were named McDonald’s All-Americans.
St. Anthony now features 6-foot-8 Kyle Anderson, the No. 1 point guard in the Class of 2012. He is set to announce Sept. 20 for either Seton Hall, St. John’s, Georgetown, Florida or UCLA.
Under Hurley, the Friars are coming off their second perfect season (33-0) and second mythical national championship in the last four years.
St. Benedict’s features junior point guard Tyler Ennis of Canada and is attempting to return to the top of the national rankings under Taylor. The Gray Bees stumbled to a 13-12 record last season under Roshown McLeod.
Bob Hurley said his team used to regularly play St. Benedict’s prior to the Dan Hurley Era, when Hank Cordero and Jack Dalton coached the Gray Bees.
“We used to play them pretty regularly,” Hurley said. “I coached against Jack a very long time ago, and then Hank was there right before Danny.”
Hurley said he doesn’t recall ever losing to St. Benedict’s, and Taylor said he never beat Hurley when he coached at Ridge or St. Joe’s Metuchen.
“In real games, we never beat them,” Taylor, who coached NBA players Jason Williams and Andrew Bynum in high school, said of the Friars.
This year, St. Benedict’s also features Isaiah Briscoe, an incoming freshman who was ranked the No. 1 eighth-grader in New Jersey and was named the Co-MVP of the HoopGroup Rising Sophomore All-American Camp this weekend.
Now Briscoe will finally get a chance to play against one of his heroes, Anderson, with home he teamed at the End of Summer Classic.
“I want to get the win and defeat the top player and team in the country,” Briscoe told Alex Kline.
“I just hope we don’t lose,” Anderson told Kline.
The Gray Bees have a Canadian connection with Ennis and forwards Isaiah Watkins and Denzell Taylor, all of the powerful CIA Bounce AAU outfit. Ennis this weekend led Team Canada to the finals of the Nike Global Challenge, where they fell to Team USA Midwest.
St. Anthony, meantime, lost Myles Mack to Rutgers, but won the 64-team Hoop Group Team Camp at Albright College.
“We won the thing and we won it without playing either Jimmy Hall or Rashad Andrews, who are both Division 1 players,” Hurley said. “We had Kyle and a group of juniors. The whole group of juniors, as many as five of them, will surprise people this year, how good they are.”
Hurley said Anderson, forward Jerome Frink and 6-4 point guard Josh Brown “are going to start, and the other jobs are open for competition.”
Now, after a decade in which St. Anthony and St. Benedict’s couldn’t meet because of the Hurley connection, Dan Hurley plans to make the game on New Year’s Day.
“I wouldn’t miss that for the world,” Dan Hurley said. “Hopefully, we’re not playing the same day.”
NEW YEAR’S JUMP OFFJAN. 1, HACKENSACK HIGH SCHOOL
3 p.m., Hackensack-Dwight Morrow
4:30, Teaneck vs. St. Patrick
6, Plainfield-Hudson Catholic
7:30, St. Anthony-St. Benedict’s
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.