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.
Seton Hall-Bound Sanogo Reflects on High School Career, Future Prospects
By JOHN PAVIA
Special to ZAGSBLOGTRENTON, N.J. — After suffering a heartbreaking 49-47 defeat to St. Joe’s-Metuchen in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions final at Sun National Bank Center, Newark East Side’s Ismael Sanogo was visibly dejected and feeling something he had only felt once before during this entire season.
This loss was only East Side’s second of the entire season as they compiled a record of 30-2, which will stand as one of the finest seasons ever by a New Jersey public school, regardless of whether they ended up as TOC winners or not.
In Monday’s game, Sanogo, who is heading to Seton Hall next year, finished with five points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals as he battled foul trouble in the second half. While his statistics do not exactly stand out, it was his tireless work rate and ability to significantly affect both ends of the floor that helped lead his team along the comeback trail.
Those are the attributes and characteristics that Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, who was in attendance for last night’s game, will come to enjoy as he coaches Sanogo in South Orange.
While the loss to St. Joe’s may have been disappointing for Sanogo now, he told SNY.tv it may ultimately help him in the long run as he continues to grow as a player.
“This loss fuels me more to get in the gym,” he said. “[I’ll] take a couple of days off and get in the gym to work and get right back at it. And hopefully, I’ll make something of this basketball career.”
On Tuesday, Sanogo was one of four Seton Hall pledges named to the Jordan Regional Game April 18 at Barclays Center. Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado and Desi Rodriguez will join him, while Isaiah Whitehead is in the National game.
Sanogo’s dedication to improving his game as soon as possible is a product of the journey Sanogo and his East Side team have taken over the past four years as they have battled naysayers, transfers and the unfair reputation that their city has garnered.
“You’ll be walking down the street and you’ll hear, ‘You’ve got to win this for us. The city has your back,’ ” Jamar Gilbert said to Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger. “Growing up, you’d only hear the bad things about Newark. We want to do something good for the city.”
Newark East Side coach Anthony Tavares spoke about this team’s long-lasting impact that goes far beyond the hardwood.
“The biggest story is that we have two qualified Division 1 athletes that don’t have to go to a prep (school) or JuCo (first),” he said said. “Next year, they’re going to step on a college campus and be eligible right away. To be able to say that a public school with three Division 1 qualified athletes, that’s what the overall goal is.
“That’s what I think this team is going to be measured by. Silver balls are nice, but I want this team to be measured by the fact that this was a group of kids who went to a public school in the city of Newark, got a scholarship offer, qualified for it and don’t have to sit out (their first year). That’s what this team is going to be defined for. Not only did they have the results on the court, they had the results in the classroom.”
Even in defeat, Sanogo echoed both Gilbert and Tavares’ statement after the game.
“We proved a point that not all kids from Newark are bad,” he said. “We proved that with hard work anything can be done. If we were able to stay together as a family, anything can be done.”
He added: “I don’t think it’s fair that we have to go through all this hard work and teams can just come out of nowhere and transfer kids from others school to make a super squad. Something has to be changed from that. Either with the NJSIAA or something. That’s completely unfair.”
St. Joseph (Met.) featured Kentucky commit Karl Towns, Vanderbilt commit Wade Baldwin, Canisius commit Raven Owen, uncommitted Marques Townes and rising sophomore Breein Tyree. Of the five players, only Towns has been enrolled at St. Joe’s for all of his academic years to date.
With that in mind, Sanogo did acknowledge that his team “hung with the “super squad” that was St. Joe’s” in a way that symbolized he and his teammates’ entire high school career, proving wrong all those who doubted them from the very beginning.
“My teammates are like my first family and I love them,” he said.
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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.