By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
There was never any denying the immense basketball talents of Jeremy Joseph.
When Joseph arrived at Queen of Peace last year, he was instantly installed into the Golden Griffins’ starting lineup as the top point guard.
There was only one problem. Joseph didn’t know if he was exactly ready for the challenge.
“Honestly, I was a little scared,” Joseph said.
It didn’t help that Joseph happened to break his nose, not once, but twice.
“The first time it happened, I thought it would make me better,” Joseph said. “I knew I could compete, but then I had to wear a mask and that took a while to get used to it. Once I got comfortable with the mask, I took it off and I broke it again.”
“I asked a lot of him as a freshman,” Queen of Peace head boys’ basketball coach Tom McGuire said. “I was asking him to be the point guard and it was a lot. Then, he got hurt.” So when plans were being made for the 2013-14 season, McGuire made a huge change. He took the ball out of Joseph’s hands and moved him to the starting off-guard slot.
“I wanted him to be more of a scorer,” McGuire said. “He was the best player on the team and the best player on the court. I wanted to use him in a better way.”
Joseph knew he had to become a better player. So in the offseason, Joseph became a regular in the QP weight room. He grew, became bigger and stronger.
“He grew to 6-foot-3,” McGuire said. “He put on 15 pounds of muscle.”
Joseph also joined a prestigious AAU program in Whippany in Morris County and played basketball all summer long.
And one more important fact – Joseph never took the facemask off again.
“I was fine with it and became used to it,” Joseph said of the mask. “I figured that if it was going to happen again, it was going to happen. I couldn’t play with the fear of getting hurt again. I just felt more comfortable. It was better for the other players if I didn’t play the point, better for the team. I’m not the best ball handler in the world, so if someone else handled it, it would be better for everyone.”
McGuire said that putting Joseph at the shooting guard slot helped his immense ability to rebound.
“He is an incredible rebounder,” McGuire said. “He averaged about seven rebounds per game last year, but he’s better than that. He wants to get that defensive rebound and then take the ball up the court, dribbling through everyone. He has also improved his jump shot. He’s now definitely more inside-out. He’s a true slashing player. He just gets the ball to the hoop.”
Joseph knows that he has improved as a player – utilizing his speed to the fullest.
“It’s the only way I know how to score,” Joseph said. “I go quick. I get the rebound and push the ball up the floor. I crash the boards, get the ball and play off that fast pace.”
Joseph has also become a more confident player.
“My mentality has changed,” Joseph said. “I’ve become a lot tougher and more aggressive. I can’t wait for things to happen. I have to make them happen. I just have to do what I have to do.”
The results have been staggering. Joseph has become one of the top players in the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference, emerging as a two-way force, scoring and rebounding.
Joseph is averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds per game for the Golden Griffins, one of the most improved teams in the NJIC-Liberty Division.
In a recent win over Harrison, Joseph had an astounding 29 points and 22 rebounds. He also had 24 points, 11 rebounds and four steals against Rutherford, added 13 points and 11 rebounds against Lyndhurst, 15 points and 11 rebounds against Secaucus and 15 points and 13 rebounds Sunday night against St. Mary’s of Rutherford in a game played at Felician College.
For his efforts, Joseph has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
“He now has the mentality that he can score,” McGuire said. “His decision making is very good and it’s improving. Once he develops a jumper off the dribble, he will become a better player. He definitely has made me look smart, moving him from point guard. You can only tell someone to do so much. When he does the other little things, he’s very impressive. He even impresses me.” Don’t forget that Joseph is just 15 years old and only a sophomore. There’s a lot of room to grow and improve.
“I think he’s doing well, but I still think he can do more,” McGuire said. “He can improve his shooting numbers. He can shoot the three (point shot) better.”
“There’s always room for improvement,” Joseph said. “That’s how I look at it.”
Joseph is a very driven player. His family originates from Sri Lanka, so he has a goal that is related to his heritage.
“I want to become the first college basketball player from Sri Lanka,” Joseph said. “There’s never been one. People from Sri Lanka are usually cricket players. One of my dreams is to become a Division I college basketball player.”
McGuire realizes Joseph has talent, but there’s a long way to go.
“Ultimately, if he grows a little and gets stronger, he can be a legit prospect,” McGuire said. “We’ll see. The potential is definitely there. We haven’t seen the best of him yet. I don’t know where the potential will stop.”
There is one aspect to Joseph’s potential that McGuire doesn’t have to worry about. Joseph is an excellent student.
“He’s No. 2 right now in his class,” McGuire said. “He’s extremely bright. Anything you throw at him, he understands and picks it up right away. He’s extremely smart on the floor and what he sees on the floor.”
Joseph is a native of North Arlington who has always aspired to be a Golden Griffin hoop standout.
“I went to Queen of Peace grammar school,” Joseph said. “My brother (Josh) was a varsity basketball player at QP and I used to go to all his games. I knew that when my time came around, I wanted to do the same thing. He inspired me. I feel I’m right on target in being a good player. I can only improve if I intensify my game.”
It appears as if Jeremy Joseph is definitely right on target and that the future is bright.