By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
The highest scoring average by any local boys’ high school basketball player this season belongs to John Bianoski, who tossed in more than 25 points per game this season.
Plain and simple, Bianoski may be the best kept secret in the area. He’s a senior at tiny Kearny Christian Academy, which is now housed in the former Sacred Heart School in Kearny. There are only 40 high school students in the school, 15 of which are boys.
“If I don’t play basketball, then who will?” said the 6-foot-6 Bianoski.
Bianoski, a resident of Belleville, was a reluctant basketball player who didn’t join the team at KCA as a freshman.
“I did play a little in fifth, sixth and seventh grade,” said Bianoski, who has attended Kearny Christian since kindergarten. “But I just lost interest. I had the former coaches telling me I should join the basketball team, but I didn’t want to.”
Enter Ariel Friere, who became the head coach at KCA after the untimely death of former coach Joe O’Neill.
“John was six feet at the time,” Friere said. “I met John’s father and he’s like 6-7, so I figured the kid would shoot up. John really didn’t take basketball seriously, but I figured that he might change his mind.”
If you ask Bianoski, he doesn’t know what inspired him to play.
“I honestly don’t know why I did it,” Bianoski said. “I knew that a lot of the seniors on the team had graduated, so I guess that made me do it. I knew we had a new coach coming in.”
But Bianoski didn’t make his decision to play until the last minute.
“I didn’t practice or anything,” Bianoski said. “I came to practice a week before the season started. I hadn’t played at all since seventh grade.”
The rust showed. Bianoski was a mild contributor as a sophomore.
“I don’t think I scored anything,” Bianoski said. “I honestly wasn’t that good. I was so nervous because I hadn’t played in three years. I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t going to quit. I started it and I was going to finish it.”
Bianoski improved dramatically as a junior, averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds per game.
“That’s when you could see that he got better,” Friere said. “I wasn’t as serious when I wasn’t that good,” Bianoski said. “But something clicked for me and I took it more seriously.”
So last summer, Bianoski worked many hours with Friere on his own to get ready for his senior year.
“If I wasn’t going to do good this season, then no one would,” Bianoski said. “I was the only senior and we had another junior. I had to step up my game this year. So in the offseason, I practiced a lot. I worked hard on my post moves and my shooting in general.”
Bianoski spent a lot of time shooting at the basketball hoop in his yard, working on his jump shot.
“I sat him down and told him that I needed him for this year,” Friere said. “I made sure that he was going to work hard this season.”
But no one could have predicted the extent of Bianoski’s improvement, going from scoring 10 a game to 25 per contest.
“That was a huge jump,” Bianoski said. “I wasn’t expecting that. The first game of the season was against Parsippany Christian, the best team in our league. I scored 16 in that game. It gave me a lot of confidence.”
Soon after, Bianoski had 31 points against Hackensack Christian and 33 against Abundant Life Christian.
“Back-to-back games, I had 30 points,” Bianoski said. “We were also on a four-game winning streak. It was tremendous.”
“He has a good work ethic under the rim and has a nice soft touch with his shot,” Friere said.
Bianoski cannot believe how far he’s come in just three years.
“I would have never imagined I would have improved this much,” Bianoski said. “To go from where I was in 10th grade to where I am now, I have to give credit to my coaches for that. If someone would have told me when I was in 10th grade that I would become the best player, averaging what I have scored, I would have said, ‘Well, that’s not me.’ I would have never believed it.”
“It’s very remarkable,” Friere said. “There are not many who have done that, going from 10 points a game as a junior to 25 a game this year. He became a great player.”
Bianoski is also a great student. He owns a 4.0 grade point average and earned a score of 1860 on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests. He stands to be the valedictorian of Kearny Christian’s Class of 2014.
Bianoski was asked if he was a little disappointed that he and the entire team play under almost complete anonymity. The team uses the old Boys Town gym on Belgrove Drive as its home court.
“We can barely get people to come to the games,” Bianoski said. “We only have 40 kids in the high school, so the people who come to watch us are parents and teachers. I’m always trying to get friends to come. It’s really tough.”
Kearny Christian Academy ended the 2013-14 season with a 5-7 record. Friere said that he tried to schedule independent games against other local schools to no avail.
Bianoski does not plan to play basketball in college. He has already been accepted to Rutgers in New Brunswick, but may attend Essex County Community College to save money.
“My goal is to get through college as debt free as possible,” Bianoski said. “I keep going back and forth about what I want to study. I would like to be an architect, but I’m also interested in meteorology and finance. So I’m not sure what I want to do.”
One thing is for sure: Bianoski is glad he put his mind and effort into basketball.
“It was a lot of fun,” Bianoski said. “I just had to keep working hard and keep going with it.”
And the best kept secret in local basketball, the one with the highest scoring average, isn’t so much of a secret anymore.