The Nutley High School boys’ basketball team won 13 games last season, but if things go according to plan, the Maroon Raiders should improve on that total this season.
“There’s been a lot of instruction to try to get back to what we do best,” veteran Nutley head coach Bob Harbison said. “We’re structuring the offense a little bit. We still need some work on moving without the ball. If we get a little structure, if we get some sort of a pattern, we should be fine. Right now, there’s too much of a random offense. We need to have more direction. We can’t just hope they play well.”
The Maroon Raiders graduated only one senior from last year’s team.
In the preseason scrimmages, the Maroon Raiders averaged more than 90 points per game.
“We made 20 3-pointers in one scrimmage,” Harbison said. “I think we needed to get pushed around a little bit. We can’t have things go that easily. We have to have some sort of structure.”
Harbison likes the depth that he has on his team.
“We have 12 kids on the roster and I feel confident in all 12 of them,” Harbison said. “I think they’re all going to play a role at some point this year. I know I have eight kids who will get quality playing time, but even the last kid on the bench will have some sort of role.”
Leading the returnees is 5-foot-11 junior guard Marty Higgins, who averaged 13 points per game last season as a sophomore.
“He’s just a good athlete,” Harbison said of Higgins. “He plays hard on both sides. He can stroke the shot pretty well. He’s a very smart player and knows exactly what I want. I talk to him and it’s like talking to a coach. He absolutely has no ego.”
Senior guard Matt Schettino also returns. Schettino is a 5-foot-11 forward who also averaged better than 13 points per game last year.
“He’s a very good scorer,” Harbison said. “He’s a slasher who gets to the basket well. He tends to get under the skin of opponents well. He’s a streaky scorer who can really pour it on when he’s hot.”
Eli Acosta, the football standout, has returned to the hardwood. The 6-foot-3 Acosta does a lot of things for the Maroon Raiders.
“He can jump very well,” Harbison said of Acosta. “He’s very athletic. He can score around the rim and he’s such a good defender that we made him a center.”
Anthony Fabiano is a 6-foot senior guard.
“He’s does all the little things you need,” Harbison said. “He’s also a very good shooter.”
Elmer Zamora is a 6-foot-2 senior forward.
“He has a good mid-range jump shot,” Harbison said. “He has become a pretty good presence down low. He understands what we want to do.”
Senior Andrew Olivo is a 5-foot-10 guard.
“He’s another one who is very athletic,” Harbison said. “He handles the ball well. He’s a tough kid who hustles. He’s constantly diving on the floor.”
The top newcomer is junior Jordan Swann, a 6-foot-2 guard who comes to the Maroon Raiders from California.
“He does it all,” Harbison said of his new point guard. “He handles the ball well and shoots well. He understands how to control the offense. He really likes to give up the ball, making the big pass. He adds a little dimension to our program. He’s an effective kid who I think is going to get the job done.”
Junior Henry Encarnacion is a 5-foot-10 guard.
“He’s a deadly shooter,” Harbison said of Encarnacion, who will see a lot of action. “He’s quick and has the green light to shoot. I’d rather have him taking a three rather than a two.”
Senior John McAloon is a 5-foot-10 forward who adds depth off the bench.
“He’s a good defensive player,” Harbison said.
Junior Jason Nazaruk is a 5-foot-8 guard, Aidan Ozdemir is a 6-foot-3 sophomore forward and Christopher Kruse is a 6-foot-1 guard. Kruse was also a standout player on the Nutley soccer team in the fall.
“Ozdemir is an aggressive player who is good around the rim,” Harbison said. “He’s also a good defensive player. Kruse won’t hurt us when he gets in. He also plays good defense. Nazaruk is a good ball handler and shooter.”
The Maroon Raiders open the 2017-2018 season against Arts of Newark on Friday.
They will also play in the Kearny Holiday Tournament Dec. 26 through 28.
“I think we have the ability to do a lot of good things,” Harbison said. “If we can handle the speed of the game and control our offense, we should be fine. We can make shots. That’s the first battle. I think we can have a pretty good season.”
The Nutley High School boys’ basketball team will count on solid play from its senior contingent. Front row, from left, are Anthony Fabiano and Matt Schettino. Back row, from left, are John McAloon, Elmer Zamora, head coach Bob Harbison and Andrew Olivo. Photo by Jim Hague