Vikings try to overcome slow start with new coach D’Andrea

Marcello D’Andrea is the new boys’ basketball coach at North Arlington High School. In fact, D’Andrea coached the final eight games last season after Rich Corsetto resigned due to health reasons.

“The transition is always going to be tough being a new head coach,” said D’Andrea, who was the head coach at County Prep in Jersey City before that school discontinued sports. “The transition was more of me getting acclimated to the kids. We kept things going the same way, but I brought a little more of my style. Once the interim tag was removed and I was promoted to head coach, I made the kids more accountable.”
So D’Andrea expected full participation from his players in summer leagues and offseason workouts.

“We wanted to get the program moving in my direction,” D’Andrea said. “We wanted to have the kids get more involved in everything. I had an open door policy and made them more accountable.”

D’Andrea had one initial goal.

“I wanted to develop chemistry between the kids,” D’Andrea said. “I wanted them to depend upon themselves and each other. We have kids that have come from all different avenues. We have kids who came up from the JV (junior varsity). We wanted to develop chemistry as we move forward.”

But as the new season has begun, the Vikings have struggled, losing all four of their games, including last week’s contest with New Milford.

“We’re a work in progress,” D’Andrea said. “We will get better. We will compete.”

Leading the way is senior Nick DeGrace. The 6-foot guard averaged 15 points per game last year, earning All-North Jersey Interscholastic Conference honors.

“He’s a bona fide 3-point shooter,” D’Andrea said of DeGrace. “He definitely can knock down shots.”

DeGrace is averaging 22 points per game this season, including 27 points in a game against Weehawken and 26 in a contest against Wallington.

“He’s added more to his repertoire,” D’Andrea said of DeGrace. “He’s becoming more of a slasher and getting to the basket more.”

Junior Matt Lynch is a 6-foot-2 forward who is averaging 19 points per game and grabbing seven rebounds per outing. Lynch had 25 points against Wallington and 22 against New Milford.

“He’s becoming more of a post presence,” D’Andrea said of Lynch. “He now can step out and knock down shots. He’s also a shot blocker on defense. He’s a good kid who is also good in the classroom.”

Senior Brandon Neno is the team’s 6-foot-4 center.

“He has the highest basketball IQ on the team,” D’Andrea said. “He’s the one who gets to cover the other team’s top player. He also gets on the glass and gets a lot of rebounds. He’s the one who makes the engine go. He’s a very vocal leader. He has a nice game from 10-to-12 feet. He always knows where he has to be.”

Glenn Full is a 5-foot-7 senior guard.

“He’s the fastest individual on the team,” D’Andrea said. “He’s an agitator defensively. He’s learning the point guard position. He has a nice feathery touch and goes hard to the basket. He just needs to develop more of a point guard mentality.”

Devon Males is a 5-foot-8 junior guard.

“He’s a good shooter,” D’Andrea said. “He is athletic and goes to the basket well.”

Mike Cordellino is a 5-foot-6 sophomore who can back up both guard positions.

“He’s the point guard of the future,” D’Andrea said. “He’s adapting to the high school game. He has good pure ball handling ability. He’ll play five quarters (meaning he will bounce back and forth from junior varsity to varsity).”

David Matta is a 5-foot-11 sophomore forward.

“He’s a newcomer to the team and still learning the game,” D’Andrea said. “He’s a tireless player who gives 100 percent. He keeps going hard all the time. He’s made big strides. He’s a big part of the future.”

Zach Young is a 5-foot-11 junior forward.

“He’s a hard-nosed kid,” D’Andrea said. “He sets screens and does all the work that a coach asks for. A team needs a kid like that.”

The Vikings will hope to turn things around this week with games against Harrison on the road and home games against Wood-Ridge and Rutherford.

But one thing is for sure: It’s definitely D’Andrea’s team now. He no longer has to worry about keeping the seat warm for someone else.

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer