By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Paul Palek noticed one important trait about the Lyndhurst High School boys’ basketball team he inherited this season.
“They’ve been eager to learn and quick to pick up on things,” said Palek, a veteran coach who had previously been a head coach at Montville and Wayne Hills and an assistant at Rutgers- Newark. “This has probably been the smoothest transition I’ve had so far as a coach, because of the kids. They give me good effort every day and that’s half the battle. I have no issues whatsoever with the effort.”
Palek has decided to institute a hybrid of the famed Princeton offense.
“The system we run is very complicated,” Palek said. “We’re putting it in piece by piece. We tried to do too much early on, so we scaled it back as they get a feel for it. But the kids have been real good in learning it. I think we’re actually ahead of schedule.”
Palek decided to go with the Princeton approach because he had a sense that his new team could handle that transition because of their basketball intelligence.
“They’re a very bright bunch of kids,” Palek said. “We also have some experience. Any time you get guys with experience, it’s a big plus, especially with a new coach. I think it’s helped the rest of the others come along. That’s been important.”
The Golden Bears’ starting point guard is the diminutive Sergio Turelli. The 5-foot-5 senior, who is also a baseball standout in the spring, has definitely caught Palek’s eye.
“I’m very impressed with him,” Palek said of Turelli. “He’s very quick and is good with the ball. We talk all the time about basketball and things with the team. I’m happy with his progress.”
The shooting guard is 6-foot senior Jake Estevez.
“He’s a strong guard, a physical player,” Palek said. “He also has good instincts on defense.”
Jonathan Hoff, a 6-foot-1 senior, is the team’s small forward. Hoff was the excellent quarterback for the Golden Bears’ football team last fall, passing for almost 2,000 yards.
“He’s our best shooter,” Palek said of Hoff. “He can also post up down low as well. He brings that football leadership to our team. Being a quarterback and having to make decisions makes a big difference to our team.”
Junior Brandon Karlok is another forward. The 6-foot-1 Karlok has a lot of potential.
“He’s long and lanky,” Palek said. “He’s also very athletic. He can also shoot it pretty well. He just needs to get used to the speed of varsity level basketball.”
Senior Kyle Krzastek is the Golden Bears’ biggest player at 6-foot-3.
“He’s our most important player,” Palek said. “He can run and jump well. He’s an unbelievable athlete. We’re going to rely on him a lot to rebound the ball. I expect him to have a big season for us.”
Senior Patrick Dennehy is a 6-foot-2 forward. “He will need to rebound and defend for us,” Palek said. “He’s more of a role guy.” Senior Nunzio Gangi is a 5-foot-10 player who can man both the point guard and shooting guard positions.
“He’s a good defensive player,” Palek said. “He’s still learning the offense, but he’s beginning to fit in.”
Sophomore Vincent Dorio is a 5-foot-9 player with a load of potential.
“He can really shoot the ball,” Palek said. “I just hope he can adapt to playing varsity right away, but I’m really excited about his potential.”
The Golden Bears begin the Paul Palek era on Friday night at home against Dwight-Englewood, with the tipoff slated for 7 p.m.
“I definitely think we can compete, if we keep on getting better,” Palek said. “As a coach, that’s all you can hope for. We’re running a new system for both offense and defense and that takes time. If we can defend, then we can compete. We have to make the other teams work for what they get. If we can defend, it can go a long way.”