Kearny’s Aquino fitting in well at Montclair State

Former Observer Female Athlete o Year making mark with Red Hawks

Photo by Jim Hague/ Kearny High grad and former Observer Female Athlete of the Year Janitza Aquino is already making strides as a college basketball player at Montclair State University.


By Jim Hague

Janitza Aquino has only been a college basketball player at Montclair State University
for a few weeks now, but the former Kearny High School standout is getting accustomed to her new life and her new surroundings.
“It’s a new level and everything is a little quicker,” said Aquino, last year’s Observer
Female Athlete of the Year after excelling in three sports at Kearny. “I thought it would
take a little time to get used to it. I knew in the beginning I couldn’t expect much. I
just figured I would work hard and go with it.”
As it has turned out, Aquino has already made a mark with the Red Hawks. She was named the Montclair State Female Athlete of the Week last week for scoring 15 points
in a loss to Mount St. Mary. She’s played in all six Red Hawk games, including one last week against Rutgers-Newark in Newark.
Aquino is averaging only 3.2 points per game in those six games, but according
to Montclair State head coach Karin Harvey, Aquino is fitting in nicely with the MSU program.
“We were really excited to get someone like

Photo by Jim Hague/ Janitza Aquino (left with the ball) makes a move up court last week in a game against Rutgers-Newark’s Brittany Smith in Newark.

Janitza to come to Montclair State,” Harvey said. “She also definitely wanted to be here.
We all really liked her when she was in high school and we felt that if she came here,
she could help us right away. I think she wanted to stay close to home and that was a factor
as well.”
Harvey was asked if Aquino was going to have a tough time making the transition from
high school to college.
“Everyone develops at a different rate,” Harvey said. “I think Janitza came from a good program and her high school coach (Jody Hill) was excellent with Janitza. You could tell that Janitza had excellent coaching before she came to Montclair. I think that has helped to make the transition easier. She was prepared well for college basketball.”
Harvey likes what Aquino is bringing to the table.
“She’s a very hard worker and a team player,” Harvey said. “She has a good attitude and she’s a very good piece to the puzzle in helping us become successful.”
Harvey thinks that Aquino is a good fit for her team. “She’s a smart player who is very versatile,” Harvey said. “She can play either the point guard or the shooting guard. She gives us a little instant offense when she comes in. She also passes the ball well and looks for her teammates well. Her biggest challenge right now is on the defensive side, but she’s willing to accept
that challenge and wants to become a better defender.”
Aquino realizes that she needs work as a defensive player.
“That’s always been my biggest problem,” Aquino said. “I’ve never been a strong defender. I have been working on that a lot. I’ve been learning a lot.”
Aquino is living on campus at Montclair State, an experience she truly enjoys.
“I get to enjoy college life being here all the time,” Aquino said. “It’s been a great way to meet new people being at school all the time. It makes things easier with classes, then early practices. It’s really been a great experience.”
Aquino also doesn’t mind concentrating on just one sport in college. She’s now simply a basketball player, not worrying about running from soccer practices to basketball practices and then softball practices like she used to do when at Kearny.
“It’s actually a lot less stressful concentrating on just basketball,” Aquino said. ,“Instead of worrying about three sports, I can work on the one.”
Aquino likes the camaraderie she has already developed with her new teammates, even after only six games.
“We really do have a close team,” Aquino said. “We get along well. The seniors have been great with the other freshmen and it’s good to know that we all have each other’s back. That’s all that
matters. Our record isn’t that great right now (the Red Hawks are 2-4), but we are working hard together.”
Aquino said that she likes the relationship she has developed with Harvey.
“My coach reminds me a lot of Jody Hill, so that has helped,” Aquino said. “Coach Hill really prepared me well for the college experience. I felt like I was ready for it.”
Aquino said that she didn’t expect to make such an impact so soon.
“I’m very surprised,” Aquino said. “I really thought it was going to take a little more time. I’m still getting used to the whole thing. It’s definitely different and it’s definitely harder than high school, but it’s not something I can’t handle. I’ve had some good games early on and that’s given me a boost of confidence. I just want to keep getting better and keep doing well.”
Looks like Janitza Aquino is well on her way.

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