Harrison’s Rutherford becoming a complete basketball player

Photo by Jim Hague Harrison junior guard Quincy Rutherford.
Photo by Jim Hague
Harrison junior guard Quincy Rutherford.

He’s been called the best basketball talent to come along in Harrison in quite some time, but Harrison High School head boys’ basketball coach Noel Colon still wanted a little more from the sensational junior Quincy Rutherford.

“We’re asking him to do a little bit more this year,” Colon said. “We’re asking him to get more rebounding and more assists. We want him to try to make his teammates better players.”

However, over the first few games of the season, the 6-foot-3 junior was in a bit of a basketball funk.

“I was in a slump,” Rutherford said.

“He struggled a bit,” Colon said.

Rutherford had two games where he scored just six points. Last year, as a sophomore, Rutherford averaged nearly 19 points per game. He would have scored six points before he even broke a sweat. Now, he had two full games where he had bad outings, including one game against Cliffside Park where Rutherford made just three of 18 shots from the floor.

“What can I say?” Rutherford said. “I was forcing the issue too much. I was really stressed out. Six points in a game? That was terrible and it happened twice.” “

He just couldn’t get into a rhythm,” Colon said. “He was getting good looks at the basket, but he just wasn’t making his shots.”

So it was time for Rutherford to hit the drawing board. The Blue Tide had some time off during the Christmas break, so Rutherford went to the gym at Harrison Recreation to work on his shooting with assistant coach Dana John, the former New Jersey City University standout. Or when school returned to session, Rutherford arrived before anyone else and was in the gym taking shot after shot.

“I was taking my 50-to-100 shots a day before classes began,” Rutherford said.

“He knew he could do better,” Colon said. “If we had practice at 10 in the morning, he was there at 8:30. He’s a wonderful kid who just loves the game of basketball. He wanted to do better and honestly, we needed him to play better. He was getting his normal shots, but they just weren’t falling. I wasn’t worried, because I knew eventually those shots would fall.”

Last Tuesday, when the Blue Tide first faced Lyndhurst, Rutherford’s shot started to come back. He scored 18 points and added 11 rebounds and five assists in a 53-25 victory.

Two days later, Rutherford was even better, tallying 29 points with five rebounds and five assists in the Blue Tide’s 63-36 win over Leonia.

Rutherford was back – and in a resounding way.

For his efforts, Rutherford has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week and the first honoree for both 2016 and the winter scholastic sports campaign.

“He just went off,” Colon said. “It was great to see. He’s a big, strong kid, so he was getting to the rim. When he went strong to the basket, he got fouled and made his free throws. I told him that he needed to put himself back on the map and that’s what he did. When Quincy gets going, he’s pretty tough to stop.”

Rutherford said that he simply took a deep breath and let the game come to him.

“I just let it flow,” Rutherford said. “I listened to what Coach John had to say. It helped a lot, because I feel better about the way I’m playing.”

Now, with the added play from improving sophomore guard Johnathan Leiras, who scored 38 in one game against New Milford and 20 against Queen of Peace, the Blue Tide has a powerful scoring 1-2 punch.

“Johnathan has really helped us out a lot,” Rutherford said. “He’s stepped his game up as our point guard.”

Rutherford knows that he has to help the team in other facets of the game.

“I’m trying to get more rebounds and more assists,” Rutherford said. “I’m trying to handle the ball more and distribute it. When I have the ball, teams are paying more attention to me and collapsing on me, so I have to find the open man. I’m just trying to help the team out any way I can.”

Colon believes that Rutherford could play on the collegiate level.

“He can definitely get even better,” Colon said. “He’s only a junior, so there’s still room for improvement. He’s still young. He’s only 16 years old. The good thing is that he wants to get better, but he’s more about making the team better, so he’s working on his weaknesses. But he can definitely play at the next level. He’s a next level player or even better, a scholarship player. Schools might like having a 6-foot-3 point guard who can shoot.”

Rutherford has that goal in mind.

“My parents don’t have a lot of money and I don’t want them stressing over sending me to college,” Rutherford said. “Getting into college is definitely an important thing for me. Every time I work out or practice hard, I have college in mind. It feels good, but I know I can do better. I feel proud.”

Colon is confident that his star player will improve.

“His best basketball is still ahead of him,” Colon said.

Now that Rutherford has overcome his slump and playing like he usually does, with the combination of Leiras, the Blue Tide just might be able to have a prosperous season after all.

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”