Belleville struggling to keep head above water

Photo by Jim Hague The Belleville boys’ basketball team needs solid play from the team’s seniors. Kneeling, from l., are Brandon Torres and Andre Velez. Standing, from l., are Kayson Wilder, Jose Gallardo and Paolo Hinahon.
Photo by Jim Hague
The Belleville boys’ basketball team needs solid play from the team’s seniors.
Kneeling, from l., are Brandon Torres and Andre Velez. Standing, from l., are
Kayson Wilder, Jose Gallardo and Paolo Hinahon.

The record may read just 3-8, but Belleville High School boys’ basketball coach Jim Stoeckel believes that the Buccaneers are a better team than they have been in the past.

“We’re so much further along than we have been,” said Stoeckel, who is in his third year as the head coach of the Bucs. “Last year, we took a few steps forward and got six wins.”

In 2013-14, the season was a complete disaster, as the Buccaneers stumbled to a winless campaign.

“I don’t even want to talk about that,” Stoeckel said.

Last year, the Buccaneers were 6-21 and making strides. That’s why Stoeckel is optimistic thus far.

“We’re playing the way I want them to play,” Stoeckel said. “We’re making the extra pass. We don’t have anyone doing their own thing. We have a young team with two sophomores and two juniors, so the future is looking bright. The kids are starting to get it.”

Stoeckel said that in his past coaching life at Newark Academy, his teams led New Jersey in 3-point baskets made.

“We were always a good shooting team,” Stoeckel said. “I’m not going to say as a coach, ‘Good shot,’ or ‘Bad shot,’ every time down the floor. I know with a young team, we’re still learning. We have a lot of young blood. This is not a one or two-year project. It’s going to take some time. I knew we wouldn’t win 20 games by my third year.”

Stoeckel sees progress and that’s all that matters.

Leading the way right now is 5-foot-8 senior guard Andre Velez, who is averaging 14.7 points per game. Velez has had some huge games early on, like a 31-point explosion against Kearny in the Charlie Dolan Holiday Tournament.

“He can shoot the three (3-point shot) really well,” Stoeckel said. “He’s pushing guys to work hard. He’s become a pretty good leader.”

The Bucs aren’t going to dominate anyone with their size. They start four guards.

Sophomore Dave Mc- Allister is a 5-foot-7 bolt of lightning.

“He’s good with the ball and he’s able to create space with his speed,” Stoeckel said. “He’s getting guys open and he can shoot the ball when he’s open.”

Sophomore Ethan Luarca is a 5-foot-10 guard who is also a good player from the perimeter.

“He’s a smart player who knows the game,” Stoeckel said. “He’s never in a bad spot. He’s not going to hurt you.”

Alcides dos Reis is a 6-foot- 1 junior who goes by the nickname of “Tchi-Tchi.”

“He’s our most athletic player,” Stoeckel said. “He’s our best rebounder. He jumps out of the gym. He’s also a good defensive player. He does everything for us.”

Stoeckel pointed out a game recently against Oratory Prep where dos Reis scored 14 points and collected 10 rebounds.

“He’s been playing really well,” Stoeckel said. Junior Mohammed Yousef is a 6-foot-3 forward, the team’s lone legitimate forward. Yousef is averaging close to 12 points per game.

“He was a JV (junior varsity) player last year, so he’s finally coming into his own,” Stoeckel said. “He’s been dominating in some games. He can play. He’s very skilled.”

Yousef had 22 points and 13 rebounds in one game against Waldwick and tallied 20 points in a game against archrival Nutley.

Freshman Adrielle “A.J.” Henson has been a pleasant find for Stoeckel. The 6-foot- 2 Henson is averaging five points per game as a swingman, seeing time at forward and guard.

Senior Kayson Wilder is a 6-foot-2 forward coming off the bench.

“He’s the first big guy we go to off the bench,” Stoeckel said.

Senior Brandon Torres is a 5-foot-11 player who can see time at three positions.

“He’s so athletic,” Stoeckel said. “He just needs to be more consistent.”

Stoeckel said that the Buccaneers are making strides every game.

“We’re getting more competitive,” Stoeckel said. “We’re in practically every game. The difference between being 3-8 and 8-3 is focus. The first year, hey, every team was better than us. But now, we’re at the point where we’re just about equal with every other team in the league.”

The Buccaneers have a 2-3 record in the Super Essex Conference-Freedom Division standings, a league headed by private school Golda Och.

“We have to treat every possession like it’s gold,” Stoeckel said. “We can’t wait until the last play in the fourth quarter. We have to take care of plays in the second quarter that will decide the outcome of games. Right now, we’re not making those plays. But we will.”

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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.”