Harrison’s Namiotko emerges as all-around star

Piotr Namiotko was born in the United States, moved to Poland with his family when he was just five months old and returned to the U.S. when he was 12.

Namiotko played all the major sports growing up, especially football and basketball, which he kept with him after enrolling at Harrison High School a little more than three years ago.

However, Namiotko never participated in his main sport, which is volleyball, until he was in eighth grade.

“My cousin, Ziggy Goryn (a former standout at Wayne Hills) got me into it,” Namiotko said. “I just enjoyed the sport. Everyone was friendly and helpful.”

But there was no instant success.

“I was terrible,” Namiotko said. “I didn’t know what I was doing. At first, it wasn’t easy. The coaches would have to take me over to the side to teach me what I was doing wrong. After I joined my club team (the Warren Six Pack), I started to get the hang of it.”

Namiotko quickly developed into a solid player for the Blue Tide, playing a lot as a freshman, but still learning a lot as the matches went on.

Last year, Namiotko emerged as one of the top performers in the state, leading the Blue Tide to their first-ever state championship, the North Jersey Group II title and a berth in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

That wasn’t enough for Namiotko. He wanted to become more of a complete player.

“We knew that Piotr was going to be a force to be reckoned with this season,” said Harrison head volleyball coach Nick Landy. “He’s a great competitor. But this year, he didn’t want to be just a net player. He wanted to play all the time, so he worked on digging balls and passing balls. He does everything now and leads by example. He doesn’t have to say much. Everyone knows him and respects him because of his skill level.”

But now, admirers have another reason to acknowledge Namiotko’s abilities.

“Last season, David Penaherrera gave us a lift from the backline and I had to come out,” Namiotko said. “It was a big loss for us. I just wanted be an all-around player. So I played every day, indoor, outdoor, on grass, in the sand, two-on-two, whenever I could. I knew I could do it, play all the repetitions. It gave me confidence.”

Landy believes that Namiotko is the best player he’s ever coached.

“I’ve watch him mature into that role,” Landy said. “Because of some of the things he does, he can be pretty frightening. He hits the ball so hard that I worry about someone getting hit with the ball. There are times that I turn to my assistant coach (Anthony Sabia) and say, ‘Did you see that?’ It’s just a thrill to watch him.

Added Landy, “He just wants to be involved all the time. He wants to be a part of the action all the time. He’s more of a team contributor now.”

Last week, the Blue Tide had a tremendous week, winning all six matches to improve to 13-0 on the season. They capped their outstanding week with wins over state-ranked teams like Fair Lawn, St. Joseph of Montvale and Hackensack to improve to 13-0 and most certainly a state ranking among the top four in the state when the polls come out later this week.

In the matches prior to the three on Saturday, Namiotko collected 89 kills, 41 digs, 14 blocks, 13 service points and three aces.

For his all-around efforts, Namiotko has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Namiotko likes being the team leader.

“I like being the one who brings the team up,” Namiotko said. “I like being with my teammates. Instead of now being on the bench after four rotations, I can stay on the floor. It’s easier to talk to my teammates when I’m on the floor. I try not to put pressure on myself. I just try to play volleyball like I know how to play.”

Namiotko played football in the fall and basketball in the winter for the Blue Tide.

“It definitely kept me in shape,” Namiotko said. “It’s not easy to run with football equipment on, so that helped me a lot. I wanted to become an all-around athlete this year.”

Namiotko already has a verbal commitment to NJIT to play volleyball there, but there’s a slight glitch. Namiotko doesn’t have the Scholastic Aptitude Test scores to get into NJIT, so the scholarship is on hold.

“It’s a little rough, but I’m trying to get the scores up,” Namiotko said. “No matter what, that’s where I want to go.”

Namiotko plans to major in business at NJIT.

“I like getting the chance to play against the big guys like we did over the weekend,” Namiotko said. “The tougher the competition, the bigger the people I face. I always like going up against guys who are like 6-foot-8.”

Landy sings Namiotko’s praises.

“I absolutely love the kid,” Landy said. “He’s just a great kid. He stuck it out with us when we had some tough times. I know Coach (Noel) Colon (the Harrison boys’ basketball coach) is a big fan of Piotr’s. We don’t have to worry about him at all.”


Harrison senior hitter Piotr Namiotko. Photo taken by Anthony Sabia




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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.”