NA boys’ basketball: Totally new blue crew

When veteran basketball coach Rich Corsetto arrived at his first day of practice with his North Arlington High School squad, he noticed one thing.

Corsetto hardly recognized any of the players on the floor.

As he begins his fourth season as the head coach of the Vikings, Corsetto will have an entirely new cast of characters.

“I lost my seven top players from last year,” Corsetto said.

Instead of bemoaning the fact, Corsetto embraced it.

“I enjoy it,” Corsetto said. “I love being with the kids. It’s a big challenge, for sure. But I’ve thrived on challenges. I have no problem with it. It’s something I believe in. I believe we’re going to build something back. Basically, we have last year’s JV (junior varsity) team and they weren’t bad.”

Corsetto likes the makeup of his basically brand new team.

“They’re a great group of kids,” said Corsetto, a veteran of coaching high school and junior college basketball for over 40 years. “They work hard and play well together. They’re having fun.”

Corsetto liked what he saw in an assortment of preseason scrimmages.

“They haven’t done poorly in the scrimmages and any time we find a negative, we correct it and move on to the next,” said Corsetto, crediting his assistant coaching staff of George Rotondo and Marcello D’Andrea. “Those two are dedicated. I’ll tell you. They’re in the gym for four hours a day every day. That’s dedication. They’re loyal guys.”

Corsetto is turning the reins of his team over to 5-foot-10 senior James Ricci, the team’s point guard.

“He’s doing a nice job,” Corsetto said of Ricci, who started on the JV team last year. “He’s strong and physical and does a good job with the ball. He’s a good passer.”

Nick DeGrace, a 5-foot-10 junior, is the team’s starter at off-guard.

“He shoots the ball well,” Corsetto said. “He’s our best shooter. He’s also very aggressive.”

Senior Erik Campion is the team’s 6-foot-1 small forward.

“He’s done some nice things,” Corsetto said. “He’s a decent shooter, a good defender. He moves well.”

The power forwards are junior Brandon Neno and sophomore Matt Lynch. Neno is 6-foot-3 and Lynch is 6-foot-2.

“Neno plays inside,” Corsetto said. “He’s a tough player inside, a good rebounder. He’s done some nice things down low. Lynch is an all-around player. He can score well. He handles the ball decently. He could be our best player.”

The team’s tallest player is senior Alberto Valle, who was suffering from an injury preseason and unable to practice. But when Valle returns, he will be a force.

“He’s a good rebounder,” Corsetto said. “He’s a good defender who blocks shots. He’s going to help us.”

John Policano is a 5-foot-9 guard off the bench.

“He’s a good shooter,” Corsetto said. “He can score.”

Senior Michael Rotondo, a 5-foot-10 guard, is the son of assistant coach George.

“He’s a smart kid who makes very few mistakes,” Corsetto said. “He’s a pretty steady kid.”

Senior Charles Kearney, the baseball standout, is another body close to the basket. Kearney is 6-foot-3.

“He can jump,” Corsetto said. “He is a very good rebounder and plays decent defense.”

Mark Cunningham, a 5-foot-11 senior, is a swing player who can move from forward to guard with ease.

Glenn Full is a 5-foot-7 junior and a bundle of energy.

“He is a very tough kid, who is very aggressive,” Corsetto said. “I like what he brings to us.”

Michael Cortellino is a 5-foot-8 freshman guard who will play varsity right away.

“He’s going to be a good one,” Corsetto said. “He has all the tools.”

The Vikings begin their season Friday night at home against the Marion Charter School from Newark at 7 p.m. A day later, they host the North Star Academy at 2 p.m. so they should get off to a good start.

The William Ferguson Holiday Tournament will feature Leonia, New Milford and Abundant Life Academy Dec. 28 and 29. North Arlington will face Leonia in the opening round.

“The kids are learning,” Corsetto said. “They’re doing what they’re supposed to do. They still make mistakes, but that’s what we do as coaches, correct the mistakes. At times, we’re a work in progress, but other times, we are not.”
But Corsetto admittedly has lesser expectations than he had with prior teams.

“No question, there aren’t the same expectations,” Corsetto said. “Our goal is to be .500 and get better every game.”

That’s all a coach can ask for when an entire roster is replaced.





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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.”