Nutley girls truly miss star Watson

It’s taken the first few weeks of the high school basketball season for Nutley head girls’ basketball coach Larry Mitschow to realize one thing.

“It just goes to show you how one player could change an entire team,” Mitschow said. “We didn’t realize how much Blair Watson did for Nutley girls’ basketball. It’s like a 50-point turnaround without her. We realize just how good she was and how she made everyone around her better.”
Watson isn’t in Nutley any longer. She’s playing for the University of Maryland and the nationally-ranked Terrapins.

Watson, who earned McDonald’s All-American status last season, graduated and left a gaping hole in the middle of the Maroon Raiders’ lineup.

“We have practically everyone back from last year except Blair,” Mitschow said. “And yet, we’re struggling.”

The Maroon Raiders participated in the Westwood Christmas Tournament and had three games. They lost all three, including the final one to Midland Park.

“It’s definitely a transition year, a rebuilding year,” Mitschow said after his team dropped to 1-5 in the early going.

“This team has to realize that Blair Watson isn’t here anymore,” Mitschow said. “That’s the biggest challenge. We have a young team that keeps making youthful mistakes. In the past, they had someone to rely upon. They don’t have that person anymore. I think this team will learn from their mistakes as the season goes on.”

Leading the way is 5-foot-6 sophomore guard Courtney Wilde.

“She’s usually good at getting to the basket,” Mitschow said. “She’s a decent 3-point shooter. She should be our leading scorer. We were expecting to get so much more from her.”
Needless to say, the potential is there for Wilde to step it up.

Jenny Callaghan is the lone senior on the team. The 5-foot-4 Callaghan, headed to NJIT to play soccer in the fall, is the team’s captain and floor general.

“She’s our best defender on the ball,” Mitschow said. “She’s tireless and is the hardest worker we have. She just works so hard.”

Sophomore Rebecca Granata is a 5-foot-5 bundle of energy.

“She’s our best outside threat,” Mitschow said. “We’re hoping to get her to regularly make those 3s. She can make them.”

Junior Sydney Kunz is a power forward and a three-year starter for Mitschow at the position.

“When she gets the ball, she makes things happen,” Mitschow said. “She goes after the ball hard. She’s our leading rebounder.”

Freshman Abby Scheidel is the starting point guard. The 5-foot-6 Scheidel is the team’s leading scorer in the early going of the season.

“She has a great future ahead of her,” Mitschow said. “She has good basketball instincts. She’s really going to be a good player for us.”

Alaina Feister is a 5-foot-10 sophomore who gives the Maroon Raiders some strength up front.

Mackenzie Moraski is another 5-foot-10 sophomore coming off the bench.

“We have some good inside players,” Mitschow said. “Moraski has been starting a little lately for us.”

Giavanna Modica is a 5-foot-8 junior who is trying hard to get playing time.

“She’s finding her way right now,” Mitschow said.

So is Mitschow and his entire team. It’s been an uncharacteristic start for the Maroon Raiders, but then again, it’s the first time in four years that the team is without Watson, the all-time leading scorer in school’s history.

“We’re going to have to find a way to get things going without Blair,” Mitschow said. “So far, it hasn’t been easy.”

No one ever said it was going to be.

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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.”