Nutley’s Schettino reaches 1,000-point milestone

Matt Schettino never envisioned himself as becoming a basketball star.

In fact, the Nutley High School senior was destined to become a football player, but Schettino hit a major roadblock as a freshman.

“I had a couple of concussions, but the last one was really serious,” Schettino said. “I lost my memory for a while, so it was scary. It was time to call it quits.”

Schettino never seriously played basketball until most kids his age were flying up and down the hardwood.

“I think I was in fifth grade when I started playing, but I didn’t take it seriously,” Schettino said.

Then, there was almost divine intervention from one of the all-time greats to ever play basketball in Nutley.

Marty Higgins, Sr. is the all-time leading scorer in Nutley boys’ basketball history. He had a brilliant career with the Maroon Raiders before moving on to the University of Maine to play there.

Since his playing days ended, Higgins has been instrumental in the development of a lot of aspiring Nutley hoopsters, including his own son, Marty, Jr., who is currently a junior on the Nutley varsity.

But when Schettino was in eighth grade, the elder Higgins approached Schettino.

“He asked me to play on his travel team,” Schettino said. “He wanted me to get some rebounds. He wanted me to play and that was it. That’s what changed my life. Asking me to play on that team helped me get to where I am now.”
Schettino turned his focus toward basketball and the shift has turned out to be a blessing for everyone involved.

Schettino played junior varsity as a freshman, then became a starter on the varsity team as a sophomore. He’s had a brilliant career, capped with a special moment that took place recently in a game against Cedar Grove, a 65-50 victory.

Schettino became only the fifth boys’ basketball player in the school’s history to reach the prestigious 1,000-point milestone.

“It’s still kind of unbelievable,” Schettino said. “I will look up at the banner hanging in the gym and my name will be there. I’ll be in my 50s or 60s someday and still my name will be up there. It’s an amazing feeling to think my name will be up there on that banner.”
Schettino becomes the first 1,000-point scorer in head coach Bob Harbison’s coaching career.

“I never had one before, so it’s special,” Harbison said.

Harbison was a basketball player at Nutley and he played with Dave Siepert, who eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier in 1982. But Schettino is the first that Harbison coached.

“It’s absolutely special,” said Harbison, who also doubles as the Nutley head baseball coach. “Matt definitely knows how to score. That’s what he does well. To think he was able to do it in just three years is also pretty amazing. He was able to open his game up a little bit and learned how to get to the rim better. He makes his free throws, which helps. He had the means to recognize that he could become a good scorer. It’s definitely a major accomplishment.”
Schettino said that he almost missed the tryouts for basketball when he was a freshman because of the concussion issues.

“I wasn’t cleared by the doctors to come back and play,” Schettino said. “I needed to get clearance from the doctors, so I missed the first day. If I didn’t get cleared, who knows?”

Schettino said that he spent a lot of time developing his game, working with AAU coach Peter Fabiano of the team Fab Five for three off-seasons. Fabiano’s son Anthony is Schettino’s teammate on the Maroon Raiders this season.

“He really helped to mold me as a player,” Schettino said of Fabiano. “That team really helped me out. He was one of my first mentors from seventh grade through freshman year.”
And of course, it took the foresight of Nutley’s all-time scoring leader to encourage the latest member of the 1,000-point club.

“If he (Higgins) didn’t ask me to come play, I might not have ever played basketball,” Schettino said. “It’s really awesome. Thank God, I got the shot to play.”

Even with the chance to play, Schettino needed to have a solid senior season to reach the plateau.

“Before the season started, I had about 700 points, so obviously I needed 300,” Schettino said. “I was kind of keeping track and I knew I was coming close. I wanted to make sure that I did it at home. There was some pressure at one point to make sure that happened.”

Schettino had one game this season where he scored 40 against Montclair Kimberley Academy ( a game where he drained an astounding 10 3-point field goals) and another game against Morris Hills where he went for 30.

The Maroon Raiders were set to face Irvington in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs this week.

Schettino doesn’t know quite yet what the future holds after graduation. He is considering enlisting in the United States Navy, but if he goes to college, he would like to continue the basketball career that was stoked by Nutley’s all-time scoring leader.

“If he didn’t ask me to play, it never would have happened,” Schettino said of the elder Higgins. “I owe a lot to him.”

Remarkably, Higgins’ son, Marty, Jr. is on pace to become the sixth Maroon Raider to eclipse the 1,000-point mark. Marty Higgins will need approximately 120 points next year, so barring injury, the younger Higgins will join his father and his teammate on the banner in the gym.

“That will be so great to have 1,000-point scorers back-to-back,” Schettino said. “Harb (Coach Harbison) didn’t have one for so long and now he’ll have two in two years. That’s incredible.”

Schettino said that he’s also contemplating going out for the outdoor track team after the basketball season is finished. Schettino said that he will compete in the high jump and long jump. Maybe there are at least a thousand jumps left in Schettino’s high school career. His basketball career was obviously historic.


Nutley High School senior Matt Schettino scored the 1,000th point of his career recently in a win over Cedar Grove, becoming the fifth player in Nutley boys’ basketball history to reach the milestone. Photo by Jim Hague

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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.”