What a week for Kearny girls’ hoops: Dilone signs and Hill earns Pace Hall of Fame

It may go down as one of the most storied weeks in the history of Kearny High School girls’ basketball.

On Wednesday, one of the best players to ever grace the hardwood for the Kardinals, senior center Estefania Dilone, signed a national letter of intent to attend Bloomfield College in the fall and play for the storied local coach Vanessa Watson.

A day later, Kearny High School head girls’ basketball coach Jody Hill was inducted into the Pace University Athletic Hall of Fame for her achievements as a basketball player at Pace from 1990 through 1994.

First, Dilone’s signing, which comes as somewhat of a surprise, considering that Dilone was a late bloomer and late comer to the sport.

Dilone initially appeared to be headed to either NCAA Division III Rutgers-Newark or Ramapo, but then Watson, the legendary former coach at Shabazz High School, came forward with an offer that Dilone simply could not refuse.

“I loved the atmosphere at Bloomfield,” said Dilone, who averaged nearly 16 points and 10 rebounds per game last season for the Kardinals, collecting a career-best 20 rebounds in her final game against Hackensack. “I picked Bloomfield because it was close to home, so I could come back and forth. I knew I couldn’t let this offer go to waste. But it was a stressful decision for me.”

Getting a chance to play for a legend like Watson helped the situation for Dilone.

“It was definitely a big part of my choice,” Dilone said. “I knew that I’d have an awesome coach to play for. I’m looking forward to playing for her. Without a doubt, Coach Watson is going to make me a better player.”

Dilone plans on majoring in biology at Bloomfield. She would eventually like to become a physical therapist.

“I might major in biology first and transfer to physical therapy to see how I like it,” Dilone said.

Hill said that she was extremely proud of Dilone.

“It was a great package for Stef,” Hill said. “I’m very happy and grateful that Stef doesn’t have to worry about finances going to college. She’s a special one for me. We had a special connection over the last three years. She’s well deserving of this. She’s a hard working kid.”

Dilone said that she could never have dreamed becoming a scholarship player.

“When I first started playing, no way,” Dilone said. “But once I realized I was getting better, I was determined to get a scholarship. I’m very fortunate and very thankful to get the opportunity. It’s a big deal for me.”
Dilone shared the day with her mother Jessica Zevallos.

“It’s definitely exciting for everyone,” Dilone said.

Dilone said she will waste little time in getting accustomed to college life.

“I plan on taking a couple of summer courses to get ready,” Dilone said. “I know I made the right decision.”

Hill made the right decision 28 years ago when she signed on to play at Pace University after a brilliant All-State playing career at Harrison High School, where she scored more than 2,000 points and led the Blue Tide to a state championship.

After gaining induction to the Pace Hall, Hill is now a member of the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame as an athlete, the Kearny High School Hall of Fame as a coach and now Pace as an athlete.

“It was very humbling for me,” Hill said. “It was a rewarding feeling to be honored. There are so many other great athletes at Pace that were already honored.”
Hill said that she enjoyed her trip back to Pleasantville.

“It was really a great night,” said Hill, who shared the night with her wife Megan and seven-year-old son Ethan, as well as her mother Kathy and sister Melissa. “After you get a call like that, all these memories come back. I just felt really honored that I got a chance to be honored. It was a bit of a reality check for me to realize how long I’ve been out of school. I’m 45 years old now. I never thought I’d have a night like this.”

Hill was a starter at Pace from the minute she walked onto the campus. She started in 123 games, still a Pace record. She is also the school’s all-time leader in assists with 807, over 100 more than any other Pace player. She scored 1,213 points and collected 314 steals, both among the Setters’ all-time leaders.

Hill led Pace to the 1994 NCAA Division II Sweet 16 and was the Most Valuable Player in the 1993 ECAC Division II Tournament, leading the Setters to the tourney title.

“This was a night that I’ll never forget,” Hill said. “It was really special.”

Hill was also able to share the night with her high school coach, namely the legendary Jack Rodgers.

“Rodg was the first call I made when I heard I was getting in,” Hill said. “Besides my family, he’s the most important person in my life. I wanted to have him share this with me. He’s so responsible to my development as a player and then as a coach. All of the experiences we had together and the challenges he gave me.”

Hill still recalls a saying that Rodgers would always quote.

“He said great things can’t happen with mediocrity,” Hill said of Rodgers. “And there’s no such thing as mediocrity with Jack Rodgers. I’m glad I could share this with him.”

Hill said that some of her high school and college teammates and friends were in attendance.

“One of my best friends in high school was Axel Reyes,” Hill said. “He played basketball at Harrison. We have been close friends for many years. He took the time and flew all the way from California to come to the event. It was a nice surprise for me. It was great to share some memories.”

There was only one person missing _ her father Anthony, who died three years ago after battling brain cancer.

“I hope my Dad was looking down and he was proud,” Hill said. “Growing up in Harrison was the best thing in the world.”

Hill created memories that lasted a lifetime. Hopefully Dilone will take her memories to Bloomfield and never forget where she came from.




Kearny High School senior Estefania Dilone (seated) signs her national letter of intent to attend Bloomfield College. With Dilone is her head coach, Jody Hill. Photo courtesy of Jody Hill


Kearny High School girls’ head basketball coach Jody Hill (center) accepts her award as the latest member of the Pace University Athletic Hall of Fame. With Hill are Pace University president Marvin Krislov (left) and Pace athletic director Mark Brown (right). Photo courtesy of Jody Hill












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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.”