A sea of red for Nutley’s Maroon Raiders — Six athletes sign National Letters of Intent together

NUTLEY – There they sat last Wednesday, six members of the Nutley High School Class of 2019 all signing National Letters of Intent to NCAA Division I schools.

Incredibly, all six Maroon Raider athletes were wearing red. As it turned out, all six are going to schools that have red as their predominant color.

Of course, four are headed just a little south to Piscataway and Rutgers University.

But one is headed to Stony Brook and another to St. John’s, so it was a total sea of red as these proud athletes enjoyed their moments in the sun, signing scholarship letters with their parents and family members watching.

“It’s a great day to be a Maroon Raider,” said John Luberto, who signed to play baseball at Rutgers.

It was certainly a great day for the Nutley baseball program, as Luberto joined teammates Marty Higgins (St. John’s) and Josh O’Neill (Stony Brook) as scholarship signees.

Luberto was the last of the trio to secure a scholarship, as Higgins and O’Neill made their intentions known over a year ago.

“I liked the idea that the school is in New Jersey,” said Luberto, a right-handed pitcher. “I liked the school and liked the baseball program. This definitely feels great. It’s on our shoulders now to have a good year with all three of us now signed. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Higgins said that there was a special feeling actually putting his name to the letter.

“I committed a while ago, but once I saw the letter in front of me to make it official, it was all so incredible,” said Higgins, who will also play basketball this winter before hitting the Oval to pitch and play shortstop. “I’m officially a Johnnie and I’m excited about that. It’s going to be exciting for us this season with me, Josh and John. I think we’re going to have a lot of expectations.”

Higgins, whose father, Marty, Sr. is the all-time leading basketball scorer at Nutley and played basketball at the University of Maine in his heyday, said that he always dreamed of becoming a Division I baseball player.

“I guess it started when I was in middle school when I had the dream of becoming a Division I athlete,” Higgins said. “I remember seeing a bunch of other Nutley athletes getting a chance and I said I wanted to be like them.”

Higgins will major in biology at St. John’s and will participate in the school’s Pre-Med program.

“But to be here with my classmates and friends is special,” Higgins said. “This is one of the best athletic classes Nutley has had in a while. I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Higgins said that he was always a baseball player, even though his father is the record setter in basketball.

“I’ve known since I was little that baseball is my sport,” said Higgins, who should eclipse the 1,000-point plateau sometime this basketball season. “Especially since my father was a basketball player. Having my Dad to push me along was incredible, making sure everything was the best for me.”

O’Neill gave Stony Brook his commitment over a year ago.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for a while now,” said O’Neill, a solid right-handed pitcher. “To make it official now makes it a lot better feeling. I now don’t have to worry about getting looked at for college. I can just go out and pitch and play with my two other teammates who have also signed. I think this is going to boost morale for the whole town. I think we have really high expectations for this year.”

O’Neill will major in business administration at Stony Brook.

Courtney Wilde, another two-sport athlete (basketball and softball) signed her letter to attend Rutgers and play softball. Wilde will major in special education at Rutgers.

Wilde said that she attended a hitting clinic at Rutgers and caught the eye of the new coaching staff there. She only verbally committed to Rutgers in October.

“It’s a whole new program there,” Wilde said. “I loved the school, the facilities. It’s the state school and the academics are pretty good. I’m also good friends with the others going to Rutgers.”

Wilde is like Higgins in the fact that she is also approaching the 1,000-point milestone this season.

“I know I’m getting pretty close,” Wilde said. “It’s a great day for all of us, a dream come true. I just had to trust the process. I knew my class was athletic, but this is really incredible.”

Close friend and basketball teammate Alaina Feaster is headed to Rutgers on a crew scholarship.

“I always wanted to go to Rutgers,” Feaster said. “My brother went there. It’s just so exciting to be a part of this.”

Feaster will study nursing at Rutgers.

Crew teammate Alexis Nguyen will be a teammate of Feaster’s with the crew team at Rutgers. Nguyen is the coxswain of the Nutley varsity four crew team that Feaster rows for.

“Alaina is one of my best friends, so this is great that I can share this with her,” Nguyen said. “It’s the best thing that we can do this together.”

The six were all wearing their new school colors, even if those colors all look very similar, trading maroon for red.

“I’m just proud of everyone here,” O’Neill said. “We have a very skilled and talented senior class. I’m sure we’ll have more signing letters before the school year is out.”




It was a great day for Nutley athletes as six signed NCAA Division I National Letters of Intent. Front row, from left, are Alexis Nguyen (Rutgers, crew), Courtney Wilde (Rutgers, softball) and Alaina Feaster (Rutgers, crew). Back row, from left, are John Luberto (Rutgers, baseball), Josh O’Neill (Stony Brook, baseball) and Marty Higgins (St. John’s, baseball). Photo by Jim Hague




Learn more about the writer ...

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.”