Nutley boys’ basketball team looks to be improved

There’s a lot of optimism in the gym at Nutley High School these days, stemming from the Maroon Raider boys’ basketball team.

And rightly so.

Considering that the Maroon Raiders won 12 games last year and welcomes back most of that team this season.

It means that the Maroon Raiders are talented and experienced, traits that encourage veteran head coach Bob Harbison.

“They’re not only working harder and getting better, but they’re more mature,” Harbison said. “They’re a much more attentive group. They’re all better players. We have some decent players coming off the bench and that makes us a better team. The kids are working hard and we’re definitely trying to get them to play hard.”

Leading the way is 5-foot-11 senior guard Marty Higgins. Already signed to play baseball at St. John’s next fall, Higgins is also a very talented basketball player. He knocked down nine 3-pointers in a game last year en route to being named Observer Athlete of the Week. Higgins, whose father, Marty, Sr. is the school’s all-time leading scorer and has joined the program as an assistant coach this season, is a talented performer on the hardwood and averaged close to 16 points per game last year.

“A shooter is a shooter,” Harbison said of Higgins. “I do think it’s on the other kids to make sure Marty gets his points. We’re going to jump n his back and let him carry us through. He’s going to have a fine season.”

And barring injury, Higgins should reach the 1,000-point plateau sometime this season, joining his father in that illustrious club. The elder Higgins played basketball at the University of Maine in the early 1990s.

Senior Jordan Swann is the team’s 6-foot-2 point guard. Swann averaged 12 points per game last year in his first year in the program after moving to Nutley from California.

“He’s absolutely a better player,” Harbison said of Swann. “He’s in better shape. He’s a little quicker and faster. I think we’re going to see him have more consistency. He can get into the lane and distribute the ball. I think our success will be on whether he makes the other players better. He could be all around the most skilled player I’ve ever had. If he understands that he has to make the others better, then we will be fine. We need Jordan to run the team more than he needs to score points.”

Senior Eli Acosta is the team’s starting power forward. The 6-foot-5 Acosta is one of the best athletes in the school, playing football and holding the school’s high jump record.

“He’s very good around the rim,” Harbison said. “He is also a good mid-range jump shooter. He’s an athletic kid and maybe the most athletic kid we’ve ever had. We need Eli to rebound and defend.”

Aidan Ozdemir is a 6-foot-3 junior forward.

“He’s a hard worker who plays tough inside,” Harbison said. “He’s a strong rebounder. We’re hoping to get more out of that position this year.”

Senior Jason Nazaruk is a 5-foot-9 guard.

“Jason is a tough kid who is very quick,” Harbison said. “He can shoot it. He has a knack for scoring.”

Chris Kruse is a 6-foot-1 junior guard.

“Chris is an athletic kid,” Harbison said of Kruse, who also plays soccer. “He has great hands and runs the floor well. He could be our best on-the-ball defender.”

Quincy Gilliard is a 6-foot-2 senior forward.

“Quincy can really shoot it,” Harbison said. “He can pop out and knock down shots. He can shoot the three (point shot). He’s strong with the ball and can give us quality minutes.”

Mickey O’Brien is a 5-foot-9 senior guard who also serves as the backup to Swann at point guard.

“He’s a tough kid who goes after the ball,” Harbison said. “He distributes the ball well.”

Tyler Dick is a 6-foot-1 junior forward.

“Tyler is very athletic,” Harbison said. “He will find time on the court in spots. He will help us.”

Louis Greiss is a 5-foot-7 junior guard.

“He’s become a pretty good player,” Harbison said. “He’s perhaps the quickest kid on the floor.”

Nick Schroeder is a 5-foot-11 freshman guard who will stick with the Nutley varsity.

“We had to keep him up with us, because he can really shoot it,” Harbison said. “I like what he does. He’s going to be a really good player for us.”

The Maroon Raiders open their season Dec. 14 when they play host to Newark Tech. They will also play in the Kearny Christmas Tournament once again this season.

Needless to say, it should be an excellent season for the Maroon Raiders.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Harbison said. “I just like the whole thing, the way they play hard, the atmosphere around the team, the way they work. I just like it.”

The optimism is oozing maroon.




The Nutley boys’ basketball team is hoping for success this season. From left are Jordan Swann, Eli Acosta, Jason Nazaruk, head coach Bob Harbison, Mickey O’Brien and Quincy Gilliard. 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.”