Jose Camano has gone from being the good-guy assistant boys’ basketball coach at his alma matter Harrison High School for two years to the bad-guy head coach this season.
So how has the transition gone for the former three-sport superstar at Harrison, the 2008-2009 Observer Male Athlete of the Year?
“I would say for the most part, the relationship is completely different,” said Camano, who was a soccer, basketball and baseball player at Harrison in his heyday. “It’s a whole different atmosphere. Things are totally different now.”
For one, there’s a new style of defense.
“We’re going man-to-man full court,” said Camano, stressing defense as an important tool.
And offensively, the Blue Tide will be high octane.
“We’re going to try to push the ball up the court,” Camano said. “We’re going to change the pace we play at. I think we have the kids to play up-tempo. I like that style. I think it was always my favorite way to play.”
Camano feels that the Blue Tide players like the same style as well.
“I do sense that the kids like it,” Camano said. “I preach defense first. I think if we can play defense well, we can get a lot of easy baskets. We can get offense out of our defense.”
Camano said that he does change defenses from time to time. But for the most part, it’s man-to-man.
“We don’t have a lot of size, so we have to do things differently,” Camano said. “By being more aggressive with pressing a lot, we can be more successful. We do have the speed to do it.”
So far, so good.
“Our practices are intense,” Camano said. “Everyone is competing for a job. No one has been handed anything. We came in with a fresh start. We acted like we didn’t know anyone. They had to come and prove themselves.”
The 29-year-old Camano has a sense that the Blue Tide players are buying in.
“We had a scrimmage where our defense was up to par,” Camano said. “We need to practice our offense.”
Camano said that he always thought he could be a head basketball coach someday, but didn’t know it could come so soon.
“It was always in the back of my mind,” Camano said of coaching. “It’s been a surreal moment for me. I never thought this was possible, not at this age. It’s where I grew up, where I went to school. I grew up in Harrison and played basketball in Harrison. There’s no better place for me to coach.”
Leading the returning players is senior guard Uli Rodriguez. The 6-foot-1 Rodriguez has played two years of varsity basketball, so he has the experience.
“Last year, we relied on him for his offense,” Camano said. “He had to develop his defense. But he’s one of the great 3-point shooters we’ve ever had.”
Senior Anthony Zamora is the team’s starting point guard. The 5-foot-10 Zamora is playing in his third year of varsity basketball.
“He’s the perfect guy to run my offense,” Camano said. “He can control the tempo. He’s the pilot of the plane. He controls it all.”
Senior Erik Feliz is the Blue Tide’s power forward/center. The 6-foot-2 Feliz was ineligible to play last season, but has come back this year with a new sense of responsibility.
“He’s become a young adult,” Camano said. “Once I took the job, he said that he wanted to come back, so he’s become more responsible. He’s one of our best all-around players. He can shoot it from outside and can go down low and scored there. He’s a big factor in what we do.”
Senior Daniel Rueda is a starter at forward. The 6-foot-2 Rueda is a three-year veteran of Blue Tide basketball.
“He’s another all-around player,” Camano said of Rueda. “He’s our go-to guy to get a defensive stop, get a turnover, get a rebound. If I tell Danny to do something, he’s going to do it.”
Senior Raymond Ugaz is a 5-foot-8 guard.
“He’s our defensive specialist,” Camano said of Ugaz. “He’s going to lock down the opponent’s best player. He wanted to play club volleyball in the past, but once he knew I was the coach, he switched to playing basketball.”
Junior Chris Mendez is a 5-foot-9 guard.
“His asset is his speed,” Camano said. “And his specialty is defense. He can do a lot of things defensively.”
Senior Kariel Arias is a 6-foot-1 forward.
“He’s another all-around player,” Camano said. “He grabs rebounds. He can shoot the ball. He’s lengthy with his arms. He helps on the defensive side. He’s just a good athlete.”
Senior Omar Velez is an undersized 5-foot-11 center.
“He has nice footwork near the basket,” Camano said. “He can shoot the outside shot and could be a good threat.”
Senior Kevin Martins is a 5-foot-10 guard.
“He’s a good offensive player who can put the ball in the basket,” Camano said. “He’s really ready to improve his game. He’s a nice guy to have coming off the bench.”
The Blue Tide open the new season on the road in Leonia. They will also play in the Elmwood Park Christmas Tournament along with Elmwood Park, Ridgefield and Cliffside Park, with the Blue Tide playing the host squad in the first round on Saturday, Dec. 28.
The Blue Tide’s first home game will be Jan. 3 against Ridgefield.
“I’m really encouraged by what I’ve seen so far,” Camano said. “What they’ve shown me so far has been good and I’m looking forward to starting off strong.”
Harrison’s new head boys’ basketball coach Jose Camano, a former Observer Male Athlete of the Year, has his team playing up-tempo this season. From left are Anthony Zamora, Erik Feliz, Camano, Uli Rodriguez and Daniel Rueda. 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.”