Kearny boys’ hoops squad starts season with split

It’s the second season of Bill Mullins’ second go-round as the head boys’ basketball coach at Kearny High School.

And this time, Mullins is just a little more prepared, after taking the reins last season right before the season was set to begin.

“I got to work with these kids over the summer and in the fall,” said Mullins, a veteran coach who had stints at the now-defunct Queen of Peace and Harrison during his career. “I think that helps a team’s cohesiveness. It’s an advantage that frankly we didn’t have last year. This time, we were able to keep the team together through the summer league and the fall league.”

Mullins is also encouraged by the development of both a middle school team within the Board of Education and travel teams sponsored by the Kearny recreation department.

“That’s going to help get more interest in basketball in town,” Mullins said. “It all takes time.”

Mullins doesn’t know yet if there will be a positive trickledown effect to his Kardinals’ squad.

“It’s hard to tell just yet,” Mullins said. “We had a lot more seniors last year. We have only two seniors now who played varsity last year. We basically have an inexperienced team.”
That’s not good news, when you consider the Kardinals’ have to test the extremely rigid waters of the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League again this season. The Kardinals will face all of the HCIAL powers, including state-ranked Hudson Catholic of Jersey City and Marist of Bayonne.

“We have a very tough schedule,” Mullins said. “We play all the big schools. It’s a very difficult schedule.”

However, the Kardinals emerged from the first weekend of the new season in decent shape, having lost a hard-fought contest to Dickinson in the season opener Friday night, then bounced back less than 24 hours later with a victory over Ferris.

Leading the returnees is 6-foot-3 senior forward Nicolas Souza.

“He’s a tough offensive player,” Mullins said of Souza, who averaged 13 points per game last season. “He’s a little taller than he was last year and is stronger. He has the ability to penetrate defense. He’s one of the best drivers to the basket around. He has a knack of scoring if you don’t look at him.”

Junior Chris Serrano is a 5-foot-11 point guard who also returns from last season.

“Chris handles the ball well and can hit the 3-point shot,” Mullins said. “He has good speed and sees the floor pretty well.”
Serrano is also an excellent baseball player in the spring for the Kardinals.

Senior Pedro Carrero is a 6-foot forward.

“Pedro has a good outside shot,” Mullins said. “He’s a strong kid. He worked on strengthening his body. I’m expecting big things from him.”

Senior Ryan Gruttaduria is a 6-foot-3 center.

“He’s a strong player,” Mullins said of Gruttaduria. “He’s very good down low and that’s where we want him. He’s going to get rebounds and score on put-backs.”

Sophomore Ryan Gil is a 6-foot-3 forward with a ton of potential.
“He has a very good future,” Mullins said. “When he gets bigger and stronger, he’ll be a better player. He’s a hard worker who drives to the basket well. He needs to work on his outside shot. He also jumps well. He can get up there.”

Junior Keuris Matos is a 6-foot-1 center.

“It’s only his second year of playing basketball,” Mullins said of Matos. “He’s going to help us under the basket.”

Senior Henry Soares is a 5-foot-10 guard.

“Henry is very good at taking charges,” Mullins said. “He’s a good all-around player.”

Junior Donovan DaSilva is a 6-foot forward.

“He’s one of our stronger players,” Mullins said.

Senior Yammany Rollins is a 5-foot-8 guard.

“He’s one of our quicker guards,” Mullins said. “He can run the floor.”

Junior Michael Chong is a 5-foot-8 point guard.

“He also has a nice shot,” Mullins said.

Junior Joshua Antigua is a 5-foot-9 guard who is strong on the defensive side.

“He can provide good defensive pressure,” Mullins said.

Senior Camerin Ortman is a 6-foot-1 center and a player to watch.

“This is the first time that he’s playing basketball,” Mullins said. “He’s a powerful kid. He’s going to help us as the season goes on. He’s still learning the system.”

Junior Rafael Souza, the younger brother of Nicolas, is a 5-foot-10 swingman. Junior Jack Cullen, the baseball standout, is a 6-foot-2 forward. Cullen didn’t play basketball last season.
Sophomore Alan Antoneli is a 5-foot-9 guard who also adds a certain dimension to the Kardinals’ bench.

“He has speed,” Mullins said.

Needless to say, Mullins has a deep roster to work with.

“We have a lot of kids,” Mullins said. “The kids are working hard. If they keep the intensity up and outwork our opponents, we’ll be fine. We’ll see how well we manage.”

After facing McNair Academic in Jersey City on Monday, the Kardinals host their own holiday tournament.

The Kearny Christmas Tournament features the Kardinals against the Bard School of Newark, then Nutley facing Cranford in the other semifinal on Friday night. The winners get together Saturday afternoon after a consolation game.

In future games, the Kards face Memorial Jan. 7, then face HCIAL powers St. Peter’s Prep and Hudson Catholic in consecutive games.

“It’s a tough schedule,” Mullins said. “We’ll see where we stand.”




The Kearny High School boys’ basketball team looks to improve this season under veteran head coach Bill Mullins (back row, center). Front row, from left, are Henry Soares, Camerin Ortman and Yammany Rollins. Back row, from left, are Nicolas Souza, Pedro Carrero, Mullins and Ryan Gruttaduria. 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.”