It’s very rare when the Kearny High School girls’ basketball program sends two products off to play women’s college basketball in the same season.
But that is what will happen this fall, when Kearny grads Samantha Osorio and Eliana Huancaya enroll in college with the intent of playing highly competitive college basketball – Osorio at Moravian College and Huancaya at nearby Rutgers-Newark.
Both Osorio and Huancaya had sensational senior seasons for the Kardinals last winter, who won 18 games.
Osorio averaged 12.2 points and 10 rebounds per contest and had 10 games where she recorded a double-double (double figures in points and rebounds).
The 5-foot-9 Osorio weighed other offers before settling on the school located in Bethlehem in Pennsylvania.
Osorio said that she was introduced to Moravian through Kearny assistant Theresa Hrubash, the former Nutley High School head coach who was also an assistant coach at Rutgers-Newark for several seasons.
“The Moravian coaches came to see me play in a summer league game,” Osorio said. “That’s when I first met them. Then they started coming to my games. I took that into consideration when it came to picking schools. It helped making Moravian No. 1.”
Osorio said that she visited Moravian a few times.
“I went to a couple of games and did an overnight,” Osorio said. “I felt comfortable. I had a sense of family. They welcomed me with open arms. After that, I knew I wanted to go there even more.”
Osorio said that she got a good sense of the way Moravian plays by watching them a few times.
“I think I can fit in well and enjoy it,” said Osorio, who never played organized basketball before her freshman year at Kearny. “I think the coaches would like me to become more diversified and work on my ball handling skills. I could also work on my shot. Ever since I started playing, it was always a goal of mine to play in college. I know I can’t just depend on my low post moves. I have to be able to help out anyway I can in whatever role I’m in.”
Huancaya averaged 5.4 points per game and 7.4 assists per game. Her 207 assists was the top mark in the entire state.
Huancaya said that she always looked at the possibility of playing at Rutgers-Newark for quite some time.
“I wanted to stay close to home,” Huancaya said. “I also wanted to go someplace where I could contribute and participate right away.”
Huancaya also felt comfortable with the coaching staff at Rutgers-Newark right away.
“Getting along with the coaches made my decision easier,” Huancaya said. “I didn’t feel out of place.”
Huancaya said that she never planned on playing basketball in high school.
“My mother was the first one to encourage me,” Huancaya said. “My Mom wanted me to be active in high school so she put my name in.”
Huancaya said that she never thought she would play, but when former Kearny two-sport standout and Observer Female Athlete of the Year Megan McClelland missed the state playoff game against Passaic during Huancaya’s sophomore year, giving Huancaya the chance to play, she started to believe in herself.
“That game really gave me the confidence that I could do it,” said Huancaya, who had 10 points and 13 assists that game. “I knew I had been practicing all season, so I knew I could do it. Once I got in, I had no nervousness and it really boosted my confidence.”
Kearny head girls’ basketball coach Jody Hill enjoys the fact that she is sending two players off to the next level from the same class.
“It’s pretty unique,” Hill said. “It’s really a special moment. It was fun to watch and was fun to watch them play together. They really bonded over the years and became really good friends. I watch them get excited together, give each other high-fives. They really care about each other and share happiness together.”
Hill said that it was fun to watch Osorio develop into an All-Hudson County player.
“It’s been really tremendous,” Hill said. “She capitalized on her athleticism and devoted her time to becoming a better player. She’s been all-in and showed how much she loved the sport. She turned just her athletic skill into basketball skill. She’s a modest kid. Deep down, I hope she can realize her true potential. She had a tremendous year and it’s great to see the improvement she’s made.”
Hill, who was a standout Hall of Fame player at Pace University during her heyday, sees Huancaya as a pass-first type of point guard.
“I think Eliana loves having that point guard role,” Hill said. “She already has great ball handling skills. She’s fast and doesn’t lose the ball often. I think it’s safe to call Eliana a “workhorse.” She makes the plays that make the team around her better. We were just lucky to have two great players at the same time.”
Neither player thought that there would be a day where they would be talking about them becoming college players.
“No, no way,” Osorio said. “In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. I guess I just decided to put in the work to make it happen.”
“It feels really great that we were able to connect and share this together,” Huancaya said. “We’re both getting this great opportunity. I’m really excited for the both of us.”
Both have similar goals in college, with both looking to study health sciences in college. Osorio wants to get into the field of athletic training. Huancaya will take her health sciences background hopefully into medical school one day.
There’s only one downside to the two seniors leaving Kearny now.
“It’s a little disappointing that we won’t walk up together to get our diplomas,” Huancaya said. “It’s a little upsetting that we’ll miss out on all the graduation things. But I am also looking forward to starting college.”
And playing basketball in college come November.
“I’m optimistic,” Huancaya said.
Kearny High School classmates and teammates Samantha Osorio (left) and Eliana Huancaya (right) have decided to move on to play college basketball in the fall. Osorio is headed to Moravian, while Huancaya will go to Rutgers-Newark. Photos 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.”