The Kearny High School boys’ basketball team was extremely competitive a year ago, winning 11 games, including two wins over Bayonne, one against a very good Dickinson team and then a huge victory over neighboring rival Harrison in the opening round of the Hudson County Tournament last February.
But the Kardinals suffered a huge loss to graduation when high scoring forward Nick Souza received his diploma last June. Souza averaged a little more than 22 points per game, second in Hudson County behind Union City’s Maurice Odum, the state’s leading scorer who averaged nearly 28 points per outing.
Souza did a little bit of everything, collecting five steals per game, including a season-high nine thefts in that aforementioned win over the Blue Tide in the HCT. Souza also led the Kardinals in rebounds as well.
“We’re going to miss Nicolas a good amount,” said Kearny head coach Bill Mullins, who is in his third tenure as the head coach of the Kardinals. “But we have some starters back.”
Leading those aforementioned returnees is senior Chris Serrano. The 5-foot-11 Serrano is a four-year varsity performer and the starter at point guard. Serrano, who is also a standout baseball player in the spring, averaged just a hair under 10 points and five assists per game and was ranked second on the Kardinals in rebounds and steals.
“He’s gotten bigger and stronger,” Mullins said of Serrano. “He’s put on about 15 pounds of muscle. He has to be the leader of the team now. He can handle the ball well and can penetrate in the lane well. He’s a good 3-point shooter. He is also a good defensive player.”
Another returnee is 6-foot-3 senior forward Keuris Matos, who averaged a little more than five points and five rebounds per contest last year.
“He’s a big, strong kid,” Mullins said of Matos. “He’s better this year offensively. We need him in the post to get points and get rebounds.”
Senior Kender Santos is a 5-foot-10 shooting guard.
“He’s pretty quick,” Mullins said. “He can fill in at the point as well. He’s a decent shooter. He’s going to help us this year.”
Senior Joshua Antigua is a 5-foot-8 two-way guard.
“He’s very fast,” Mullins said. “We’re looking for more offense out of the point and he can provide it.”
Junior forward Ryan Gill is a 6-foot-3 power player who came on out of nowhere last year and ended up averaging seven points and eight rebounds per contest.
“He really helped us a lot last year,” Mullins said. “He can drive to the basket strong. We want him to be more of an offensive threat this year.”
Junior Kasper Szymczyk is a 5-foot-10 guard.
“He has a terrific attitude,” Mullins said. “He’s a good player to have on the roster.”
Amari Walker is a 6-foot-3 forward who transferred to Kearny from METS Charter in Jersey City, which closed its doors last June.
“We’re hoping to get a lot from him,” Mullins said. “He’s a good defensive player at the post. We’re working with him down at the post.”
Another player that Coach Mullins is familiar with is his son, William, a 6-foot sophomore forward.
“He’s a good shooter,” Mullins said of his son. “He plays all over the place. He’s a small forward who shoots the ball pretty well coming off the bench.”
Alejandro Alvarado is a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard.
“He has a lot of skill,” Mullins said of Alvarado, who plays both guard positions, but can see time at the point. “He handles the ball pretty well.”
Sophomore Anton Walker is a 6-foot forward.
“He’s pretty quick,” Mullins said. “He runs the floor well in our fast break offense.”
Junior Ayden Lockett is a 5-foot-9 guard who is a transfer from California.
“He’s a very quick guard,” Mullins said. “He’s legit.”
The Kardinals open their season Thursday at home against McNair Academic of Jersey City.
“Without a doubt, we’re going to see how good we are early on,” Mullins said. “We’re going to have to get better as the season goes on. We will see what happens.”
Kearny senior point guard Chris Serrano should be one of the best floor leaders in the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League. 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.”