The Nutley High School boys’ basketball team made it back onto the practice floor recently, as veteran head coach Bob Harbison watched with trepidation.
“Everyone is a little rusty,” Harbison said about his Maroon Raiders, who begin play in the truncated 15-game schedule this week with home games against Montclair Kimberley Academy and Weequahic. “I like the kids we have. It’s a great group of kids. They’re also hard workers who push each other. Like everyone else, we have to see how it all comes together.”
The Maroon Raiders took two hits before the first practice, when two players who played key roles last year on a team that won just six games decided not to return this year.
It meant more of a responsibility placed on 6-foot-1 junior guard Nick Schroeder, the Maroon Raiders’ leading scorer last season. Schroeder averaged nearly 13 points, four rebounds and four assists per contest a year ago.
“He’s a good shooter,” Harbison said. “If I needed points last year, it usually came from him. We have to look to get the ball in his hands.”
Another key returnee is 5-foot-10 senior guard Justin Edert, who averaged 6.2 points per outing.
“He can shoot it,” Harbison said of Edert, whose older brother Doug is one of the top players on the St. Peter’s University squad this year. “He’s a good kid to have, both on and off the court. He’s a knowledgeable basketball player.”
Senior Jordan Greene is a 5-foot-8 point guard.
“He handles it well,” Harbison said of Greene. “He’s also a good defender.”
Junior Matt Harbison, the coach’s son and the football quarterback in the fall, is at the center position. Harbison stands 6-foot-2.
“He did a good job with what we did last year,” Harbison said. “He can make an open shot. He defends well and rebounds well. He plays hard.”
Junior Jake O’Connor also returns. The 6-foot-3 forward became a presence last season, especially when Harbison went to the zone defense.
“He was cool and calm and did a nice job for us,” Harbison said of O’Connor. “He’s long and lanky and that length is going to help him. He also likes the game a lot and likes to play. I really like the kid.”
Junior Jake Cirminiello is a 5-foot-10 guard.
“He’s very athletic and very quick,” Harbison said. “He may end up playing point guard because he’s so quick.”
Junior Frankie Contella is a 5-foot-10 swing player.
“He’s crafty with the ball,” Harbison said. “He gets the most out of his body. He’s also a disciplined defender.”
Junior Matt Pergola is a 5-foot-10 point guard.
“He’s probably the purest point guard that we have,” Harbison said. “He’s also a lacrosse player, so he’s a very tough kid. He distributes the ball well. He can draw people to him and dish. He has the ability to be a good point guard.”
Sophomore Dante DuBose-Carter is a 5-foot-11 guard.
“He’s very quick and shoots it pretty well,” Harbison said. “He has some talent. He can score. He’s a strong kid.”
Karam Youssef is a 5-foot-11 junior forward.
“He played JV (junior varsity) last year and shoots the ball well,” Harbison said. “He’s a solid player.”
Sophomore Anthony Pinal is a 6-foot-2 center.
“He’s put together well,” Harbison said. “He can be a dominant rebounder. He’s athletic, he’s strong and he’s quick. He can make the short jumper. He’s going to get some serious minutes this season.”
After the Maroon Raiders face MKA and Weequahic, they have a tough tussle with Shabazz on Saturday.
“We’re going to know who we are pretty quickly,” Harbison said. “We have a good mixture of kids. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how this team jells.”
The Nutley Maroon Raiders will count a lot on senior guard Justin Edert (left) and junior guard Nick Schroeder (right), the team’s leading scorer a year ago. 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.”