The Harrison High School boys’ basketball team was devastated by graduation, leaving only one player returning for head coach Jose Camano.
“It’s really rare to see a team lose that amount of players from one team,” said Camano, the former Observer Male Athlete of the Year during his playing days at Harrison who begins his second season as head coach. “And it’s extremely difficult to build a new team, especially in a pandemic.”
Because of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the high school season was shortened to just 15 games and teams were given just two weeks of practice to prepare.
“It’s tough because we have a team that has no varsity experience,” Camano said. “We are teaching them the fundamentals, but have only two weeks. We’re teaching as much we can in a short period of time. I didn’t see any of this coming, but none of us thought there would be a pandemic.”
The lone returning player is 5-foot-11 shooting guard Chris Mendez.
“He was like my secret weapon off the bench,” Camano said. “He was also my defensive stopper. He is going to have a bigger role this season. He can shoot it pretty well. He’s that kind of kid who comes to practice every day, who works hard. He just loves to play varsity basketball.”
Much like he did for the football team in the fall.
Junior Jayden Galindo is another key member of the Blue Tide roster. The 6-foot Galindo is a small forward.
“He’s a good defensive player,” Camano said. “He can shoot the ball off the dribble. He can rebound pretty well. He’s a strong, physical kid.”
Galindo also played football for the Blue Tide in the fall.
Junior Llyas Bendaddouch is a 6-foot-2 power forward who owns the most unique name in the area.
“He’s a scrappy player, a physical player,” Camano said.
Junior Amaru Perales is a 6-foot-6 specimen and the Blue Tide’s starting center.
“He’s a pretty good player,” Camano said. “He has nice footwork and is good around the basket. He’s good with the ball when he gets it. He has a nice 12-foot jump shot.”
Senior Alan Calle is a 5-foot-6 point guard. Too bad that Calle and Perales don’t stand close to each other for a team photo.
“Alan is a defensive player who has good speed,” Camano said.
There’s another. Senior Sergio Flores is a 5-foot-6 point guard as well. Maybe we can get a picture of Perales in the middle of the two guards.
“Sergio can handle the ball well,” Camano said. “He’s another speedy player who is a defensive player.”
Senior Kevin Morejon is a 6-foot-4 center and back-up to Perales.
“He has a good basketball IQ,” Camano said. “He also has a nice jump shot.”
Freshman Justin Langley is a 6-foot forward who will play considerable minutes.
“The kid can play,” Camano said. “He can play on both ends of the court. He can attack the basket and score. He can defend pretty well and rebound well.”
Freshman Ruben Stokes is the 5-foot-9 starting point guard.
“He can handle well with both hands,” Camano said. “He can shoot the ball well. He’s getting better every day as we speak.”
Camano has no problem counting heavily on two freshmen right away.
“I like it,” Camano said. “It shows that the future of our program is bright. I like watching them play.”
And hopes to have them with him for the next four years.
Camano said that sophomore Ethan Oeckel, a 6-foot-1 power forward from the strong Oeckel/Ferriero family in Harrison, will get a chance to play.
“He’s a good low post player with good post moves,” Camano said. “He’s also a good rebounder.”
Sophomore Edward Burgos is a 6-foot guard.
“He’s a good offensive player with a high knowledge of the game,” Camano said.
The Blue Tide was scheduled to begin their season last week, but Secaucus’ season was halted due to a COVID positive test. So the Blue Tide will wait out the snow and see what happens this week.
“We’re using the break to our advantage,” Camano said.
And we will all see how the freshmen perform with the Blue Tide varsity.
Harrison senior guard Chris Mendez
Harrison junior forward Jayden Galindo. 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.”