The Lyndhurst boys’ basketball team won the first game of the new truncated season Friday night against neighboring rival North Arlington, but the names on the Golden Bears’ roster were not exactly household names.
Veteran coach Tom McGuire basically had to replace his entire roster from a year ago, so there was no doubt that the new season was set to be a work in progress. It was fortunate that it turned out to be a successful one.
“We lost a lot to graduation,” McGuire said. “We have some guys back, but most of the team were JV (junior varsity) kids who were asking to take the step up. They’ve been slipped into starting roles. We’ll see how it goes.”
McGuire was asked having only two weeks of practice to prepare for the season because of the COVID-19 regulations was going to affect his team.
“Well, it’s affecting everyone,” McGuire said. “After a couple of days of practice, we got into things pretty well.”
Leading the returnees is junior guard Johnny Lembo. While the 5-foot-9 Lembo might be known as “Johnny Football” when he’s a quarterback for the Golden Bears in the fall, he’s not a bad basketball player at all.
“He’s the team’s spark plug,” McGuire said. “He gets the team going. He’s an aggressive kid who loves to play.”
Lembo was the team’s sixth man last season.
Another returning player is 5-foot-10 senior guard Sean Mayer. Both Mayer and Lembo will alternate being the team’s point guard this season.
“I like the luxury of having two point guards,” McGuire said. “They’re both strong ball handlers. Sean was the starting point guard last year and he had to go through some growing pains. But he developed nicely into our captain and leader.”
Senior Kevin Dmochowski is a 6-foot forward.
“He’s like our jack-of-all-trades,” McGuire said. “He benefitted from people missing time and moved his way up. Incredibly, he was the seventh man on his freshman team, but worked his tail off and he’s now starting varsity. That’s what hard work does. He’s a well rounded player. He annoys teams defensively. You can see what last year did for him in terms of confidence. Now, he’s a team captain. He’s one of the hardest workers I have.”
Ricky Rainey is a 5-foot-10 junior forward.
“I don’t know how many points he’ll put up, but somehow the ball just finds him,” McGuire said of Rainey. “Somehow, someway, he gets the ball. And when he does, the ball goes in. Unconventional is the best way to describe how he plays.”
Carson Rodrigues is a 6-foot junior swing player.
“He’s a good shooter,” McGuire said. “He has a dead-on shot. He’s a smart, intelligent player. I’m going to rely on him to score for us and use his brains to help win games.”
Anthony Maldonado is a 5-foot-10 junior guard.
“He’s a little ahead of his game defensively instead of offensively,” McGuire said. “He gets in opponents’ faces and can be extremely annoying.”
Luciano Todino is a 6-foot-2 senior forward who did not play basketball last season, but he’s returned this year to make an impact.
“He’s a big, strong kid who gives us a physical presence inside,” McGuire said. “We can run stiff for him inside because he can score. He’s also strong enough to move people off the block.”
Sebastian Almeida is a 6-foot-4 senior center who was a track athlete last year.
“We liked him when he was a sophomore, but he wanted to run track,” McGuire said. “But he’s an athletic kid who is using that athletic body inside for us. He’s very long and has opened some eyes we weren’t expecting.”
The Golden Bears will definitely be a team to watch in that new fangled division No. 4 with Rutherford, Secaucus, Weehawken, North Arlington and Harrison.
Lyndhurst senior point guard Sean Mayer. Photo by Jim Hague
Learn more about the writer ...
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.”