Caleb Bonet is an 8-year-old Kearny resident who will enter the third grade at Hudson Charter School in a couple of weeks. He’s also a diehard Lakers fan whose favorite player is the late Kobe Bryant. Bonet also knows his basketball, so he was a little upset that there were no organized activities last year due to the pandemic.
“I didn’t do much,” Bonet said. “So I was kind of happy that there was a camp this year.”
The Kearny Boys’ Basketball Camp, under the guidance and leadership of Kearny High School head boys’ basketball coach Bill Mullins, welcomed more than 100 youngsters to Kearny High recently, much to the delight of the youngsters.
Logan Gonzales is a 10-year-old who will begin the fifth grade at Garfield School in the fall. Logan’s favorite team is the Boston Celtics, but his favorite player is Magic Johnson.
Talk about these youngsters going old school.
“I just like the way he played,” Gonzales said of Magic Johnson. “He was a very good player.”
Yes, he was, but that was long before Logan was even born. It’s amazing how these young players chose players who played their last game way before these youngsters were on the planet.
Bernardo Toscano is a 9-year-old youngster who will enter the fourth grade at Franklin School in a few weeks.
“I learned how to play ‘Knockout,’” said Toscano, referring to the game where players continue to remain on the floor as long as they make shots. “I learned how to concentrate more. It really makes me want to play more.”
And that’s important for Bernardo because: “I want to be a pro player someday.”
“I think this is going to help me,” Toscano said. “I plan on training and practicing so I can get better in basketball.”
Samuel Manaios is an 11-year-old who will begin sixth grade at Franklin School. Samuel also learned how to play “Knockout” and loved it.
“That was a lot of fun,” Manaois said. “I’m so glad I came.”
Tiernan Devlin is an 11-year-old who will also enter the sixth grade at Franklin in the fall. He’s a fan of the Brooklyn Nets, but his favorite player? Let’s go old school again. Tiernan likes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as his favorite.
“He was one of the most dominant players ever,” Devlin said of Abdul-Jabbar, the all-time leading scorer in the history of the NBA.
But can Devlin make the Sky Hook, which was the patented main shot from Abdul-Jabbar?
“Well, not really,” Devlin said.
Devlin said that he learned how to make a proper layup at the camp.
“I know now how to make a layup,” Devlin said. “I’m going to practice my layups.”
Devlin also said that he feels more confident now.
“It just makes me want to go out to the courts and play,” Devlin said. “I’m a lot more comfortable playing now.”
Devlin spent last summer just playing Xbox.
“I really didn’t go far,” Devlin said.
Devlin said that he didn’t know much about the camp prior to his arrival.
“But now I can play basketball with my friends,” Devlin said.
Devlin is also a baseball and soccer player, but now has a new appreciation of hoops.
“I think I have it all figured out,” Devlin said.
Bonet said that he will head to Manor Park in town and play basketball with his brothers.
“I learned about dribbling,” Bonet said. “I learned the crossover dribble.”
Allen Iverson, watch out!
Gonzales now knows one thing.
“I now know how to pass and cut,” Gonzales said. “I was very disappointed last year that I couldn’t play because of COVID.”
Camp director Mullins was just ecstatic to see so many youngsters interested in playing basketball. He didn’t know whether there would be a camp this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“We really didn’t know if we were going to have a camp,” Mullins said. “I think a lot of kids just wanted to get out of the house and be with their friends. I know the kids were really excited about it. They were shut out for a year and I think they were anxious to come back. I know we were going to teach them some basketball and have some fun. I really can’t control how many kids would come. I think it’s good for the state of basketball in Kearny. I like the kids who wanted to get out and play. The kids enjoy it. They’re all really well behaved.”
Mullins said that a bunch of his current and former players served as counselors. His junior varsity coach Derek Cowley was instrumental in organizing the camp, along with Mullins’ wife Jaqueline.
“She handled the administrative part,” Mullins said of his wife. “She did anything we needed.”
But the camp was all about the kids.
“I think the kids all put in a great effort,” Mullins said. “We had some kids who never played before. I think we gave them a good chance to find themselves.”
And the future looks bright.
“I see so much potential here,” Mullins said. “I also hope that we motivated them, so when they leave the camp, they might want to become a better player. But I think there’s talent in the town. It’s going to be up to us to harness that talent. I would love for them to get into our program.”
One thing is for sure: Basketball is alive and well in Kearny. There was no guarantee that kids would return after the pandemic, but this is proof.
“I feel like it was an accomplishment,” Mullins said. “It was really rewarding to me. I noticed the former players getting into it. They weren’t looking at their watches, looking to go home. I think everybody wins here.”
From left, Caleb Bonet, Logan Gonzales, Bernardo Toscano, Tiernan Devlin and Samuel Manaois work on their shooting form with camp director Bill Mullins (far right). Photo by Jim Hague
More than 100 youngsters attended the Kearny Boys’ Basketball Camp at Kearny High School recently. 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.”