BELLEVILLE – At first glance, you might not be overly impressed with Belleville High School senior point guard Ethan Laquindanum.
After all, Laquindanum isn’t exactly physically intimidating. He stands about 5-foot-7 on a good day if he’s standing on a stack of encyclopedias. He weighs about 150 pounds soaking wet after having a hearty lunch.
“The first thing that hits you when you see him is that he’s only 5-foot-7,” says Belleville head boys’ basketball coach Jim Catalano. “You say to yourself, ‘Well, what can he do?’ Then you see him defend the other point guard and if you’re the opponent, you realize you want no part of him.”
Laquindanum likes the idea that opponents show him no respect because of his height – or lack thereof.
“Every game I play, I always say that it’s heart over height,” Laquindanum said. “It doesn’t matter how big they are. I’ll do whatever I can to help us win. I always feel like I have to prove something.”
Lately, the diminutive point guard has been doing a little bit of anything and everything to help the Buccaneers win, as they have a remarkable 15-7 overall record, despite having to play all of their games this season on the road due to floor damage caused by severe flooding after the remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through last October.
Laquindanum has been nothing short of brilliant over the last few weeks, filling up the statistic sheet every single game. A few weeks ago, Laquindanum had a 14-point, 13-assist performance in a win over Passaic and followed that up with a 16 point, six rebounds, eight assists and six steals in a win over Montclair.
But in the past week, the stellar point guard has kicked it into another gear, playing at an almost superhuman level. Laquindanum started off the week with a 25-point, five-rebound, five-assist and six-steal outing in a win over Hoboken, then had 19 points, seven assists, four rebounds and four steals in a win over West Caldwell Tech. Laquindanum had 10 points in a loss to Millburn, but rebounded with a 13-point, 11-assist, five-rebound and five-steal outing in a clutch 72-71 win over West Essex.
For his versatile efforts, Laquindanum has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
For the season, Laquindanum has tallied 267 points, added 138 assists, has 78 steals and 65 rebounds. That’s outstanding versatility.
“He sets the tone for whatever we do,” Catalano said. “He’s started for us for three years, but this year, we were looking to expand his understanding of our offense. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached. I didn’t want him to start second guessing himself. Little by little, he expanded his game and just kept getting better. He worked on a couple of moves that got him to the free throw line more. In fact, he’s actually mastered that. I don’t want to put the ball in anyone else’s hands. He’s one of the most complete kids I’ve ever had at both levels.”
Catalano was a long-time coach on the college level at New Jersey Tech, now called NJIT, before taking over the Belleville reins four years ago.
And Catalano believes that Laquindanum can continue his success on the collegiate level, wherever he ends up playing.
“No question, he can play at the next level,” Catalano said. “He’s a phenomenal talent. When he has the ball in his hands, you can’t stop him from where he wants to go with it. The Hoboken coaches said that Ethan was the best point guard they saw this year. He’s a lot stronger than you might think and he’s quicker than anyone else. At this point, we just need to get him ready for the next level.”
Laquindanum, whose cousins Shanne and Andrey are also teammates with Ethan on the Buccaneers, making the team a total Laquindanum family affair, is determined to get a chance to play college basketball somewhere.
“I’ve been playing basketball all my life,” Laquindanum said. “It’s a really big passion of mine. I don’t have any offers yet, but with the state playoffs coming up, I can show coaches what I can do. I can pass the ball and I can defend. I can handle every aspect of the game and can do as much as guys a foot taller than me.”
Laquindanum said that he spent the offseason going to Fairway Park in Belleville, playing almost daily with his older brother James.
“I think having so many players in my family motivates me to play every day,” Laquindanum said. “We all play together a lot. It’s really a lot of fun. There’s good chemistry between us all, especially with Shanne. He can knock down threes left and right. It’s great to see how much we’ve all improved.”
And yes, Ethan has certainly become a better basketball player.
“Coming into my freshman year, I couldn’t shoot a single jump shot,” Laquindanum said. “But Coach Catalano taught me the pull-up jumper and that changed my game. I’ve worked on that shot all the time.”
Laquindanum is also an excellent student, having kept a 3.6 grade point average. He hopes to major in computer science in college. Where that college is remains a mystery.
But no one can doubt Ethan Laquindanum any longer. He’s proven he’s the real deal.
Belleville senior point guard Ethan Laquindanum. 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.”