OBSERVER ATHLETE OF THE WEEK — Kearny’s Covello: Multi-talented…and then some

To say Maci Covello is a diversly talented high school athlete would be a totally gross understatement.

After all, it’s hard to say what the Kearny High School junior’s best sport is.

Covello is a lockdown force as a defender for the highly successful girls’ soccer team. And she’s a slugging power hitter for the Kardinals on the softball field.

In recent months, Covello is a do-everything for the Kardinals’ girls’ basketball team.

So what’s her best sport?

“I’d guess I’d have to say soccer,” Covello says sheepishly. “I’ve been playing soccer since I was six years old. But I love all of them.”

She sure does.

Lately, basketball has stepped to the forefront, even though she’s probably going to get recruited as a soccer player.

“Whatever season I’m in, that’s what I’m into,” Covello said. “I think if I played basketball all year round, I’d might say basketball.”

Last summer, as the COVID-19 pandemic started to wane away, Covello worked on her basketball skills, doing the thing that makes most girls’ basketball players improve _ playing with and against the boys.

“I would go to Manor Park and play with the boys,” Covello said. “That’s what Coach (Jody) Hill told me to do. She said that it’s how she became a better player. So that’s what I did. I figured I would give it a try and see how it goes. Well, that gave me a lot of confidence.”

Covello and teammate Ava Hyams (an Observer Athlete of the Week earlier this year) would regularly go to Manor Park near their homes and take on the boys.

“We must have gone to the park three or four times a week,” Covello said. “At first, I was a little nervous, but every day I went, I gained more confidence. I felt better each day. At first, I was a little shy taking shots with them, but then I took them to the hoop.”

And somehow, Covello finds the time to play all three sports at a high level. Covello plays travel soccer during the offseason for a top club team and then makes it to the batting cages to work on her swing.

But right now, it’s basketball – and Covello has never been better on the hardwood than she has played recently.

Covello had her best game of her career, a 27-point, 12-rebound, five-assist performance in a stunning win over Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League frontrunner Snyder. She also had 13 points and 14 rebounds in a win over McNair Academic, had 16 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Hoboken and finished the run with 16 points and five rebounds in a win over Glen Ridge to improve the Kardinals’ record to 17-9.

For her efforts, Covello has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

For the season, Covello is averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists per contest. She also had eight steals in a win over Lincoln and has recorded five double-doubles (points and rebounds) this season. Sure looks like a pure basketball player, right?

“I do love playing all three sports,” Covello said. “I’m never satisfied, never content with the athlete I am. I keep reaching for the stars.”

Hill is excited to see what the 5-foot-10 Covello has done this year.

“It’s rewarding to see a kid excel like Maci has done in all three sports,” Hill said. “I think she’s the perfect example of what a kid could do if she worked hard all year. That’s Maci. She really likes the success she’s had and the attention she’s getting and keeps working hard. I think she doesn’t want to disappoint anyone. I think she’s a naturally gifted athlete who is going to be good in anything she does.”

For now, Hill loves the Covello who plays basketball.

“She’s gotten bigger and better,” Hill said. “Her basketball IQ is off the page. And her personality helps. She has that magnetic personality where others just want to follow her. She’s just a natural born leader. When she speaks, the others listen. When she does something, she has that much of a presence with everyone else. Her ceiling is higher than anyone else. When she turns it on, we need her to be a leader in more ways than one.”

And Hill loves the way Covello has improved as a basketball player.

“Her passing skills are better,” Hill said. “Her ballhandling is better. She made a pass the other day that was one of the sweetest passes I’ve ever seen. She has so much maturity now. She has a unique mature personality. I’ve watched her go from a girl to a wonderful young woman. She really does so much for us. When we need her in tough games, she comes through. She has accepted the responsibility of being our leader. She really has a lot on her shoulders.”

Covello said that she still needs to work on her basketball skills.

“I still need to improve,” Covello said. “But I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve become as a basketball player.”

When it comes to playing in college, Covello would love to have the chance to play two sports. Softball would finally have to take a backseat to the other two, but Covello would love to get the chance.

“I’m putting everything on the table,” Covello said. “No options are off the table. If I can play two, I’d take that chance. It’s still an option.”

The Kardinals were slated to face Columbia of South Orange/Maplewood in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV tournament Monday afternoon. If the Kardinals won that game, they more than likely would get a rematch with top-seeded Union City, a team that has defeated the Kardinals twice during the regular season.

And then when the basketball season ends, it’s time for softball. Just another day in the hectic athletic life of Maci Covello.

“I have no complaints,” said the effervescent Covello. “I have a lot of fun with my teammates.”

Covello’s college recruiting process is still in the infant stages, but it certainly will heat up during the summer months. She doesn’t know what school she will attend, but she knows one thing. She will major in education with the ultimate goal is becoming an elementary school teacher and coach in the future.

And is there anyone in their right mind who could deny Maci Covello of that goal?




Kearny junior forward Maci Covello. 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.”