Harrison’s record might not show it, but head coach Jose Camano knows his boys basketball team is quite a bit better than its 2-5 record or prior teams that finished well short of .500.
“I think we’re a lot better than last year. A lot of these kids didn’t play last year,” said Camano, now in his fourth season as the head coach. “They see it at practice, they come to practice every day and see that we’re 2-5, but that’s not really who we really are. Our record doesn’t show how good we are.”
Three of Harrison’s early losses were decided by seven points or less. Camano is hopeful that this past Friday’s 56-53 victory at North Arlington is proof that things are starting to turn around for the Blue Tide.
“It was a big win for us. We lost a lot of close games to start off the season and they could have been down, but they came out on Friday and they came ready to play, executed a great plan and they pulled it off. They played a great game, four quarters, 32 minutes and we got a big win and it gives us some momentum going into Monday at Secaucus.”
A big reason for that optimism is Harrison’s dynamic duo of Edward Burgos and Reuben Stokes.
Burgos, a 6-foot-0 senior, has averaged nearly 18 points per game this season.
“Edward does it all,” said Camano. “Edward just wants to play basketball. He can score, he can slash, he can dish, he creates a lot for his teammates.”
Burgos was forced to play the point guard a season ago, but is now in his more natural two-guard spot, thanks to the return of Stokes.
Stokes, a 5-foot-10 junior, missed all of last year due to an achilles injury, but has picked up from where he left off as a freshman, averaging close to 15 points per game, while creating opportunities for teammates.
“Reuben opened the game up for Edward because Reuben has the ability to make two guys play him,” Camano said. “Reuben can get from A to B without a problem because of his ball skills and ball handling. Reuben being able to do that creates so many open shots and opportunities for Edward to score the basketball.”
Another player back for the Blue Tide after missing all of last season, is 5-foot-8 senior Zaire Colson, who is the team’s top 3-point shooter.
Harrison does not have much size and basically runs out a five-guard lineup. Six-foot-1 senior Sammy Abdeljalil has moved from guard to forward after growing three inches this offseason. At center is 6-foot-1 senior Ethan Oeckel. Oeckel, a three-year starter, plays bigger than his size and is also capable of stretching the floor offensively.
“Ethan gives us flexibility as a stretch five,” said Camano. “He’s a really good defender, a great defender, he gets us going on the defensive side. Ethan has one thing in mind and that’s just winning.”
Nicholas Martin, a 5-foot-8 freshman, has been a source of instant offense off the bench for the Blue Tide. Sophomore guards Jose Marte and David Renderos are threats from the outside and 6-foot-3 senior Joseph Jones has been a key factor on the glass and a defensive anchor when Camano wants to slow the game down.
Following the game at Secaucus, Harrison has non-division games against Park Ridge and Eastern Christian as it looks to fight its way closer to .500, a mark it hasn’t reached since 2017.
“We’re one, two plays away from winning basketball games. I think those kids started to realize it,” Camano said. “The kids believe in themselves, they believe in us and we’re going to pull out more victories as the season goes along.”
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)