The high school basketball season may not begin until December, but if you ask Bloomfield head coach Mike Passero, the foundation for what is accomplished during the winter is built in the summer. That’s where his team and so many others from around the area, the annual Bloomfield High School Summer League comes in.
For more than 15 years, Bloomfield has hosted the league dating back to when Pat Brunner, now the athletic director at Morris Knolls, was the Bengals’ head coach.
“It’s the building block for what you’re going to do next winter. As coaches, you get to evaluate everything, your players, your personnel, what your kids can do well and might struggle with,” Passero said. “The best part is you always get to see players develop from the winter season to a little spring AAU ball to the summer ball, you get to see kids take that next step. It helps a lot for coaches and players.”
Once again, the league is a hot spot for The Observer area’s local teams as Belleville, Nutley, Kearny and Harrison all are among the participants in the 18-team league.
The league, while primarily composed of teams from Essex County, is one of the biggest and most diverse ones in the state, providing everyone the opportunity to see their team against various levels of competition and several different playing styles.
“I think that’s one of the big benefits of our league,” said Passero. “Not that it was the intent, but it is here you see different styles of play. You see teams from different counties, you have small schools, you have big schools. You get to see a little bit of everything.”
Among the top teams this year have been Newark Tech, who returns nearly the entire roster from last season’s North 2, Group 1 championship team, as well defending North 2, Group 2 champs Caldwell, Wayne Hills and Montclair. Seton Hall Prep entered their junior varsity team into the league and, with an extra spot this year, Passero was able to put his JV team in there for five games, which he feels is an invaluable experience.
“Being able to find stuff for them is really important because they need to play,” said Passero. “They come to workouts in the summer and they work hard, but they need to play in order to get better in basketball, you really got to play. You can shoot, you can dribble and you can do all of your skill work, but it’s got to be able to translate into game play. Getting those games in for the younger guys is really important.”
Passero looks at the summer as the unofficial start of the new season. That means, last season’s disappointing 8-17 campaign is formally in the rearview mirror as Bloomfield looks to start anew with a roster that should be headlined by rising seniors Shariff Brown and Evit Dwyer as well as rising junior Davieon McClain.
“We’ve talked about it, the summer starts our new season,” Passero said. “Everything that has happened in the past is now in the past and it’s time to move forward. You never forget, but you definitely move on for sure.”
The first round of the playoffs are set to be held on Monday July 17 and Tuesday July 18. The quarterfinals are scheduled for Wednesday. On Thursday, the semifinals are set for 5 p.m. and 5:55 p.m. at Bloomfield’s main gym with the championship game following at 6:50 p.m.
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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.)