New Jersey No Boys Allowed League Rocks

There is something about the Elizabeth, NJ based
Annual (5th) No Boyz Allowed late summer/fall basketball
league that really hooked me as a mega girls HS hoops fan.

It is a beautiful partnership between the league, the
founder/legend Charles (CC/Freckles) Hawley, the city
of Elizabeth Recreation Dept. and other excellent hoop folks.

The level of play is terrific, the teams just get
better and better and the venues are old school fun!
Love hanging out with the “regular” fans…can’t describe
the specialness of the hoops friendships I’ve made here
over the years.

Here in year 5, due to some renovations, only one of the two
traditional venues is available (the Miller Center) @ 163
First St. Elizabeth (Free on street parking). Hence
to keep within the 6 week (2 games a week), 12 game
regular season template plus play offs, this year they had
to shorten the teams of teams (but the quality is top shelf).

This years roster of teams predominately made up of girls
from :

1) St. John Vianney (last years winner & NJ TOC winner)
2 Gill St. Bernards (always a state powerhouse)
3) Immaculate Conception Lodi (always ranked in the state)
4) Franklin Warriors (always ranked in the state)
5) Roselle Catholic (always ranked in the state)
6) The Patrick School (always ranked in the state)
7) Rutgers Prep (top 5 team in the state this year)
8) Rumson Fair Haven (always ranked in the state)
9) Queen of Peace (can you say “sleeper”)
10) East Orange (always a North Jersey powerhouse)
11) Curtis HS (Staten Island team) – keeping EZ pass in business
12) Arts HS (Newark, NJ)

I will be the 1st to admit I love the “free admission” that
I re-pay several times over per night at the excellent snack
bar.

Lots of folks know who the prime time players are on each
team especially the ones that have verbaled or have a #
of offers. Really into discover “the future” players…that
aren’t that are still under the radar (but not for long).

Think is really 1st sustained NJ, HS team event coming off
of AAU season where HS teammates may play on a variety of teams.

3 Games every Tuesday and Thursday (6, 7 & 8pm) and usually
6 games on Saturday starting at 10am on the hour.

You want to follow this league, you are not going to find it
on a web site or Facebook. It is all about Twitter and please
follow them at @NoBoyzAllowed BB…. better yet…come check it out.

I’ll be there at least once a week if not 2 (This thursday for
sure and for some of the games on Saturday).

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8th Maroon & White Showcase Most Enjoyable

After having virtually no girls High school team hoops since

early April, sure got a nice shot in the arm with Best
of Maryland followed immediately the 8th Annual Maroon and White.

This event was held last week at the Red Bank Regional (Little Silver, NJ)
Field House with 3 adjacent hardwood courts. Run by James
Young (RBR girls coach). Tom Sclafani (long time hoops guru)
and Randy Westrol (senior statesman of the Shore Conference).

This 3 day event featured 29 teams, most from the Shore Conference,
and some impressive out of towners like Pascack Valley and Roselle Catholic.
This event held at the end of the live period, went up against the powerful
Best of Maryland team event, so the Shore Conference elite (St. John Vianney,
Red Bank Catholic, St. Rose, and Rumson Fair Haven) were only the their
on day 3. Big dog Manasquan was in the house for all 3 days along with
elite Middletown South.

It is a heck of a set up with 3 adjacent courts and your head is spinning
on which court to view. The many college recruiters in the house know
what players they considering recruiting, have made an offer to or have
a verbal commitment and want to be visible/supportive. All good and not
an ez job.

Was a real nice buzz in the gym and enjoyed seeing lots of familiar faces
(players & coaches…HS & College). From the rumors I’m hearing, this
event will have a further stepped up edge to it including more regional
and national powerhouses along with making a tournament vs. a showcase.

All good news to this big time fan of girls HS hoops

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Best of Maryland Monster Girls Hoops Teams Showcase

st. roseRaising 5 year old grandson with my wife doesn’t allow me to be away from home
for significant chunks of time. So a girls high school game here or there or
at least a portion of a local showcase works real well for me.

The weekend, multi-day format of most all AAU events knock me out
of play to attend as I’m on duty full time. So my summer girls
hoops watching is pretty limited.

A number of years ago I had heard about the highly competitive Under Armour
Best of Maryland team tournament played every summer. I know it involved
8 hours of driving (1 day) and figured I just couldn’t swing it.

But when I took a look at the roster of the 22 teams participating
last week in Ijamsville, MD (yes that is the correct spelling
for the town), my jaw dropped. First of all, four of the top 5 teams from the
highly respected Shore Conference teams in the form of St. John Vianney
St. Rose, Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven (all 4 live in the top 20
were playing. Then in add in one of my 2 favorite NY times in Ossining High School.
The rest of the line was filled with prime time teams form OH, NC, PA, CO, IN, MD,
KY and London, England. That’s it, I was off to MD for opening day.

There are 2 adjacent courts at Oakdale HS with games being played in 11 consecutive
times slots. I knew it would be tough to arrive in time for the 8am start
time but I was optimistic for the 9am game (arrived at halftime). Plus I knew from
the schedule, I was interested in at least one game in every time slot (except one
which became my nap time).

When I arrived, I was very excited to see that they had a program for fans
listing the players names; year in school and Roster number. For Hoops junkie
like me who likes to keep a score book, I was in heaven.

It was very clear to me early on that there was no pushovers in his 22 team format.
I was in for some really,really good hoops. Plus I saw on the wall that OVER 110 college coaches were in attendance on day (and we are talking premier college hoops programs) which validated the tournament. Also that this was a tournament format (playing to a championship) vs. just a show case really amped up the event. Every team played all 3 days and at least 5 games.

An uber shout out to Tournament Director Steve Pisarski and his staff What a
remarkable tournament! My only regret was that I could only stay 1 day…have to
figure out a way to change that next year.

I was tweeting regular observations, scores & player shout outs. But if you also
check revisit them, you will see how impressed I was by the St. Rose Roses
who in their first-round play first game played in very reputable Ohio team, I’m
talking really impressed. There were machine like and dominating a la those Larry
Johnson/UNLV teams and really raised eyebrows with their complete team game and
both ends play some new found depth.

It is not fair to judge any team, good or bad, on just 1 performance so it was then
and there that I decided to stay for their 8:30pm game (even though it meant I would
get home after 2am and having to be at work by 7am).

Watched a whole bunch of good players and games and then saw St. Rose redux at 8:30.
Again, another most impressive performance that was a clear notch above what I saw
among the rest of the very good teams (and tweeted so). I know the next day they
were down 9 at halftime to a very good Elizabeth Seton (MD) team and stormed back to
win.

St. Rose worked their way thru the rest of the tournament and won most games by
double digits which is really impressive. Joe Whelan and staff really have a
special season in front of them….very early…but one has to keep an eye on them
as a state and regional powerhouse

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The Greatest Ever Excelling on the Biggest Stage

As I have often alluded to, I love to root for the favorites and
more specifically players/teams that are near dominant in their
sport. I do so because it is so hard to stay on top when everybody
is gunning for you and exerting their highest levels of energy, passion,
strategy etc. to take you down. Not to mention, it is often the case
that the fans and the media are often rooting for these “Davids” to
take down the “Goliaths”.

My earliest memory of quintessential athletic prowess was the 1976
Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. It was the Men’s Downhill skiing
competition (which is Austria’s #1 national sport) and the #1 skier and
Country Icon, Franz Klammer was the favorite and hence carried the weight
of all Austrians on his shoulders.

As the event wore on, the weather changed dramatically as the nice, light
powder blew away and the the mountain becomes a dangerous sheet of ice.
Bodies were flying everywhere because it was near impossible for the skiers
to hold the edge and stay upright (without slowing down).

Being the #1 seed (with the fastest time from an the earlier run), Klammer had to
go last. The conditions were utterly hellacious when it was time for his run.
The mountain was packed with Austrian fans that had braved the conditions
to support their #1 native son. Seriously, the Austrians didn’t give a
crap about any other medals…it was all about winning the gold in downhill.
The pressure this 22 year old Austrian must have felt from the entire country
had to be was off the charts.

Well Klammer simply lets it rip and several times seems to be careening out of control going around a turn or flying off a jump. You fully expected him to crash and the announcers were beside themselves in amazement that he was remaining upright at an ungodly speed in horrid skiing conditions.

At the end of this reckless run, the mountain exploded with euphoria and Klammer won the gold. Incredible pressure carrying the weight of the country on his young shoulders in the most adverse of elements and BANG he has the race of life to win Gold. Quintessential athletic excellence in my book

Fast forward to the 1991 Orange Bowl featuring Notre Dame vs. Colorado
for the National Championship. I’m in Honduras with my wife adopting our 1st child and we are seemingly a million miles away from home and anything that seemed remotely like the US. Luckily, there were a few TV stations in the Hotel and one that carried American (English) programing and specifically the Orange Bowl college football game.

Colorado is leading 10-9 and like a minute to go. Colorado is punting from near midfield. Back to receive the punt for ND is one of greatest punt returners in college football history, All-American Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. Common sense says kick it out of bounds deep into ND territory and dare a “time-outless” ND to move the ball up the field for a game winning field goal.

Amazingly, Colorado kicks the ball to the electrifying Ismail and the announcers are
incredulous. With all 11 Colorado players singularly and collectively focused on tackling “The Rocket”, this all time great kick returner with the National Championship on the line does the impossible. He fields the punt at his own 8 yard line and after nearly being tackled a few times and going down, he escapes for a mesmerizing 92 yard punt return for a touchdown to seemingly beat the #1 team in the country. “From the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat”, there is a clipping penalty on Notre Dame and the play comes back and Colorado wins.

Like Klammer, you are maybe the best at your craft, the eyes of the world are on you to do a singular humongous, monster pressure impossible task and you pull it off – historic athletic achievement.

Don’t even get me going about Tiger Woods and his heroics on the biggest stages over
and over during his first 10 years with the world singular spotlight on him to achieve or fail. Incredible pressure with incredible achieving results.

OK I’m getting to my point..patience friends🙂 Lets get to incredibly, historically great teams led by an all time great player, I would never miss those players/teams in the playoffs (regardless of what time the game ended). I knew I was literally watching history unfolding live in front of me and I wanted to be a part of it. Examples include the early 80’s Edmonton Oilers led by the greatest hockey player ever, Wayne Gretsky, who obliterated individual scoring records and led his team to 5 world championships in the mid-80’s. Historic achievement and revolutionized the game with 100% fan/media expectation.

I never missed a Michael Jordan play off game after he won his 2nd NBA championship (as he went to win 6 championships). His individual heroics were historic. Narto with Kobe, Kareem and Magic for the Lakers and Lakers but not quite at Michael’s level of historic achievement.. But their 5 championships and their all time level of play/achievement is a notch below yet deserves huge respect.

And this long meandering journey leads us to the Woman’s NCAA Finals tonight featuring the iconic and historic UCONN Huskie girls basketball team. They have won 74 games in a row, 3 consecutive National championships and have been destroying every team seemingly forever by double digits and many multiples there off. This UCONN team is the quintessential dynasty (going for their 11th National Championship in the last 21 years); led by an iconic coach in Geno Auriemma, and best player the game by far Breanna Stewart. She is a basketball freak who plays unlike female big in all my years with the total package and a verticality which changes every game (and cements her place in history). UCONN is truly the text book “Goliath” original Big East rival Syracuse the perfect “David”. All the pressure and spotlight is on the Huskies while the Orange will be lousy goosy playing with house $ (and no doubt plenty of fan supporting hooping for an upset).

THE POINT IS – True Sports fans, regardless whether you love or hate a historic player or team (or both), it is your obligation to watch & respect and honor “sports history”.

So here we have UCONN, like all the other athletes and/or teams cited above, with this giant target on their back on the biggest stage on the precipice rewriting the annals of the game.

You must watch this game and “if” UCONN wins their 4th consecutive National championship by a significant double digit outcome and “if” Miss Stewart wins her 4th consecutive MOP player award for the tournament and if Coach Auriemma becomes the all time championship winning Coach (currently tied with John Wooden at 10), they collectively deserve your undivided attention and respect. And if they pull off the”expected” on biggest stage, then wherever you are, stand up and give them the most well deserved standing ovation.

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So That Is Where This Uber Hoopster Came From..

Unlike most sports fans, I don’t champion the underdog, rather I champion the champions. In English, I love the best teams/players because everybody is gunning for them (and there is so much pressure to stay on top).

Now with that said, about 3/4 years ago I journeyed to the Bronx, to famous Gauchos gym, to see many excellent girls HS teams player including Shabazz Über Team led by Zaire O’Neil and coached by Vanessa Watson at the MECCA SHOWCASE. They were undefeated and kicking the crap out of all comers (actually had for a number of years as generally the best team in NJ).

So the game I saw was against Long Island Lutheran Crusaders that I knew nothing about. I never could imagine that anybody could stop the Shabazz Bulldogs yet the Crusaders, led incredibly feisty point guard Boogie Brozowski and many other very good players, took down Shabazz.

After that would make sure I would catch LuHi a couple times of year as their team was annually in the NY state championships. Last year, LuHi wins states again and graduates five (5) D-1 Starters.

Still I made plans to go see some Crusader games this year but I was ready for a rebuilding year. First I journeyed down to Delaware for a holiday tournament. I recognized LuHi’s Miss Siletti who was heading to Sacred Heart as well as well as Miss Torres who is heading to Merrimack. Then I encountered this freshman named Celeste Taylor you could tell was going to be an exceptional player due to her length, speed, vertical and sweet true prime time J. Coach Slater for LuHi simply has a knack for drawing in very talented kids and having a top shelf program every year.

But clearly the most impressive person on LuHi was this lanky forward, Sr.
named Sarah Mortensen who had some serious “another level” special basketball skills. I saw LuHi 4/5 times the year before and had no recollection of Mortensen (but I wasn’t overly surprised since as previously said the ’14/’15 Crusaders started
5 D-1 players and the notion of fine players buried on the bench happens).

Sarah possessed a silky smooth game and intuitive basketball sense that was clearly different from her teammates and even Urseline Academy who was the #1 team in Delaware. Her effortless 27 points from all areas of the court and her quiet speed really stood out, especially on defense filling lanes.

Next I saw Luhi play NJ Beast Rutgers Prep at the Sparks tourney and Prep won most impressively 42-27. Still, Miss Mortensen was clearly the real deal and it was then I learned this senior was unsigned (which was a shocker to me).

Went to the Rose Classic in a NY a week later to see LuHi and see them play the #1 team in Oregon. There were several scouts in the house to see her have a remarkable game against a very good team. She had 41 points and 17 rebounds and the gym was buzzing with her very high level play…where the heck did this come from? Guess the colleges were asking the same questions because she seemingly came out of nowhere and hence why she was unsigned (with offers coming late).

Then LuHi played Manasquan, NJ (ended season #2 in the state) at the NJ/NY challenge where she gracefully excelled again 25/12 in a solid win. Sarah clearly had a different hoops DNA that separated for most of the players I saw this year in NY/NJ. The elements of her games were so polished advanced compared to most other players in the games she played in.

I think it was in early March that Sarah formally committed to Miami U.
(very impressive) but boy far from home (other offers includes Virginia Tech, Boston College &George Washington)

Had to jump in the van again and journeyed to Albany (200 miles away) to see the NY State Federation AA semi finals with 4 of the best NY teams including LuHi. The Mortensen Magic was on display again as Luhi won to advance to the finals the following day over a very good St. Anthonys (another Long Island team who themselves started 5 D-1 starters/seniors).

NOW, THE UNTOLD STORY (to me)

Thru the magic of twitter I learned from her Finnish teammate that Sarah wasn’t on the LuHi team last year…rather she was in DENMARK where she was born and raised. Tracked down Mom Pia shared with me the background story on Sarah:

“Sarah was born and raised in Denmark. She has played basketball since she was 6 years old and has always had a dream of coming to the States and play – this year her dream came true, getting in contact with coach Slater, living with a great host family, attending LUHI – and thereby go to college next year.

She is one of the best players (born in 1997) in Denmark and has played a lot of international games – European championships (u16/u18) and tournaments in Eastern Europe against some of the best players. She was talent of the year in the best women’s league in Denmark last year and has earned a lot of mvp’s during her playing time.

Her brother is a freshman at Wright State in Ohio. This was Sarah’s 1st journey to the US and she does not have any other family in the States besides her brother. When she first arrived she was very overwhelmed with all the college offers and attention due to the sport that is not at all big in her home country Denmark. Sarah picked 4 official visits and she liked all the places (VT/BC/GW/UM) nice people, good academics and great facilities – but I think the deciding factors was the chemistry between Sarah and Coach Meier – and the fact that she knows European basketball very well too – She was great!!!”

What a terrific story and to learn of her international journey.

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Nationally Ranked in ALL FOUR National Polls

Back on March 2nd, following the culmination of winning both their division
and the Shore Conference Tournament, I reported on St. John Vianney’s
National Rankings.

There were ranked in the top 25 of 3 of the 4 major ranking services.

Now that they have run the table and won the TOC, all of the Final/Year
End National rankings are out:

SJV is now in ranked in the Top 25 in the USA in all 4 services:

USA TODAY Super 25 – # 8
MaxPreps Top 25 – # 10
ESPNW 25 Power Ranking – # 15
Blue Star Media Elite 25 – # 25

I know in last 5/6 years, I suspect Neptune, Trenton Catholic
and Shabazz has been ranked this high however I’m don’t recall
if they were ranked in ALL 4 POLLS – which is quite an achievement

A remarkable season for SJV and their 31-1 State Championship season

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NJISSA “Independent” Girls Hoops Teams

For the last few years, the Immaculate Conception Lodi girls
basketball and softball teams, both coached by school V.P.
Jeffrey Horohonich, have played as independent teams (not
in a league).

(Side note, Coach H. has 500 wins as BOTH a ICL softball
and basketball coach…DARN IMPRESSIVE!).

The reason I mention this is that both Queen of Peace
and Saddle River Day School will be taking their respective
very good girls basketball programs the independent route
next year (it is actually a 2 year process so in year 1
you start the transition by only your conference opponents
once vs. regularly 2 times. Then in year 2 you are totally
independent).

When you are in a conference/division, you are generally mandated to
play each team twice (one home/one away). This covers say
70% of your in-season schedule. Then you schedule the remainder
as desired against a variety out-of-conference or even out-of-state teams.

ICL has had to schedule 100% of their games as they are not in a conference and that
is not so easy to do. ICL, SRD & QOP are all better programs and
are looking to enhance their in season competition to :

A) Better ready themselves for States (and that level of competition).
B) Help their players (who are all generally pretty good) to see how
good the competition is, what work it takes to raise the bar and, most
importantly, showcase their skills in front of more college coaches
(in an effort to secure a college scholarship).

I am not judging these schools at all and only wish them the best.
I fully respect their decision to go independent and I’m sure there
were lots of conversations with school administrators, parents and
players regarding the pro’s and cons.

ICL sure practices what they preach in terms of “raising the bar”.
This season, where they had a nice team but not a power house, still
played the following top programs in NY & NJ:

NY – Bishop Loughlin, Staten Island Academy (won state championship)
MD – National Christian (Nationally ranked)
NJ – Life Center Academy, Life Center Academy, Saddle River Day (group
finalist)
CT – Capitol Prep (a major power every year)

Can’t wait for next year

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