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Date Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 08:12:31am
Author: John T Cella
Subject: St Anthony's makes the NYTimes

For St. Anthony, a State Title Would Be the Perfect Ending
Sylwia Kapuscinski for The New York Times
This season’s 26-0 team, including, from left, the seniors Alberto Estwick, Travon Woodall, Mike Rosario, Jiovanny Fontan, A. J. Rogers and Tyshawn Taylor, has elicited memories of the 1989 unbeaten team.


Published: February 27, 2008
St. Anthony High School of Jersey City has the No. 1-ranked boys basketball team in the country, according to two polls. Six of its nine seniors have already signed to play for Division I teams, and two juniors are likely to follow. Their season is the focus of a documentary.

For the 26-0 Friars, the regular season has gone according to plan.

Their ultimate mission, however, has yet to begin. On Friday, when they open the North Non-Public B playoffs against the winner of the game between Morristown-Beard and Kearny Christian, their quest for a New Jersey state championship starts.

“That and girls is all we talk about,” said the senior wing Tyshawn Taylor, who will play at Marquette next season.

These Friars have elicited memories of Coach Bob Hurley’s best team, the 1989 undefeated national champion that featured the future N.B.A. first-round draft picks Bobby Hurley, Terry Dehere and Rodrick Rhodes. In the 6-foot-7 center Jerry Walker — who went on to star at Seton Hall and enjoy a professional career overseas — that team had an intimidating post presence that this team lacks.

But the current ensemble, Hurley said, is St. Anthony’s deepest in terms of balanced scoring and quality depth.

If the Friars reach their goal of a state championship, they will become the nation’s most accomplished boys basketball team. Another title would be their 25th, surpassing Central High School of Cheyenne, Wyo. But if unsuccessful, this would be the first class in Hurley’s 36 years not to earn a state crown.

“This is it,” said the senior point guard Jiovanny Fontan, headed for Fordham in the fall. “We don’t get another year.”

St. Anthony has beaten every opponent but two by at least 20 points this season. Five players — led by the Rutgers-bound all-American Mike Rosario, who averages 19 points a game — score in double figures. The other top scorers are the junior Dominic Cheek; the senior Travon Woodall, who is headed to Pittsburgh; Taylor; and Fontan.

The other seniors to have selected a college are forwards A. J. Rogers (St. Joseph’s) and Alberto Estwick (Fordham). Cheek, a highly recruited 6-foot-6 forward, and the 6-6 center/forward Jamee Jackson, Hurley said, will also play at college basketball’s top level.

“You don’t ever see a team that has this many Division I players, and high-level Division I athletes, too,” said the Rutgers assistant coach Darren Savino, who has seen the Friars several times and played on their 1989 state championship team.

Making everyone happy has not been a problem this season. Hurley’s players have been unselfish, willing to share the wealth. Woodall, after starting last season, comes off the bench.

The New Jersey talent evaluator Eddie Butler marveled at this group’s willingness to share the ball. He said only a coach like Hurley and a program like St. Anthony could manage to contain such players’ egos.

“You know once you go there, that’s the way it’s going to be,” Butler said. “It’s like going to North Carolina.”

Several of the Friars have wondered what their high school careers would have been like if they had played for other programs. The six seniors who will play Division I basketball next season, Butler said, could have averaged 20 to 30 points a game.

But they would not have been as developed and they would not be closing in on a perfect season, Rogers said.

“What accolades come along the way are perks,” he said.

Known for its defensive prowess, St. Anthony has excelled this season with its perimeter attack. Hurley can play four and even five guards at one time, he said, spreading out 3-point shooters, the ball moving from one to the next until the best shot arises.

“They’re as good as any group of guards there’s ever been on the high school level,” said Jay Gomes, a former scout who is now the editor and publisher of NJHoops.com, a recruiting Web site.

Much of the credit goes to Hurley, who is known as a perfectionist, as demanding of his players on the court as in the classroom. Hurley’s hard-driving ways, Rogers said, have helped him and his teammates mature into men, and are the reason many of them are academically qualified for college. One incident on the bench of throwing cookies and another in which Rosario had a star designed into his haircut are the only issues Hurley can point to this season.

The players’ legacy, Hurley said, depends on the next month.

In the school’s athletic office, photos and newspaper clippings of recent state championship teams are posted around the room. There is not much space for more. But an exception can be made.

“I will knock stuff off the wall,” Hurley said. “We will find room.”

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[> Re: St Anthony's makes the NYTimes -- E++, Wednesday, February 27, 10:19:54am [1]

I haven't seen that Dunne is involved with any of these kids. The only uncommitted Sr is Jamee Jackson who from the outside looks like another Shumate...still I'd very much like SPC to open a line to St Ant's....the two players from there that I remember are Jasper Walker and Felix Rivera.

Jasper was a terrific point and Felix, although a little flaky had his moments.

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[> [> Re: St Anthony's makes the NYTimes -- NickD, Wednesday, February 27, 04:43:37pm [1]

I am sure Dunne would love to be involved with St. Anthony players but they are all too talented to want to play at SPC, when they have offers from the Big East, Atlantic 10 and ACC. We need to upgrade our program and our schedule and then our facilities before we can attract players of that caliber.

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