“Ever since we were 11, we played on the same team,” said Cameron, now a senior at Hudson Catholic High School. “Through recreation leagues and then AAU, then on to Paterson Catholic and then here, we’ve always been together.”
“We have always been very close,” Stewart said.
When Paterson Catholic closed its doors three years ago, the two friends decided to head to Hudson Catholic together, like always.
Last season, the pair led the Hawks to their first Hudson County Tournament championship in 37 years.
Last week, Cameron and Stewart added another chapter to their history book together, when they became the first Hudson Catholic basketball teammates to sign NCAA Division I national letters of intent on the same day.
Throughout the school’s rich and storied basketball history – one that includes sending two players to become NCAA basketball All-Americans, then into the NBA, namely Jim Spanarkel and Mike O’Koren, the Hawks never sent two off to major colleges in the same year.
Even the legends Spanarkel and O’Koren were a year apart, Spanarkel to Duke in 1975 and O’Koren to North Carolina in 1976.
So when Cameron sat down to sign his letter to attend Georgetown University last week, with Stewart inking a deal to attend Robert Morris in Pittsburgh at the same time, it marked a bit of Hudson Catholic hoop history.
“It’s a very special day,” said Stewart, who will join another local product, former St. Anthony standout Lucious “Lucky” Jones, at Robert Morris next year. “It’s all great. We were able to give Hudson Catholic its first county championship in 37 years and now this.”
“It’s the dream of every kid,” said Cameron, who has an outside shot to break O’Koren’s all-time school scoring record this season. “It definitely means a lot to share this with Kavon. We brought the first county championship in 37 years last year and we’re going to try to go back-to-back. It’s really an exciting day.”
Cameron, who averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game last season for the Hawks, had a ton of solid offers before settling on Georgetown.
“It was really difficult,” said the 6-foot-8 small forward. “I had a lot of good choices. It all came down to what was best for me. It’s a great academic institution and a Georgetown degree can take you a long way. The area in Washington, D.C. where the school is located is beautiful. It’s a great college atmosphere. They also play a style of play that best suits me. I think I have a chance to excel there. It was a perfect fit. I’m really excited about it.”
The 6-foot southpaw point guard Stewart had to choose Robert Morris over other schools like Hofstra, Virginia Commonwealth and Wagner.
“I had a close relationship with the coaching staff,” Stewart said.
Stewart said that he spent time with former Friar great Jones on his official visit.
“He was a big help to me,” Stewart said. “We talked and he said that he thought I’d be a great fit for the team.”
Stewart also spoke with fellow Paterson native Karon Abraham, who had a fine career at Robert Morris and almost led RMU to an upset win over Villanova in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
“He also helped a little bit,” Stewart said. “It was good to get help like that.”
Hudson Catholic head basketball coach and athletic director Nick Mariniello was pleased to have his standout players sign their national letters on the same day.
“I’m extremely proud,” Mariniello said. “They’ve created different paths. Reggie is a mature young man who sees life beyond basketball. Kavon is able to go to a place that is going to be comfortable for him. They wanted to come here and help rebuild the tradition at Hudson Catholic before moving on to the next level. They’ve been the foundation of what we’ve been able to do.”
The Hawks went to the NJSIAA Non-Public B state title game last year before falling to neighboring rival St. Anthony.
“They came into Hudson Catholic together and they signed together,” Mariniello said. “They’ve played together almost their entire lives. Reggie is just so mature beyond his years and that’s a credit to his mother, father and uncle who are very mentoring to him. They prepared him for the next move.”
It could have been a mentally draining process for both young men, but since they had a finger on the pulse of what they wanted, it made the recruitment a lot easier.
“It wasn’t too excruciating at all,” Mariniello said. “They embraced the process and handled it well.”
Now, the two friends can concentrate on finishing their high school education and playing basketball, although winning another county title this season will be a lot more difficult, since starting players Rakwan Kelly, Michael Young and Travis Flagg all decided to leave Hudson Catholic since the end of last season.
“We have a lot of other pieces that makes me feel confident that we can make another deep run in the states,” Cameron said. “It just means that me and Kavon really have to step it up this year.”
“It’s a lot of relief that this is now done,” Stewart said. “We can just go out and play basketball, do what we do best.”
Regardless of what happened with the other three players, it was still a time for immense pride at Hudson Catholic. Another first took place, thanks to the talents of Cameron and Stewart, together again for one last year, before heading off in different paths on the road to college basketball stardom.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.