Marist begins life without Frazier; Pro basketball returns to Jersey City with former Hudson Catholic great Okerulu as head coach

The Marist girls’ basketball team is moving forward after losing some key personnel from a year ago. From left are head coach Reggie Quinn, Kailyce Hanna, Serenity Jackson and Nia Scott.
The Marist girls’ basketball team is moving forward after losing some key personnel from a year ago. From left are head coach Reggie Quinn, Kailyce Hanna, Serenity Jackson and Nia Scott.

The Marist High School girls’ basketball team is learning to live life without Breyanna Frazier, the four-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree who has moved on to the University of Central Florida after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee midway through last basketball season.

And now, the Lady Knights are dealing with the rumors that the school may close at the end of the current school year.

But veteran head coach Reggie Quinn is not thinking about any of that right now.

“We don’t want that to get into their minds,” Quinn said about the possible closure. “Some of them want to talk about it, but I just ignore it. Our goal is to win with this team right now. We don’t bring up any of the negative talk.”

But the Knights didn’t lose just Frazier to graduation. Stephanie Jean-Baptiste, who earned Hudson Reporter All-Area Third Team honors last season, moved with her family to Wicopee, N.Y. where she’s playing for John Jay High School. Jean-Baptiste would have been a junior with the Lady Knights this season.

So that’s a huge pair of losses for Quinn, whose team posted a 15-8 record a year ago.

“The schedule was built around having them,” Quinn said. “We just have to get some others to do what they did for us. Some of them had skills they didn’t even know they had.”

Leading the returnees is senior guard Kailyce Hanna. The 5-foot-7 Hanna averaged about 15 points per game last season.

“She has taken on the role of being the leader of the team,” Quinn said. “She’s also pushing the others. The others have responded more. I expect more from her this year. I think they’re all learning from each other.”

Another returnee is 5-foot-10 sophomore forward Jalaiyah Smith, who averaged eight points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots per game last season.

“She’s a very good defender,” Quinn said. “She’s definitely an impact player, an all-around player. We know we can’t leave it up to just one player. She has definitely stepped it up and become a better player.”

Sophomore Kerine Thomas is a 5-foot-6 point guard.

“She handles the ball well,” Quinn said. “She runs the offense for us, but she can also hit the open shot pretty well.”

Kyra Rose is a 5-foot-10 sophomore forward.

“She has also been running the point as well,” Quinn said. “She forces the bigger players to go out and guard here. We’re using that to our advantage.”

Senior Nia Scott has also returned. Scott is a 5-foot-6 guard.

“She’s one of the top shooters returning in the county,” Quinn said. “She will also guard the other team’s top player. She’s a very good defender.”

Senior Serenity Jackson is a 5-foot-7 guard.

“Serenity has a high basketball IQ,” Quinn said. “She knows the game very well.”

Junior Alexandra Ramirez is a 5-foot-7 swing player.

“She made some big shots for us last year,” Quinn said. “She’s a good 3-point shooter.”

Monaysia Emerson is a 5-foot-2 junior guard.

“She brings energy to the game,” Quinn said. “She’s a high energy player.”

Jahnel Lewis is a 5-foot-2 freshman guard.

“She’s also high energy,” Quinn said. “She has an excellent motor who keeps going.”

The Lady Knights finished second in the recent Bill DeFazio Memorial Lady Knights Classic at Marist to Moore Catholic of Staten Island, falling 55-50 in the title game. They then suffered a regular season contest to New Providence to fall to 2-3 on the young season with a game against Ferris this weekend.

“As the season goes on, we hope to be able to compete,” Quinn said. “The great part of what’s going on is that the kids are just playing. They’re working hard behind closed doors and not letting anything that goes on around them bother them. They want to win a championship this year. That’s the goal.”

Speaking of Breyanna Frazier, Quinn, who is her uncle, reports that she is continuing to rehabilitate the knee injury and more than likely will redshirt this season at UCF…

There will be professional basketball in New Jersey in 2020 and the team will call the Jersey City Armory as its home.

The Tri-State Admirals begin play Feb. 2 at the Armory with former Hudson Catholic standout and Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree Darlington Okerulu as the team’s head coach.

Okerulu, a 1,000-point scorer during his days at Hudson Catholic who went on to star at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, was selected by the owners of The Basketball League franchise to serve as the head coach.

It’s a pro franchise with franchises in Indianapolis, Columbus, Dallas, Albany, Tampa Bay and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Okerulu was spotted by league official David Magley from his recent work trying to get local players spotted and signed to pro contracts in Europe.

“I built a relationship with the owner Victor Urbaez of the Admirals,” Okerulu said. “It was really appealing to me. I liked the idea of the league and liked the idea of playing in the Armory. I played at Hudson Catholic and lived just a few blocks away. I’m still very close to Jersey City. It’s where I learned everything about basketball. This is a very competitive league.”

Okerulu is convinced that pro basketball can work in Jersey City.

“There’s been a demand for a pro team in New Jersey, ever since the Nets left for Brooklyn,” Okerulu said. “I really believe this is the right place. In fact, I know it is.”

Okerulu said that the Admirals have already signed Jersey City resident Jesse Steele to their roster. Steele, a 5-foot-8 point guard, was a standout player for Monmouth University seven years ago and had been playing professionally in his native Dominican Republic. Steele scored 939 points over three seasons in West Long Branch and is still ranked among the school’s all-time leaders in assists.

Travis Betran, a 6-foot-3 guard who played college basketball at Austin Peay University, has also been signed to play for the Admirals, Betran had a stint with the NBA’s G-League, the top minor league in pro basketball, last year.

But the player Okerulu is most excited about is 7-foot Adonis de la Rosa, who is a point guard. De la Rosa was first signed by St. John’s, then played at Kent State and spent last year as a graduate student at the University of Illinois.

“He’s legitimately a point guard,” Okerulu said. “We’re excited to have him. If he has the right guidance, he can still play.”

De la Rosa had a stint with the Westchester Knicks of the G-League last year.

“He’s the real deal,” Okerulu said.

It’s going to be interesting to see a 7-foot guy handling the basketball.

“I’m really excited about this team,” Okerulu said. “I love Jersey City. It’s my home. This is almost coming full circle for me. I’m glad we’re bringing pro basketball back to New Jersey and we’re going to provide good entertainment for the fans.”

The Admirals open their season against the Albany Patroons, the TBL defending champions, Feb. 2 at the Armory…

Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (5-0). 2. Hudson Catholic (3-2). 3. Lincoln (4-0). 4. Marist (3-1). 5. Dickinson (4-1)…

Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (6-0). 2. Hudson Catholic (4-1). 3. Secaucus (4-1). 4. Lincoln (3-1). 5. Union City (3-1). – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com