If you take a look around Hudson County boys’ basketball, each team has that true solid scorer, the go-to guy a team can count on when the chips are down and the game is on the line.
However, the Redwings of Hoboken High School are not one of those teams. Maybe that’s the main reason why veteran coach Shaun Kolmer’s team is hovering around the .500 mark, sitting at 9-8 as the Hudson County coaches meet this week to decide the seeds for the upcoming Hudson County Tournament.
“It’s very true,” Kolmer said. “It’s easy to see who teams like Snyder and Lincoln key on. We don’t have that one guy, that one guy who is better than everyone else. Right now, we’re trying to give a role to everyone and that makes things a little difficult. When we run plays out of time outs, we have to be more diverse. The calls are not designed for one person.”
So Kolmer has been relying on the “all-in” approach.
“Whoever gets the best shot, that’s the one we go to,” Kolmer said. “We don’t have the experienced guards who can slow the game down.”
And most of Kolmer’s players have made the jump up from the junior varsity to the varsity this season.
“They don’t understand that the speed of the game is so totally different on varsity,” Kolmer said.
Throughout the trying times, Kolmer has kept his team together and now they’re ready to make a run at a few rounds of the county tourney and maybe a good run in the upcoming NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs in a few weeks.
“We’re right there,” Kolmer said. “We’re just not getting healthy.”
One of the returning players is senior football standout Nyjon Freeman, who suffered that gruesome knee injury two years ago that required massive reconstructive surgery.
Freeman started for Kolmer’s team three seasons ago, when Freeman was only a freshman. That 2016-2017 team, also featuring Hudson Reporter All-Area standouts Justin Davis and Tyshon Stansbury, advanced all the way to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I championship game before losing to University of Newark.
Another key player who has just been added to Kolmer’s roster is Devion Morrison, who had to sit out the first 30 days of the season after transferring to Hoboken from Marist.
“Just getting those two guys back can mean the difference between now and March,” Kolmer said. “They’ve made a major difference.”
It’s shown, because the Redwings, at press time, have won three of their last four games, including a solid buzzer-beating win over Dickinson.
Leading the squad is junior point guard Jason Blanks. The 5-foot-9 point guard and son of former 2002-2003 Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year also named Jason Blanks has been keeping the Redwings calm through the tough storms.
“He understands the game,” Kolmer said of Blanks. “He keeps his head in the huddle, much like he does in football. There’s a difference between football shape and basketball shape and he’s now getting a grasp of it.”
Blanks just recently held Memorial’s standout point guard A.J. Aviles to just 11 points.
“We’ve been playing better of late because of him,” Kolmer said.
Senior Danny Henson, the catcher on the baseball team, has returned for his third year of varsity basketball. The 5-foot-10 Henson starts at the off-guard slot for the Redwings.
“He’s a bulldog,” Kolmer said of Henson. “He’s scrappy and tough. He’ll defend you for 32 minutes, annoying you the whole time. He leads the team in taking charges.”
The aforementioned Morrison is the Redwings’ 5-foot-9 wing player.
“He’s a guy who can get to the basket,” Kolmer said. “He can shoot the ball. He’s a very good scorer. He’s been a good addition. The other kids like him and gravitate towards him.”
There’s a good reason why. Since Morrison became eligible, he’s scored 24 points against Union City, 11 against a red-hot Snyder team, 15 against McNair Academic and 24 in the win over Dickinson.
Six-foot-three sophomore forward Juan Garabito has been a pleasant surprise, averaging a little better than 11 points and six rebounds per game.
“He has the potential to get a double-double every game,” Kolmer said. “He’s a quiet, reserved kid, but as the season has gone on, he’s become more vocal. The others have become more apt to find him on the floor. He’s only 15 years old, so he has a lot of growth in him. I saw something in him in the fall league and I thought he was going to be a good player. He’s coachable and will only get better.”
The 6-foot-1 Freeman is just a physical presence on the floor.
“He’s not a great shooter,” Kolmer said. “But he can run well and finishes well around the rim. He has enabled us to get good pressure on teams. He’s able to get by defenders and create for others.”
Damon Murray, a 6-foot junior, plays forward.
“He’s just an athlete,” Kolmer said. “He made the biggest shot of the season.”
It was Murray’s heave at the buzzer than defeated Dickinson and turned the Redwings’ hopes around.
Juniors Matt Harasek, a 5-foot-11 guard, and Freddy Guevara, a 5-foot-9 guard, give Kolmer some depth off the bench.
“They both are interchangeable,” Kolmer said. “They give us energy and a little bit of a scoring punch.”
Then there are the Lane brothers, namely 6-foot-1 sophomore Tyshaun Lane and his little brother, 6-foot-4 freshman Jasir Lane are both learning the ropes while getting some playing time. The Lane brothers are the sons of former Redwing gridiron Curtis Lane of the 1990s.
“Both have been around us for a while, so they know what we’re doing,” Kolmer said. “They’ve been good additions.”
So the Redwings keep churning along.
“I like to say we’re a different team,” Kolmer said. “We were a different team December 1, then January 1, then February 1. The goal is to be the best version by March 1. It can happen.”
Anything can in the postseason playoffs.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com, follow Jim on Twitter @ogsmar and listen to the Hudson County Sports Podcast on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. This week’s guest is 1976 Olympic silver medalist Gail Marquis.