It’s a new era in Bayonne High School boys’ basketball, with former Marist head coach Ben Gamble moving his way downtown to take over coaching the Bees.
“The kids have been very receptive,” Gamble said. “From the first time I was able to meet with them to now, it’s been tremendous. We’ve had about 30 kids or so. Besides, we have had grammar school kids to watch us work out. I’m very excited to be taking over. I think the kids are looking forward to having me coach them.”
Gamble has a long history of being a top-flight basketball coach, from being Hall of Famer Bob Hurley’s top assistant at St. Anthony for nearly 20 years, then serving as the head coach at Cardinal McCarrick, Mater Dei and then Marist for the previous two seasons before the school closed last June.
So it made sense when the powers-that-be had the opportunity to bring Gamble and his staff like Cleveland Eatman and Rubin Rodriguez and bring in former St. Anthony and Lincoln assistant Ed Molloy in to run the Bayonne program.
“I have a staff that is second to none,” Gamble said. “I coached with Ed Molloy at St. Anthony and he was very valuable to us there. He understands what we need to do and he’s a valuable addition to our staff. Cleveland and Rubin were with me last year at Marist. Believe me, they are great coaches.”
And Gamble has also been able to retain two valuable coaches from the previous staff, namely Kevin Walker and J.J. Hladik, both of whom were standout players during their high school days into college – Walker played for Bloomfield College and Hladik played for Kean.
“Both are very good with our younger kids,” Gamble said. “They both have ambitions of being a head coach someday. I talked to them about the direction of the way we want to go with the program. I think they can be successful with the younger kids and they’re eager to work with them.”
Hladik will serve as the head junior varsity coach.
“I think I have a great relationship with J.J.,” Gamble said. “When I was a young coach, I talked to his father Jack about coaching. I think we have a lot in common. Jack as a great coach and I have a lot of respect for Jack. Because of them, I think I understand the layout of what Bayonne’s all about.”
As for the players, Gamble is looking for big things about of 6-foot-4 senior Koi Kirk.
“He can handle the ball a little for a guy his size,” Gamble said of Kirk. “We don’t have to make him a post player. He is good around the ball. His attitude is perfect.”
Senior Rami Amin is a 6-foot-3 forward.
“He’s very similar to Kirk,” Gamble said. “He can step outside and hit the short jump shot, but he’s good around the basket.”
Sophomore Augustine McGee is a 6-foot-3 transfer from Gamble’s program at Marist, where he was part of the junior varsity last year.
“He’s probably going to grow a little more,” Gamble said. “He can be really good. He has long arms and defends well.”
Sophomore Donte Calhoun is a 5-foot-8 point guard.
“We’re going to give him the responsibility of handling the ball,” Gamble said. “We’ll see the progression at the point.”
Sophomore Thomas Dorans is a 6-foot-2 forward who played soccer in the fall.
“He’s good athlete who plays more than one sport,” Gamble said.
Sophomore Rahmine Wright is a 6-foot-3 forward.
“But I think he can play a little guard as well,” Gamble said. “He might have the most talent of all. There are some other things that he has to take care of.”
Milan Raparelli is a 5-foot-9 sophomore who is the son of Ryan Raparelli, the former head coach at Memorial.
Jake Stevenson is a 5-foot-9 sophomore who was on the junior varsity last year at Marist.
Gamble is excited about the challenges he faces at his new job.
“One of the things I think will happen is that we won’t see any improvement until the 15th game,” Gamble said. “I think you’ll see that with a lot of teams this year. We just have to show a little bit of patience and you’ll see we’ll be one of the top teams in the county and in the state.”
Gamble’s track record speaks for itself. Bayonne should be fine in a couple of years under Gamble’s watch.—Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com