Recently, the Brooklyn Nets made a trade with the Houston Rockets to acquire All-Star guard James Harden to join fellow All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to form what appears to be an unbeatable trio of superstars on the same team.
Well, in boys’ high school basketball, there are no such things as trades.
But there is one local team that has recently secured the services of two All-Stars to join a returning superstar to form what looks like on paper to be as invincible of a team since the days of the now defunct St. Anthony High School.
And this local team is a public school with stricter eligibility requirements, meaning residential standards.
The local squad is Union City High School’s Soaring Eagles, who now look like they’re poised to insurmountably soar all season long.
First, the Soaring Eagles welcome back 6-foot-2 junior guard Maurice Odum, perhaps the greatest player ever to grace the hardwoods of Union City. Odum merely led the entire state in scoring as a sophomore a year ago, averaging 27.8 points per game, earning All-Area First Team honors. He has already scored more than 1,000 points in his career as a Soaring Eagle in just two seasons. He also has a handful of college offers in his back pocket.
“He’s phenomenal,” says Union City head coach Drew Morano. “He’s amazing. He’s a throwback kind of player. He does things you cannot teach. He has the ‘It’ factor. He’ll score 30 points in a game, but still make the right pass to win the game. He’s so smooth on the court and he still has two years left. If you have him on your team, you have a chance to win.”
But this year, Odum is not alone. Oh, in fact, far from it.
For one, Shy’heed Jenkins-Floyd has moved from Jersey City to Union City, leaving Snyder to play for the Soaring Eagles. The NJSIAA has already ruled that the transfer of Jenkins-Floyd to Union City in the fall was a legal one, after a heated appeal and objection filed to the NJSIAA by the Snyder athletic department.
Jenkins-Floyd’s mother apparently moved to Union City during the pandemic, which allows the 5-10 talented junior point guard, an All-Area Second Team selection a year ago, to join the Soaring Eagles’ program. He averaged 16 points and seven assists per game for the Snyder Tigers a year ago.
“His mom wanted to get him out of Jersey City,” Morano said. “He came to us in October. He’s a nice addition. I love his heart and toughness. We’re thrilled to get him.”
We’re not done. There’s another new member to the Soaring Eagles’ roster who is just as equally as good as the other two.
Mike Jackson, a 6-foot-4 senior sharpshooter who made All-Area Second Team two years running at the now-closed Marist, spent the summer months looking for a place to call home. Lo and behold, after flirtations at a few other local schools, where does Jackson end up? You got it – Union City.
“I’ve heard nothing but good things about the young man,” Morano said of Jackson, who averaged 15 points and six rebounds per game for the Royal Knights last year, leading them to their second straight appearance in the Hudson County Tournament finals. Ironically, Jackson was on the Marist team in 2019 that lost to Union City and Odum in the county tourney finale.
“He’s a very respectful young man,” Morano said of Jackson, who also has a handful of college offers. “Both of the transfers have been rubberstamped by the state. I’ve never done a thing to try to encourage a kid to come. They both just arrived.”
And now, you have the makings of a powerhouse.
“It’s a little crazy, but it’s a little exciting,” Morano said. “To get two high profile kids like this is like catching lightning in a bottle. It’s actually a little overwhelming. But I know in good conscience that we didn’t go after them.”
All that can be said is ‘Wow!’ Three All-Area kids on the same team this season. It almost doesn’t seem fair. One thing’s for sure. Morano went from being one of the most likable coaches in the county to the most hated Black Bart in the area.
The Soaring Eagles also welcome back senior Devin Gomez from a year ago. The 6-foot Gomez was a starter for the Soaring Eagles last year.
“He’s a lunch pail kind of guy,” Morano said. “He’s the team captain. He goes to the basket well. It’s a good defender, good ball handler. He’s a bright kid, a glue guy.”
Senior Adrian Ramirez is a 6-foot-4 center who started last year as well.
“He’s an athletic kid who rebounds well,” Morano said.
Glaser Arias, the Hudson Reporter All-Area football star, is also back. Arias is a 6-foot guard.
“He’s a dead-eye shooter,” said Morano, who now has a team of those at hand. “He came off the bench for us last year and he’s as good of a shooter as we have.”
That says a lot.
It seems that the only thing that can stop the Soaring Eagles this season is the coronavirus. It has already limited the season to 12 regular season contests and then the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League tournament. It’s not exactly a county tournament because Weehawken and Secaucus play in the NJIC and are ineligible for this year’s year-end get together.
“I just feel thankful and happy that we have a chance to have a season,” Morano said. “It’s a season of challenges. But with everything going on in the world, it’s the last thing I’m going to worry about. We have the JV [junior varsity] in one school and the freshmen in another. One of our coaches has COVID, so he’s out, but that’s the new normal. I think it’s going to affect every team at one point. We can’t use the locker rooms and have to stay six feet apart. If a kid isn’t playing, he has to wear a mask. But these are slight inconveniences.”
Morano has been promoted to assistant athletic director as well, so he is well aware of all the protocol necessary.
“I have a good perspective of what’s going on,” Morano said. “With all the rules and the COVID, we’re still getting to know each other.”
That won’t take long. Basketball is a universal language.
“I think we’re a team that could make some noise,” Morano said. “I think it makes us competitive. We’re just trying to throw it all together.”
Once everything is thrown together and the season gets rolling, the Soaring Eagles will indeed soar. And get this: the Soaring Eagles open their season at Snyder in the Tigers’ den. That’s going to be just lovely for Mr. Jenkins-Floyd. Luckily, like all games in the area this season, there will be no fans allowed.
It’s a shame that most people won’t get a chance to see this team in action, because if anything, the Soaring Eagles would be a blast to watch.
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, brought to you weekly by Stan’s Sports Center, 528 Washington Street in Hoboken, on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Listen to this week’s guest, namely Jersey City baseball legend and former Boston Red Sox All-Star shortstop John Valentin.