Winter season can’t come fast enough for Hanover Park

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

Hanover Park 2012 season review

The feeling of excitement and anticipation is genuine at Hanover Park. After years of trying to change the culture, Hornets coach Todd Hartman finally has a core group of athletes that focus on basketball as their primary sport and play it almost all year around. Thy have a good, young squad that may have been galvanized by an upset loss against West Essex in early round state tournament play. Big things will be expected of the Hornets in December.

“We had such a young team last year,’’ Hartman said. “We knew we had talent. I wondered how fast we would grow into our varsity shoes. I think we were really just getting better and better. Last year we had more 20-point wins in a season than any other. These guys had 10 wins by more than 25 points and that shows you when they executed they got on top of people.’’

Brendan Rudolph (21) can often be seen running the offense for the Hornets. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Season Highlights

Hanover Park finished with a 14-10 record and did a terrific job defeating teams with below average record. Their signature win was a 66-57 win over Madison at a time when the Dodgers were 14-2. Hartman was also proud of his team’s play in an early non-conference loss to Mendham.

“We did a great job with them and Mendham is a tough team to press,’’ Hartman said. “We got in position where we pressed them and we cut an 18-point lead down to three. That showed me a lot. If we can press a disciplined team like Mendham, it gave me a lot of confidence to call those things the rest of the year. I was really happy with the growth and the make up of the team. Sometimes you have teams where you don’t know how together they are, but I really had a good feel for this team. These guys genuinely cared about each others success and it showed.”

Hanover Park pounded Parsippany 66-39 in an MCT preliminary contest. They were not so fortunate against Mount Olive which became a juggernaut with their high octane pressure system and were eliminated 82-56.

In state tournament play the Hornets defeated Bernards 60-43 before being stunned by underdog West Essex 58-44.

Senior Leadership

Last year’s Hanover Park seniors did not contribute as much in points and rebounds as they did in intangibles. It was a situation that Hartman considers extremely unique.

“The seniors meant a lot to this team,’’ Hartman said. “After the last game, every kid was in tears. It was because of Joe Vadakkedan, Ben Alleman and Mike Jones that they cared so much. That’s what those guys represented. It’s tough to be a leader when you are not the leading scorer or a starter but those guys pulled it off and it was to their credit. That was huge for us.’’

Matt Williams (23) is a rebounder that also gets plenty of points in the paint for Hanover Park. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Future prospects

Every starter on last year’s team will return with added strength and more experience. The point guard position may be the strongest part of the team in terms of depth.

“Brendan Rudolph and Nick Burbella were the one-two last year,’’ Hartman said. “They both do some similar things. They both see the floor well. They both like to play up tempo. They both like to get after it defensively. They are both energy kids. Nick is more of a playmaker. He will take the big shot when you need it. Brendan is more of a slasher. He can draw attention and kick. The two of them had the job last year and should have it this year but we have a kid like Emmet Simmons who was the rock on jayvee last year. He knows his stuff but his basketball IQ is up. He’s ahead of the game. He’s more of a cerebral type. That’s really a position of strength for us.’’

Shooting guard is the spot for Jimmy Sivolella. The Hornets junior is in line to be a 1,000-point career scorer before next season is completed. He’s a captain and often the go-to player when the Hornets need to knock down a shot. Matt Geisser will play some shooting guard when he’s not at small forward. Matt Hoberman, an expert defender, and Jaquell Scott will battle for playing time.

Geisser and Max Reynolds are key players in the small forward role. Reynolds is an extremely versatile player, who can play big when there is a need for it.

 “Max is our Swiss army knife,’’ Hartman said. “We put him wherever we need a guy. We look at the lineup and find out what’s missing and Max plays that spot. He’s worked very hard on his defense. He didn’t come in with a defensive mindset but his help defense and instincts are great. He’s really worked on his inside game. He could always shoot it and he’s starting to get a taste for rebounding.’’

 At the power forward and center positions will be Matt Williams, an explosive leaper and Tom Vaddakedan, a physical banger. They will be pushed by Kevin Healy, who needs to get a little more physical, and Nick Marucci, who needs to stay healthy.

“He broke his elbow playing pick up ball,’’ said Hartman of the 6-5, 240-pound Marucci. “He’s our tallest kid. Last year he went from being cut as a sophomore to making the team as a jayvee player to getting to the first five or six games as playing a swing player, and by the last 10 games he was a sixth man on the varsity and he wasn’t playing jayvee anymore.

“He worked hard. He was always a shooter but he had an 11-inch growth spurt. We had to teach him on the fly how to play with his back to the basket. He’s instinctive. He has things you don’t teach like little up and under moves and little pump fakes with the ball. He has a nice feel for the position. Once we get him back were going to have some real depth there.’’

 They all complement each other and their versatility and skill sets will allow Hartman to play at an uptempo pace with one group, or perhaps slow it down and play half-court offensive sets and zone defense with another.

 “In years past I haven’t had a lot of is size,’’ Hartman said. “Now, I have four guys there (6-foot-3 to 6-foot-5) that I can plug in and out. They all bring different things. They all give us a little bit of something that together they are going to be a nice complement to each other.

“The different combinations that we have on the floor are better suited to do different things. Like I was telling the guys, I want them to put me in a position where I have to play all of them. That’s a great position for me to be in as coach. That gives me the opportunity to make teams have to play our style of play. We think we have interchangeable parts where were not going to be missing much on the floor at any one time. If a guy goes down or if he’s not having a good night, it’s a good feeling to know that we can put somebody in there or tweak things a certain way and still be effective. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a really fun group to coach.’’

Versatile Max Reynolds (44) can play a number of different positions for Hanover Park. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Off-season Plans

Hanover Park made the most of Rutgers Team Camp in early June.

“I brought 22 kids down and I told them we had three teams so we played 15 games,’’ Hartman said. “We were mixing and matching kids all over the place, kind of seeing what we had. Most of the kids ended up playing eight games at the least. It was great. They would flop when they went to their rooms. They were going all day. There wasn’t a lot of down time.’’

Although they didn’t play the St. Anthony’s (Jersey City), Christ the King’s and Archbishop Malloy’s that were also at camp at the time, the Hornets found good competition at their level and found the camp to be profitable. Like many coaches, Hartman was impressed with what Rutgers’ coach Mike Rice contributes to his camp.

“Coach Rice was giving a ballhandling clinic,’’ Hartman said. “Every day, if you happened to have an off hour there was some sort of clinic going on. They had some morning workouts with coach Rice, where he was actually conducting a few workouts. He’s an intense guy. He coached a high school team down there. I guess his kid played on that team and our jayvee guy coached against him in a game. It was a good experience for the kids.’’

 Hanover Park is also in the habit of holding their open gyms before playing their Morris Knolls Summer League games. That strategy worked well as they were all warmed up and emerged unbeaten in the first few weeks of games, which gave them the top seed in the league tournament.

Although some of the players will move onto their fall sports including a number of football standouts, those who have committed themselves to basketball will continue playing in the fall. Hanover Park has a team in the fall league at Hoop Heaven and hold individual workouts with a conditioning specialist. They have also gotten their players to increase their weight training in the off-season.

 “A lot of times when we struggled and lost close games last year — a lot of that came down to genetics,’’ Hartman said. “The physical nature of the game got the best of us. It would be a shame if we let that happen again. I can see already a lot of these kids have committed to lifting and have been working in the weight room.’’

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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