Young Roxbury keeps moving forward

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball

Roxbury 2012 season review

Two years ago, Roxbury had one of the best basketball seasons in school history. Angelo Mangiro and his teammates won a record number of games, took the Gaels to the Morris County Tournament final, won a few state tournament games and broke numerous school records. Practically, all the varsity members from that historic team either graduated or did not return last season.

The 2011-12 wasn’t expected to be pretty but to be honest it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The undersized and inexperienced Gaels scrapped, scrambled and surprised some people. Considering their roster, a 7-18 mark was perfectly acceptable since many of the starters would have been better off learning on the jayvee level but were needed on varsity.

Roxbury’s Matt Kelley has a firm hand on the Gaels’ deliberate offense. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Season highlights

Roxbury got off to a 1-6 start but then were able to break up any lengthy losing streaks with the occasional victory. Even in defeat the Gaels were competitive for the bulk of their season with many of their losses coming in the 5-6 point range in the second half of the campaign. They continued their tradition of playing tough defense and mounting a deliberate offensive attack.

“I think we were happy with how well we competed,’’ Roxbury coach Jon Deeb said. “We competed with really good teams. We took Morris Knolls to overtime. We had a great upset win over Pequannock.’’

The Gaels stepped up in tournament play. Their 47-40 upset victory over Pequannock in preliminary round play on the road helped avenge an early season defeat against the Golden Panthers. They also gave Morris Knolls fits in both regular season and MCT play. They would eventually lose to the Golden Eagles 54-43 in the tournament’s opening round.

Other wins included triumphs over Morristown, Hopatcong, Delbarton, West Morris and Parsippany Hills. The Gaels did not qualify for state play.

Senior leadership

Roxbury didn’t have many seniors on the team, but one athlete who made an impact was Tom Alliegro. Alliegro was a pest from the perimeter and one of the players, that opponents considered a serious offensive threat. He had 11 double-digit games including a 28-point game against Morris Knolls where he knocked down six 3-pointers,

“We lost only three seniors,’’ Deeb said. “We will miss Tommy Alliegro. He had a good year and he hit 51 threes for us.’’

Roxbury will miss Tom Alliegro’s (left) perimeter marksmanship. (Photo by Mark Kitchin) 

Future prospects

One advantage Roxbury has is that it will be one of the few teams in the county to have a point guard with three years of varsity experience when teams suit up in December. Ryan Kelley is a good ballhandler with excellent court vision. He’s also a good perimeter shooter who can create on offense, too. He averaged 15 points a game. His most prolific game was a 34-point effort in a win against Morristown in which he also sank five 3-point shots.

“Ryan Kelley started for us the whole season,’’ Deeb said. “We were so young last year and Ryan ran the team great. He was a starter on varsity for three years. We had a lot of inexperienced kids last year. He was one of the few kids with some experience and he led the other kids through it.

Another reason Roxbury played better in the second half was that some of the younger players showed tremendous improvement as the season progressed. It was a sink or swim situation and some of the youngest players were beginning to find their stroke.

Malcolm Chavis and Doug Alexander were two very good examples.

“Malcolm was a first year varsity player last year,’’ Deeb said. “He’s a gym rat. He’s a very good athlete that works well. He’s very fast. He’s a track athlete. He’s mainly a wing player for us.’’

Although he was a freshman, Alexander had extensive varsity time because of his size. Near the end of the year, he had double-digit scoring games against West Morris and Morristown.

“He had some tough nights but by the end of the season he started to take some steps forward,’’ Deeb said. “He’s 6-foot-3. He’s worked on his shooting and his post game is getting better.’’

Also look for Alex Taylor, Thomas Pilrun and Mike Przitulsky among the young athletes who will be in the mix as the Gaels get ready for the winter season.

Roxbury’s Malcolm Chavis (right) improved his play on the varsity level as the season progressed. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Off-season plans

Roxbury continued to compete in the nearby Hopatcong Summer League and had a respectable showing. The Gaels also attended the weekend team camp in East Stroudsburg which serves as a team bonding function as much as it provides good competition.

They also tried something different with their open gyms. They met with Randolph, Newton and Madison for impromptu scrimmages.

“It was pretty much by team although there were times where one team was a couple of players short and kids from other teams took their places. … We did it three or four times but we’d like to do it more. Doing it 10 times might be a little unrealistic, but five or six nights might be just enough.’’

In the future, the former Sparta High standout might even like to scramble up the teams for one or two nights just to give the athletes a different experience.

“We see the value in that – to create that environment,’’ Deeb said. “Kids are so coached up now. They always have coaches telling them what to do. In my day, most of my playing time was without adults in pick up games with kids in and around the neighborhood. Then in the summer (former Sparta coach Dennis) Tobin would be there at some point and we did a team thing but for most of the off-season we had pick up games and kids would learn to find ways to win. I think that’s missing in the game nowadays.’’

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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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