Lakers deal with transition and other notes

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountyvarsityboysbasketball There are benefits and drawbacks when it comes to basketball teams that have many of their players on successful football squads. The benefits are obvious. The players come out of one season brimming with pride and confidence which often translates between the two sports. There is also plenty of cohesion and camaraderie among the returning players and it often rubs off on the rest of the team.

The drawbacks are evident, too. The injuries, Hanover Park’s Jimmy Sivolella for instance, that can hinder a team especially if an important player is put out for a year. There is also an adjustment period in which the players have to adjust from play-to-play football conditioning, to the constant running of basketball.

Mountain Lakes has generally done pretty well in past transitions but this year has been a little more difficult. The Lakers graduated a number of starting players last year including Ethan Lubowicz, a 1,000 point scorer and arguably the school’s best basketball player in two decades.

“Football is tough because our point guard, (Paul) Tarnawski, (Christian) Cuccinello and (Chris) Herring are all football guys,’’ Mountain Lakes coach John ByDook said. “Plus some other guys on the team. It’s hard. We played our first game after three practices (together). We’re going on memory of what we had done in the past plus a few more practices.’’

Lubowitz averaged 20 points per game and was a double-digit rebounder for Mountain Lakes. Because the team relied on him a lot over the last three years, the returning players have to adjust to roles that were cemented years before.

“Ethan was a huge part of the team,’’ Lakers center Tarnawski said. “He was pretty much half our offense at one point. The rebounds – I’ve been trying to step up and take a little (responsibility) for all those points and rebounds. He was definitely one of the best players at Mountain Lakes.’’

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Pierce Langlois and his Mountain Lakes teammates are undergoing a transition season. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Tarnawski, who is 6-foot-4, doesn’t have the traditional moves on the block. But he his a good touch around the rim. He averages nearly 17 points a game for the 4-3 team. He is always going to the basket and his teammates know where to find him in the paint which has been a plus, especially in the early part of the season.

Tarnawski is used to transitioning between the sports and he’s been one of the players that have taken on a leadership role. He understands what his teammates are going through.

“We haven’t played together — all of us,’’ Tarnawski said. “Last year Chris Herring and I were the only starters. Bringing these kids in and molding as a team is a little different. I see a lot of improvement. We’re playing as a team a lot more. They are getting used to their spots. We are playing a lot harder.’’

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Lakers coach John ByDook talks to the team. Their transition from football to basketball is more pronounced this year because of Ethan Lubowitz’s graduation. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Up to the Minutemen

Mendham may be a little more offensively challenged in the past but rebounders Will Gibbs and Kal Roemer are easing that burden with their play under the basket.

“Will is an absolute beast,’’ Mendham teammate Alex Jacobs said. “He’s capable of 15-16 rebounds a game. Kal is an absolute beast, too.’’

More rebounds, especially on the offensive end, mean more scoring opportunities. Gibbs has shown he can contribute. He is good on putbacks and can hit an open mid-range jumper. More often then not, the big guys excel in setting screens to get shooters Jacobs and T. K. Hayes open for perimeter shots and backdoor layups.’’

“Both of them are just high energy guys,’’ Schmid said of the rebounders. “They bust their butts. You can’t ask for anything better.’’

Mendham recently got a big lift from Hayes who put in a 28-point performance against West Morris on Tuesday. Another solid perimeter scorer can make Mendham more dangerous going forward.

Notes and quotes:

At 5-2 Jefferson is off to a good start and may provide opponents difficulty going forward because of their balance. “We’re happy where we are,’’ Jefferson coach Joe DiGennaro said. “We can match up with most teams and we are a tough matchup.’’ … Former Mendham standout Andrew Jacobs made the Boston College teams as a walk-on this fall. He has made appearances in five games and registered his first collegiate points in a game against Harvard. … The Mount Olive benefit game against Staten Island’s Tottenville High has been rescheduled for Saturday, January 19 at 7 p.m. All proceeds will go to Hurricane Sandy charities. There has never been a connection between the two schools. Mount Olive coach Kevin Moore said that the school was just looking for a game and the Marauders had an open spot. It just seemed natural to turn it into a charity event. The contest was originally scheduled for late December but weather conditions necessitated a postponement. …  Chatham’s Jonathan Berntsen, who is currently competing for Division III Wheaton College, has a familiar teammate on the Illinois school’s roster. He is former Mendham standout Caleb DeMoss. The standout guard for several Mendham teams is in his sophomore year for the Thunder. He has appeared in 11 games this year and averages 3.6 points a contest. Berntsen’s play has been limited to a pair of games but the Morris County Tournament MVP registered his first collegiate points in a November contest against Alma College. Wheaton College is 9-0 and ranked ninth in Division III.

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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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