Morris Knolls Mid-Summer Preview
By Mark Kitchin
It wasn’t a pretty picture for most teams competing in the NJAC-American last year. When the top two teams in the Morris-Sussex area (Pope John and Mount Oiive) were vying to be among the best in the state and others were having exceptional years, a retooling team like Morris Knolls had a lot to overcome.
“I thought the league was loaded,” Morris Knolls coach Ken Ferrante said. “Sparta was great. Pope John was great. Montville was very good. We split with them. Mount Olive was good. High Point had a great senior team. It was a tough league.”
It left the Golden Eagles with a 9-14 record but with a renewed sense of commitment. They have lost one key senior to graduations but expect to bounce back and a stronger and more capable team in what will still be a very competitive league.
Carroll Rich is the one key cog that Morris Knolls will miss the most. Talented, athletic and versatile, the Golden Eagles leading scorer is headed to Ithaca to continue his career on the court.
“We had one senior who had a great year,” Ferrante said. “He did what he could do. He made all county.
“He was our main scorer, our main defender. He was our main guy everywhere. He had a very solid senior year.”
Overall, Morris Knolls looked like a very capable squad. The Golden Eagles had a 5-5 record at one point but then a double overtime loss to West Morris seemed to take the steam out of them. It set up a 5-game losing streak that included a Morris County Tournament loss to Roxbury in the opening round.
They did not qualify for the state tournament however the Golden Eagles earned local bragging rights by sweeping sister school Morris Hills in their home-and-home series. Ferrante believes that despite the tough losses, the young Morris Knolls players learned lessons that will help in the long run.
“We gained some good experience,” Ferrante said. “I think the guys will benefit from it. Everybody is working hard this year. I’m hoping we are better but everybody has to stay healthy.”
Some of last year’s juniors are ready to step up. Ryan Bornemann opened some eyes last year. The Morris Knolls point guard nearly made the All-County team proper before eventually qualifying as an honorable mention.
“Ryan is having a really good summer,” Ferrante said. “He is going to be our point guard. He’s a quiet kid but he leads by example. He is competitive. He has an awful lot of knowledge of the game. He was all-league honorable mention knocking on the door, we hope he breaks it down this year.”
Forwards Luke Luzzi and Brandon Simeon earned some experience last year. Quite a bit is expected of them this winter.
“Luzzi is a tough six-foot kid that can play anywhere,” Ferrante said. “He plays great defense and hustles. Brandon Simeon is the same thing. He’s 6-foot-2. He is a power forward type. They both had a little bit of time and now they will have bigger roles this year since they are seniors.”
Jared Badalamenti and Michael Chapman both showed perimeter prowess as sophomore. Their promise and development can certainly help the Golden Eagles along. Morris Knolls has a couple of sophomores that will also be on the mix at the varsity level including a few players taller than 6-foot-4. Overall, the Golden Eagles have the makings of a competitive squad in a league that will see plenty of changes.
The host team of the Morris Knolls Summer League had mixed results. Their varsity squad did well and was beaten by Hanover Park in the playoff semifinals. Their jayvee squad didn’t fair quite so well but had good attendance.
“Participation has been great,” said Ferrante, who has one of the busier summer teams. “The kids are all into it and working hard. I’m very happy with the participation which is the most of what you want. You want them to be around.”
They did a weekend camp at Susquehanna and a week of games at William Paterson in Wayne. They also held their youth camps at home and focused much of their time on shooting. It’s surprising how much such a pivotal skill is neglected.
“A lot of kids don’t have proper form when they are young so it is really hard to change them when they get older,” Ferrante said. “Very few kids have solid, fundamental shooting form. You can get better but by ninth grade it is really hard to make major changes.”
However, even at the varsity level, a player can improve his skills.
“You need to put the ball in the basket,” Ferrante said. “We do a full week camp and then we added the shooting camp which focuses on just constant shooting. We get a ton of shots up.”