Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Teaneck Tops West Side in Toc Opener

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Teaneck Tops West Side in Toc Opener

Article excerpt

TOMS RIVER - The Teaneck express rolls on.

Demonstrating a precise blend of athleticism and basketball savvy, the Highwaymen blew past Newark West Side, 71-62, on Tuesday night in the Tournament of Champions basketball tournament at Pine Belt Arena. Their reward? Top-seeded and undefeated St. Anthony of Jersey City on Thursday.

"That's going to be our biggest competition so far this year," Teaneck forward Nick Whitaker said. "We want to give them their first loss. We are going into that game with a positive attitude and hoping we come out with a win."

"We look forward to it," Teaneck coach Jerome Smart said. "[St. Anthony] coach Bob Hurley is a good friend of mine. I worked out in his gym when I was in high school and in college. So I have known him since I was a teenager. It'll be very exciting for me to go against him and give it my best shot."

While the Friars have set the pace for New Jersey basketball for a generation, Teaneck has done the same thing in Bergen County. We're talking about a public school here -- and not the biggest public school, either. This also is a team that saw arguably its best player, Leondre Washington, transfer to Roselle Catholic last season.

Teaneck athletic director Todd Sinclair points out that the Highwaymen are doing this without a middle-school basketball program or a freshman team, although the school is trying to revive the ninth-grade program.

Sinclair gives a lot of credit to the coaches. First, of course, is the legendary Curtis March, whom the school honored this year by naming its home court in his name; then Smart, who has taken the program to new heights since taking over in 2011, including an unprecedented four straight Jamboree titles (2011-14).

"Maybe some people wouldn't think this is a good thing, but I really think Curtis and Jerome define themselves by who they are as basketball coaches," Sinclair said. "What I mean by that is, this is their priority. They put in nights, weekends, all summer. It's 365 days a year, and the relationships they have with these kids is not just December to March. It's all year long."

It's telling that the first thing Smart said in the Teaneck locker room after the game was how much his team hates to lose. …

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