Memorable Mondays: Top 5 Seniors
Welcome to MSGVarsity.com's Memorable Mondays, a summer-long series that looks back on the top players, games and moments from the past season and gazes ahead to 2012-13. As the summer goes on, we'll compile all the lists and post them here: www.msgvarsity.com/mondays. New lists will be posted every Monday at noon.
In Week 1 of Memorable Mondays, we look at five of the best graduating seniors from New Jersey high schools.
Kyle Anderson, St. Anthony: Bob Hurley, the Friars' Naismith Hall of Fame head coach, has called Anderson the most complete basketball player he has seen in his 40 seasons at St. Anthony.
That endorsement is good enough for us.
Take Mandy Johnson's pure scoring ability, David Rivers' knack for the clutch play, Bobby Hurley Jr's court leadership and passing ability, Roshown McLeod's command of the boards, Rashon Burno's defense and Mike Rosario's finesse and throw the special talents of those former St. Anthony stars into a big blender. What you come out with is a wonderful concoction named Kyle Anderson.
The 6-9 Anderson came to St. Anthony as a pretty complete package when he transferred following the closure of Paterson Catholic in June 2010. He'd already scored 460 points and collected over 170 rebounds and 100 assists to help that team go a combined 54-6 in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
He could shoot from the perimeter, rebound well against older, stronger kids and his passing ability was just short of astonishing. Oh, and he knew how to win. The Cougars' one loss in Anderson's sophomore year was to St. Anthony--the program he would join three months later--in the state tournament.
As bad as that loss felt, Anderson must have a bear of a time remembering the sting of that defeat. His Friars went 33-0 last year and 32-0 this season to claim back-to-back Non-Public B and Tournament of Champions crowns and to stamp Anderson's legacy as one of the most successful players in the history of New Jersey hoops.
This do-everything star averaged 18 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.0 blocks per game this season and finished his career with just over 1,500 points, 730 rebounds and just under 450 assists. The future UCLA Bruin participated in the prestigious McDonald's All-American Game March 28.
Darius Hamilton, Don Bosco Prep: The Lil' Hammer continued to make national headlines even after the conclusion of the 2011 football season.
The Don Bosco Prep senior standout, named the National Defensive Player of the Year, verbally committed to Rutgers University live on MSG Varsity’s show “A Quick :60” while sitting alongside host Mike Quick.
"It's a huge relief," said the 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end, who brought along his family members and two best friends from the Don Bosco football team to enjoy the night's festivities at the MSG Varsity headquarters.
"I knew in my heart where I wanted to be. This was really cool to do it like we did."
Hamilton chose the Scarlet Knights over Cal and Florida, among dozens of other Division I offers.
In the end, the thought of playing in front of his hometown friends and family – along with the opportunity to suit up with former Don Bosco teammates Gary Nova, Paul Canevari and Leonte Carroo -- was too good to pass up.
"When we've been together, all we've done is win," Darius said. "Rutgers is definitely a team on the rise and I'm happy to be a part of it. If other kids stay on, it could be great."
The son of former New York Giants All-Pro Keith Hamilton, Darius went on official visits to Rutgers, Cal, Florida and Miami.
"The thing about Darius is he's not your everyday guy," Keith said. "He loves New Jersey and his heart is here. He is a good young man. If I didn't know him, I would say you couldn't ask for a better son or man. People know him for what he does on the field, but I get to remember him as a son."
Hamilton helped the Ironmen capture their sixth straight Non-Public Group 4 title and second national championship in three years this past fall.
Wait until Rutgers Nation gets to know this guy.
Devin Fuller, Old Tappan: Electric. Unbelievable. Super-human.
The adjectives could pile up for days, yet no word can truly define how wonderful the Old Tappan fleet-footed quarterback was on the field.
For four years the Garden State was treated to witnessing the 6-foot-1 UCLA-bound signal-caller rack up hundreds upon hundreds of yards of offense for the Golden Knights, who reached the North 1 Group 3 championship game two straight years.
Despite falling to Wayne Hills in both contests, Fuller's excellence was well documented. And it certainly won't be forgotten. In his junior year, he recorded 2,306 rushing yards and 32 scores, as well as 1,844 passing yards and 20 scoring strikes for a squad that went 11-0 before falling to the Patriots in the title game at Giants Stadium in early December.
His senior year, however, didn't start as smoothly. During its puzzling 1-3 start, Old Tappan averaged 23 points per game. But since Fuller’s turf toe and hamstring injuries completely healed, it went 6-1 -- not counting a flop on Thanksgiving -- and torched opponents to the tune of over 40 points per game.
He finished with 1,326 rushing yards and 17 scores to go along with 2,247 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air for the 7-5 Golden Knights in an injury-plagued campaign.
Every now and then a special player comes along who captivates an entire area, and Fuller was one of them.
Kelci Smesko, Ridgewood: The girls lacrosse superstar's season began a tad differently than usual: in front of the camera.
Smesko, along with three other student-athletes in the Garden State, posed for a group picture that appeared on the cover of MSG Varsity The Magazine's spring issue.
Then, the real fun began.
Showing off her incredible talent on the field, the prolific Duke-bound senior led the Maroons to another Group 4 title, scoring 80 goals and delivering 21 assists. Impressive numbers, considering she was hampered by a nagging high ankle sprain for most of the season.
Michaela Mabrey, Manasquan: Mabrey, the MSG Varsity New Jersey Girls Basketball Player of the Year, was never about wasting time when it came to sharpening her skills and expanding the volume of shots at her disposal.
She explored everything her imagination could conjure up with an understanding that in order to be one step ahead of the defense, she always had to have something creative, something mystical up her sleeve.
The exploration of her creativity paid off in two ways and one, contrary to popular belief, paled in importance to the other. Despite her 2,117 career points, the 5-10 senior guard from Manasquan was never inspired by scoring.
That always seemed to come naturally. What made her the McDonald’s and WBCA All-American she became in her final year was a work ethic rooted in improving the stock of her team. Going to the glass, elevating her defense, working off the ball and getting others involved through her distribution may have been less attractive features compared to her effortless jumpers from beyond 20 feet, but they carried equal significance in her mind and were pursued with a verve, that became contagious.
The effort expelled through those avenues was just as important to the Warriors march to a 32-2 record, the Group 3 state title and, ultimately the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title as any buckets she deposited, no matter the degree of difficulty.
Mabrey, who is heading to Notre Dame, punctuated her senior year, in which she scored at a 17.2 clip, in grand fashion when she collected 26 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals in a 67-55 victory over Gill St. Bernard’s for Manasquan’s first T of C championship.
Join us throughout the summer as "Memorable Mondays" brings you more top 5 lists:
July 2: Top five individual performances from 2011-12
July 9: Top five Cinderalla stories from 2011-12
July 16: Top five exciting endings from 2011-12
July 23: Top five heartwarming moments from 2011-12
July 30: Top five favorite venues from 2011-12
Aug. 6: Top five coaches from 2011-12
Aug. 13: Top five most memorable games from 2011-12
Aug. 20: Top five teams from 2011-12
Aug. 27: Top five teams to watch in 2012-13
Find them all at www.msgvarsity.com/mondays.