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Tigers Sports

Chemistry-Laden Linden Hoops Off To Solid Start In New Season

Posted Tuesday, January 05, 2010 by By JR Parachini For sidelinechatter.com

Linden's veteran head boys basketball coach Phil Colicchio remains an enthusiastic presence on the sidelines for the always-competitive Tigers, who are off to a fast start with a promising squad that doesn't have a Division I player, but does boast depth and excellent chemistry. (Sideline Chatter photo)

Chemistry-Laden Linden Hoops
Off To Solid Start In New Season
By JR Parachini
For sidelinechatter.com

While there are always high expectations when it comes to the fortunes of the Linden boys' basketball team, the difference this season might be that the pressure to win is lessened just a bit.

That might just allow the Tigers to achieve the lofty goals they always set for themselves.

"This is a much different team than in the past," said head coach Phil Colicchio, now in his 13th season at the helm.

The first decade of this century was a good one for Linden, with Colicchio leading the Tigers to their first three Group 4 state championships.

The manner that this year's squad will challenge for one will be a bit different than in the recent past.

"We don't have one Division 1 player or a big-time player on this team," Colicchio said. "We have 11 or 12 kids, a very deep lineup that is very, very athletic."

Linden had a highly-successful December, winning all four games, including all three to capture the championship of the Buc Holiday Tournament at Red Bank Regional High School in Little Silver.

While senior forward Quadeer Lewis (6-3) netted MVP honors with team-leading totals of 15 points in a 78-42 win over Nottingham, 18 points and seven rebounds in a 67-53 victory vs. Bayonne and 16 points in a 61-55 triumph over Pennsauken, other players such as Jaurice Jones, Trell Myers and Jarrett Calhoun made their presence felt as well.

Jones and Myers netted 14 and Rodney Sanders 13 against Nottingham, Calhoun finished with 11 points vs. Bayonne and Myers had 11 points and 16 rebounds against Pennsauken.

"This is a bunch of kids who really, really enjoy playing with one another," Colicchio said. "Our depth is the key to our team.

"On any given night it could be someone different who steps up for us."

Lewis and Hodge have the most experience from last year's team that finished 14-13 and reached the North 2, Group 4 quarterfinals. Colicchio said that Jones has been a pleasant surprise and was Linden's leading scorer with 14 points in its season-opening 60-26 home triumph over Newark Tech.

Lewis has come a long way and not just in terms of playing the game on the court.

"Quadeer had a great second half last year and that led into our season," Colicchio said. "In my opinion, he's turning out to be the greatest leader we've ever had.

"He's taken a young team under his wing and our practices have been unbelievable. His attitude has been perfect. He's taken on the role that he was there before and is trying to lead the way."

Colicchio said Lewis is being recruited by everyone in the New Jersey Athletic Conference.

"He's a tremendous student and a very bright kid," Colicchio said.

Myers, a senior, played later in the season last year and is has shown a great deal of focus on the court so far in the early going.

"He's been maybe our most consistent kid rebounding and playing defense," Colicchio said. "In the tournament he had 15 rebounds in all three games."

Myers has aspirations of playing college football after a three-year varsity gridiron career.

"He uses his athleticism and brings a lot to the table for us," Colicchio said.

Hodge, a third-year varsity junior, has shown flashes of brilliance at times in directing Linden's offense from his backcourt position.

"He had a great freshman year and struggled at times last year," Colicchio said. "He's our most indispensable kid.

"He handles pressure and, defensively, has been doing a great job on the ball.

"He's the key to our defense and our sets on offense. He gives other guards the opportunity to come around slower than quicker."

The starting five so far has been Hodge, Calhoun, Lewis, Myers and senior Curtis Lowery. Calhoun started some games last year and has had some ups and downs so far this season according to Colicchio.

"He's (Calhoun) probably the best shooter on the team," Colicchio said. "He handles the ball a bit to relieve Elijah."

This is Lowery's first year of playing varsity basketball.


The first Union vs. Essex Challenge - which is really more of a celebration of past Watchung Conference teams playing each other once during the regular season - is set for Saturday, Jan. 16 at the Dunn Sport Center in Elizabeth.

The three-game Jan. 16 slate at Dunn features:

Plainfield vs. Shabazz, 5 p.m.

Linden vs. Irvington, 6:30 p.m.

Newark East Side vs. Elizabeth, 8 p.m.

"Chris Balent at Elizabeth, Anthony Tavares at East Side and myself got together and said lets play each other if we could," Colicchio said. "We missed the Watchung Conference battles we had.

"This is really more of a Watchung Conference thing than a county thing. We plan to rotate the site."


Anthony Drejaj learned from one of the best coaches in the state in Bob Farrell at Seton Hall Prep. After graduating from the West Orange school in 2002, the West Orange resident then went on to a successful collegiate career at St. Louis University.

He is now Colicchio's top assistant coach.

"Anthony is a heck of a basketball coach," Colicchio said. "I was looking for a coach and I saw him coaching a Seton Hall Prep team in a fall league and asked Bob Farrell is he was going to be coaching with him.

"Farrell said no, so I asked Anthony if he wanted to coach for me.

"He's absolutely tremendous. He's been with guys that were great players and he knows the game so well.

"He was well coached in college ( St. Louis) and high school (SHP) and he knows how to teach and express himself. He's picked up our system as fast as anyone has."

Marty Luc and Danny Del Valle were previously Colicchio's top assistant coaches. Luc, while obtaining his master's degree, is now coaching Linden's 8th grade team, while Del Valle is no longer coaching."

NOTES: Last year was the first season that Linden did not win a conference, county or state championship since Colicchio's first year at the helm in 1997-1998. Colicchio was the head coach at Barringer for one year in 1996-1997 after a highly-successful stint as the junior varsity coach at his alma mater Elizabeth.

Colicchio said that the Dec. 18 game at St. Patrick that was postponed due to deaths in the family of both head coaches has still not been re-scheduled yet and that the Hoop Group people asked him if he still wanted to play after his team's contest against Ridge on Dec. 19 at Kean University in Union was snowed out.

"I said absolutely," Colicchio said. "Ridge can't play, but they will give us an opponent."

Whatever the Hoop Group puts together to make up for the games that were snowed out on Dec. 19, Colicchio said he wasn't sure if the games would still be played at Kean.

When Union County Conference-Watchung Division play commences for Linden this week, it will be at a tough 3-1 Westfield squad Tuesday at 4 p.m. and then at a very formidable Plainfield team Saturday at 1 p.m.

Plainfield won the Holiday Jubilee at Neptune by beating Neptune 62-56 for a 4-0 start.

"Westfield's big kid (6-6 senior Pat Sabatino) is as good as any big kid around our county," Colicchio said. "He's very active and can create a lot of problems.

"Plainfield is a familiar opponent. It will be a grind night in and night out, with no nights off."

That is usually the case every year, whether Linden is playing in the Watchung Conference or the Union County Conference or going up against nationally ranked non-league foes.

"This team has really rejuvenated me," Colicchio said. "They bring it every night, including practice, and it's a fun group to coach."


Linden roster: Jarrett Calhoun, Steven Carvabali, Bart Gallo, Bryan Glinsky, Elijah Hodge, Jaurice Jones, Quadeer Lewis, Curtis Lowery, Trell Myers, Shaquille Mitchell, Justin Philippe, Rodney Sanders, Anthony Wellington.


2009-2010 LINDEN TIGERS schedule/results (4-0):

Dec. 23 (H) Linden 60, Newark Tech 26


Dec. 27 (A) Linden 78, Nottingham 42

Dec. 28 (A) Linden 67, Bayonne 53

Dec. 30 (A) Linden 61, Pennsauken 55

Jan. 5 at Westfield, 4 p.m.

Jan. 9 at Plainfield, 1 p.m.

Jan. 12 Paramus Catholic, 4 p.m.

Jan. 14 Elizabeth, 4 p.m.

Jan. 16 vs. Irvington, 6:30 p.m. at Elizabeth

Jan. 19 at Summit, 7 p.m.

Jan. 22 Roselle, 4 p.m.

Jan. 23 Bayonne, 7 p.m.

Jan. 26 Scotch Plains, 4 p.m.

Jan. 28 at Union, 4 p.m.

Feb. 2 Westfield, 4 p.m.

Feb. 4 Plainfield, 4 p.m.

Feb. 6 at Elizabeth, 7 p.m.

Feb. 11 at Scotch Plains, 4 p.m.

Feb. 13 Union, 1 p.m.

Feb. 15 at St. Anthony, 7 p.m.

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