TASTY TIDBITS Lincoln’s boys enjoy hoop resurgence Remembering Wejnert; Marist girls…

first_img ×LION NATION PRIDE – The Lincoln boys’ basketball team advanced all the way to the semifinals of the recent Hudson County Tournament. From left are Tariq Royster, Randy Antenor, head coach Bill Zasowski and Najuan Jenkins. The association between Bill Zasowski and Lincoln High School came together pretty innocently.Gary Pitchford, a friend of Zasowski’s and an alumnus of Lincoln, threw Zasowski’s hat into the ring when the time came over the summer to find a new boys’ basketball coach at Lincoln. LION NATION PRIDE – The Lincoln boys’ basketball team advanced all the way to the semifinals of the recent Hudson County Tournament. From left are Tariq Royster, Randy Antenor, head coach Bill Zasowski and Najuan Jenkins.center_img “Gary reached out to me and told me that the job was open,” said Zasowski, the Bayonne native who played at St. Anthony and then began his coaching odyssey all over the state, with several stops, including an extended stay at Rutgers-Newark. “Gary told me that they were trying to get the Lincoln program going. Out of the respect I had for him, I looked into it.”But Zasowski had spent the last 13 years coaching at the collegiate level, including a year as the women’s head coach at R-N after spending seven years as one of the top assistants to Joe Loughran with the men’s team there.Coaching high school again would be a bit of a challenge, but an intriguing one.“I was looking for the chance to run my own program,” said Zasowski, a teacher in Bayonne who helps to coordinate a lot of the Bayonne youth basketball program. “Lincoln was close enough for me to teach in Bayonne and get to Jersey City in time for practice. There was an opportunity to keep the Lincoln program going in the right direction. With the state sectional (NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II), you can make a real run in the states.”Zasowski was also familiar with the Lincoln program from his days as a Hudson County recruiter at Rutgers-Newark.“I got to see the players at Lincoln and I thought they had an opportunity to have some success,” Zasowski said. “I was optimistic from the start.”So Zasowski took the job at Lincoln, poised to make some noise in the county and state.He was also floored when 75 kids showed up at the initial meeting.“Word was beginning to spread,” Zasowski said. “They heard that I wanted to take it [the Lincoln program] to win a higher level, that I was a guy coming in with college experience. I couldn’t believe the amount of hard workers who came out.”When conditioning meetings began in October, Zasowski noticed he had a group of hungry kids ready to make a change.“I started talking to the kids and building relationships with them,” Zasowski said. “They had a presence about them. I knew they were going to play hard and work hard.”Duron “D.J.” Henderson and Dante Darby were two players who stood out right away. Henderson is a junior, Darby just a sophomore.“D.J. is as tough as nails with a strong desire to win,” Zasowski said of the 5-foot-9 junior. “He just keeps getting better. Darby [a 6-foot forward] is a gamer who wants the ball. He has a huge upside. He has the whole world in front of him.”Jalen Scott, the football standout who is a pure physical specimen, was a little late getting into the basketball mode after the grid season. He’s a 6-foot-4 junior.“He’s as strong as a bull,” Zasowski said. “He’s also different than any other kid. Because he’s so strong, the other guys feed off his plays.”Randy Antenor is a 6-foot-3 senior who never played basketball before.“Randy was a diamond in the rough, like our version of the Swiss Army knife,” Zasowski said. “He can play anywhere and can do so many different things.”Najuan Jenkins is a 6-foot-2 senior.“He’s a fantastic athlete,” Zasowski said of Jenkins, who scored 25 points in a win over Union City last week. “He’s a great volleyball player with the ability to jump through the roof. He’s not afraid to take the tough shot. I’m upset I’ve only had one year with him.”Tariq Royster is a 6-foot-4 senior who has that endless energy clock.“He plays hard the entire time he’s out there,” Zasowski said. “He can defend a larger guard. He has long arms and blocks shots. He’s a blue-collar kind of kid.”La’Quim Walker is a 6-foot-7 junior who began his high school days at St. Anthony.“Some of the things he does are fantastic,” Zasowski said. “He has to embrace the physicality of the game.”Zasowski didn’t know what to think at first.“We started to come together,” Zasowski said. “The first couple of days, we just had to slow down. I had to go back to being a teacher of basketball again, teaching concepts and things I wanted to get done. We started out rather slow, but we needed to know how things had to be to get done.”The Lions hit a bit of a wall a few weeks ago, then responded. When time came for the Hudson County Tournament, the Lions appeared to be ready.“They fought through the adversity and played lights out,” Zasowski said. “They were down 13 against Ramapo and managed to come back and get the win. It all came full circle at the right time.”The Lions managed to defeat North Bergen in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals. There, the Lions ran into six-time defending Hudson County champion Hudson Catholic. The Lions scraped and clawed their way against the Hawks and remained close for three periods before falling, 67-53.“These kids had never been a part of anything like that before,” Zasowski said. “I wanted to see how they reacted to the crowd and the aura of it all. We were right there for a while. My goal is to go deep in the county and the states every year.”Sounds like Zasowski is at Lincoln to stay for a while…While Hudson Catholic was slated to face St. Peter’s Prep once again for the boys’ county tournament title – the two teams have met in each of the last eight title games – Secaucus and undefeated Marist will square off in the girls’ title game. Marist is now 21-0 and will be playing in its first county title game. Secaucus is 21-3 and won the county title two years ago. The county tournament finals were set for Saturday at St. Peter’s University, girls at noon, boys at 2 p.m…Prayers go out to the family of Rich Wejnert, who died last week after a brave battle with cancer. He was 57 years old.Wejnert was the second in the litany of St. Anthony NCAA Division I basketball scholarship players when he went off to South Carolina in 1977, then transferring to Fairfield.Wejnert was the first McDonald’s All-American to come out of St. Anthony. Wejnert spoke last fall at the 50-year anniversary tribute to legendary coach Bob Hurley at the Casino in the Park and talked about his battle with cancer. He was a marvelous coach at Paramus Catholic. It’s a big loss to the St. Anthony family. Rest in peace…Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Anthony (19-5). 2. Hudson Catholic (22-3). 3. North Bergen (18-5). 4. Snyder (13-9). 5. Lincoln (15-10)…Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Marist (21-0). 2. Secaucus (21-3). 3. Lincoln (20-4). 4. Bayonne (19-5). 5. Weehawken (21-3)…–Jim HagueJim Hague can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]last_img

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