As told to Christian Mordi / @thedribbledrop on Instagram and Twitter
My journey at Gil St. Bernards has been amazing. I met coach Sina in the 7th grade while playing for his AAU team. I decided to come over to Gil in the 8th grade and see if I could handle the commute. The adjustment was one of the hardest parts of my experience, but it was worth it. Gil as a whole has given me opportunities I probably wouldn’t have ever had if I had decided to go to another place. I’m extremely grateful to have played here. Gil has changed my life.
My freshman year I started with Shaq, Adam Mitola who is at George Washington, Connor Klementowicz who is at Hofstra and Jake Betlow. I really found my way as the season progressed and I found myself playing the best in the games that mattered the most.
I started my High School career playing for the Tim Thomas Playaz. I played 15u there and coach helped me a lot. I’m cool with all the coaches and it’s truly a family. I still have a group chat with a collection of players on that 15u team. We may not play together now, but some of those guys are really some of my best friends. My freshman year of AAU was a great experience. We won a couple tournaments. We came in 3rd at Peach Jam at the buzzer to a team that won it all.
The Playaz gave me a lot of opportunities. They set me up with a chance to play at the Victor Oladipo camp, which is probably one of my favorite camps that I went to ever. Chika and Jimmy have done a lot for me and I will forever be grateful for all they have done.
The recruiting process for me really started heading into my Junior year. That’s when things started picking up. I played up, which gave a lot of coaches a chance to see more. I also noticed things picked up a lot during the high school year. I take a lot of pride in our program, we don’t hide at all. We play a really tough schedule.
I felt like there was a lot of talk from people in regards to saying that I’m a certain type of player caliber wise, so I should be playing at certain schools on the collegiate level. Many programs reached out and showed interest, but they didn’t offer. I felt slightly disrespected about that as they knew of me, but never really solidified the offer.
I also felt the entire system of ranking kids is a bit off and it can throw a kid into a tailspin. As you mature, you realize that driving yourself crazy over a ranking is silly. There are countless great players in the NBA and making great money overseas that weren’t ranked or didn’t play at a “major” school. Once you go to college, none of that matters anymore. At one point I thought it was cool, but I’m over it now. I hope kids read this part and pay attention. All that matters is performing well when it matters most. I have used things like that as fuel for my career and I will show a lot of people where I really am next year.
This year I played Under Armour with New Heights. They are a first class organization. Right now I’m healing up a bit, but when I was there, it was phenomenal. They are well staffed and well prepared every game out. They had scouting reports and everything on deck.
A lot of people will probably be wondering why I didn’t do a more drawn out process in regards to announcing my top five schools and all that. I feel like things like that are more of a hype driven thing to draw attention to yourself.
I broke things down personally to a top four: Xavier, Northwestern, Rutgers and UConn. Those were all places that were legitimate to me that I took serious. They are all amazing schools with amazing staffs as well. I didn’t feel a need to share that info before I announced where I wanted to go, because that’s not my style.
In the end, I decided to go to Rutgers University. I talked to a lot of people about the coach and I’ve talked to them a lot as well. For starters, they were one of the first big schools to reach out to me, show legitimate interest, offer and never let up. They have been there through my entire process.
A lot of kids choose a school for a name. They end up unhappy, as they didn’t really think the decision through. The school ends up not being an ideal fit and they end up transferring. I chose Rutgers because I not only like where the program is now, but I love the potential of where it can go in the next couple of years. I want to not only be a part of that, but a main piece in that program. They are putting a lot of confidence in me and I wanted to take advantage of that. They also play in the Big Ten, so from a conference standpoint, we will play a tough schedule. I don’t know why their is this stigma with New Jerseys kids in regards to staying home for college sports. When you’re a little kid growing up in Detroit, you dream of playing at Michigan. When you’re a little kid growing up in Dallas playing football, you dream of playing at Texas. I don’t see the problem in a kid from Bayonne dreaming to play at Rutgers. If no one wants to build this and take advantage of this amazing opportunity to play on a major stage, then I will.
Before I end this, I want to thank a bunch of people who have been pivotal to my growth over the past couple of years. I want to thank my parents. They have made a bunch of huge sacrifices for me to make this happen. My family as a whole have been extremely supportive. Coach Merge Sina. He has been my biggest role model. He’s like a father figure to me and I want to thank him for everything. The Gil Community. They have extremely supportive. I want to thank Bayonne for helping mold me into the young man I am today. The Bayonne community has been extremely supportive of me throughout my process.
Lets Go Scarlet Knights!