JERSEY CITY, N.J. – In recent years when fellow basketball officials inquired about the summer league(s) worked by yours truly, the Hamilton Park circuit was always prominently mentioned. When asked what teams were in it, the presence of national power St. Anthony’s seemed to give the league instant validation. Today in year ten, the league is known in the New York-New Jersey area for its competitiveness, organization and excellent competition. St. Anthony’s is still there, but there are a host of strong programs in the twenty-team high school division.
Pat Devaney has coordinated and run the league for a decade. A Bayonne resident and basketball official, Devaney gets the teams, assigns officials, finds sponsors and runs an extremely well-run organization that has drawn praise from coaches, fans, and virtually anyone who follows the league.
Games are held each hour from 4:30 until the last one at 8:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The league begins in the early part of June and wraps things up the latter part of August. In the past there was a grade school and girls high school sections. They are gone as Devaney has brought in a 20-team high school boys division.
Defending champion St. Anthony’s is a marquee team, but there are a number of quality competitors. To name a few, you have Hudson Catholic, St. Peter’s Prep and Snyder of Jersey City, Bayonne and Marist, Newark Tech, Nazareth (Brooklyn), Moore Catholic (Staten Island, NY), Bergen Catholic, Don Bosco and Immaculata. The league is stacked. There are no off nights, figuratively and literally.
Games are outdoors at Hamilton Park. The Jersey City location is in an upscale section of the city a few blocks from St. Anthony’s and the Holland Tunnel. If the weatherman calls for rain, Devaney will move the games indoors, usually at air conditioned School 7 in the Heights section of Jersey City. The call is just for rain. There have been a few scorching hot night but action has gone on outdoors. On one evening we officiated the first two games of the schedule working in 101 degree heat. Even officials and scorer’s table personnel is asked to give the extra effort at Hamilton. It happens without anyone complaining.
Forfeits are rare. Teams know if they habitually forfeit they will be asked to leave the league. And there is a waiting list of schools ready to fill their spot.
- The marquee game of the early season saw Hudson Catholic defeat St. Anthony’s 46-35. Nick Mariniello is doing a great job in building a strong program at Hudson, based near St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. Hudson was eliminated by St. Anthony’s in the state tournament last season. Mariniello has a strong group back and while he tried to down play the significance of defeating St. Anthony’s in Hamilton, the fact remains, Hudson drew first “blood” and an impending playoff rematch should be quite interesting.
- St. Anthony’s senior Jordan Compass led all scorers with 13 points in that one. For Hudson Kavon Stewart and Safee Sabur combined for 21 points. Stewart has been a player of note to date in the Hamilton.
- On the officiating front, I was impressed with Hudson in the wins over Bayonne and Marist. Mariniello has talent but he’s doing a great job teaching his group and ensuring they are executing properly, regardless of time and score.
- Bergen Catholic is coached by former Davidson guard Billy Armstrong. For years Bergen was more a pattern offense program. Under Armstrong, they get out on the break but will not force it and back things up into half court if the transition is stopped.
- I worked an impressive Snyder win over Columbia. Former Snyder star and 1,000-point scorer at St. Peter’s Shelton Gibbs is doing a fine job with that program. Snyder is one of the Hamilton’s stronger teams.
- The Snyder win was on the night of the NBA draft. Devaney and the staff at Hamilton would later take delight in pride of an “alum” Tyshawn Taylor being selected in the NBA draft. Taylor played for St. Anthony’s and was in the Hamilton just five “short” years ago. Devaney though, is not really thinking draft on this evening. It is the coordinating of the schedule and discussing ball star game plans with Hamilton staffer Mike Reilly.
A former coach at McNair, based just a few blocks from Hamilton, Reilly was anxious to join the league and is a great addition. He is not short on some great hoop stories by any means.
- Reilly is another of the staff Devaney credits for allowing the Hamilton to run so smooth. “It’s not about me,” he says. “It’s all about my staff. I have some great people.” Some like Regina on the scorebook have been around for virtually the duration. Others, like one of Hudson’s student/managers are getting their chance to contribute.
It is an effort of a great administrative team. That has a number of outstanding basketball teams coming back on a regular basis.