When Alex Mirabel took over the St. Peter’s Prep basketball program last year, he knew that it was going to be somewhat of a rebuilding process.
After all, it looked like everyone involved with the program totally vanished after playing for the NJSIAA Non-Public A North title in 2014, namely the head coach and virtually all of the players.
A host of standout performers, set to return to Grand and Warren, were suddenly all gone, transferring to other schools, leaving former assistant coach Mirabel, a Jersey City native, to do like the Average White Band did in the 1970s and pick up the pieces.
Mirabel did what he could to make the Marauders competitive last year in his first season, but they struggled somewhat.
“I think that it took a while,” Mirabel said. “It took a while for these kids to develop some chemistry. I think that’s why it was important for us to get off to a good start this season.”
The Marauders currently own a 9-6 record overall and an 8-2 mark in the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League-Red Division, but trail front-running Hudson Catholic in the standings by two full games after falling to the Hawks last week.
“I think our schedule helped us out,” Mirabel said. “We took the team to Washington, D.C. for a tournament and that helped us as well. We have some hard-nosed players. I think that this has been a good experience for the kids.”
Leading the way for the Marauders is 5-foot-11 junior guard Jordyn Owens. Owens started for most of the time last year and is averaging 12 points per game this year.
“I think he’s one of the best guards in the county,” Mirabel said. “He’s a competitor. He just needs to understand the game a little bit better.”
The starting off-guard is 5-foot-11 senior Shamar Westerman.
“He’s the only senior on the whole team,” Mirabel said. “We’ve been looking to him for leadership and he provides that.”
Another guard is the 5-foot-10 do-everything Jorge Portorreal, who is also a standout for the Prep football team.
“Jorge is the heart and soul of the team,” Mirabel said. “He plays the same way on the football field. He’s all over the place. He’s quick and tough and does everything we ask of him.”
Sophomore Shayne Simon is another gridiron warrior who plays basketball for the Marauders. The 6-foot-3 Simon is averaging eight points and four rebounds per contest.
“Shayne is a beast for us,” Mirabel said. “He works extremely hard off the boards and he’s a great defender. He’s just a great kid. He’s so coachable.”
Another sophomore who saw a lot of time last year as a freshman is 6-foot-3 guard Brendan Thiele, who is averaging five points and three rebounds a game coming off the bench. Thiele had 14 points and seven rebounds in a recent win over Hoboken.
“Brendan has a lot of skill,” Mirabel said. “He’s a great shooter and he’s very athletic. He gives us a spark off the bench. He has a lot of potential with a huge upside.”
The Marauders were bolstered by the transfer of truly two players who could be called Twin Towers, namely the Omslaer twins, juniors Ryan and Parker, who transferred into Prep from Jackson Memorial from the Jersey Shore area.
Ryan Omslaer is 6-foot-11 and Parker is 6-foot-10, so you can easily see that they are not identical twins. But they are certainly a noticeable upgrade on what the Marauders put on the floor last year.
“It’s given us a totally different look,” Mirabel said. “Ryan Omslaer is great around the basket, collecting rebounds. He helps when teams try to double team, because he’s also a good passer and extremely unselfish. Parker has good ball skills and has tremendous footwork. He also rebounds well.”
Ryan is averaging eight points and five rebounds per game. Parker is averaging five points and four rebounds. Both are considered to be college material and with that height, they should see some sort of scholarship offers next year.
“They’re both getting looks already,” Mirabel said. “It’s early, but they’re potentially Ivy League material. They’re both great students and they’ve received interest from Brown, Princeton and Yale, as well as Monmouth. They could be broken up in college, but being twins, they ideally would like to stay together. I think Ryan is still growing and will be a seven-footer.”
Mirabel said he has only one dilemma with the brothers.
“It’s tough to play them both at the same time,” Mirabel said.
Mitchell Jones is a 6-foot-6 junior who “brings a lot of energy off the bench,” according to Mirabel. Jones is another transfer from Watchung Hills in Warren.
“He just sort of fell into our laps,” Mirabel said. “His brother plays football and the parents wanted them to come together. He brings toughness with him and defends very well.”
Another player with interesting pedigree is 6-foot junior Luke Buckoweic, whose step-mother is Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Carol Blazejowski, the former Montclair State All-American.
“He’s smart and disciplined and has a good feel for the game,” Mirabel said of Buckoweic.
Zach Chmiel is a 6-foot-5 junior who Mirabel called “our Bill Laimbeer,” referring to the former Detroit Pistons center who was known for being a bruising intimidator.
“He’s a tough, hard-nosed guy who plays hard,” Mirabel said.
Mirabel can see the improvement.
“Last year, we were 4-8 at this point,” Mirabel said. “We’re bigger and better and are looking to get even better. We’re not afraid of playing anyone. I love the fact that we’ve established a new identity after everyone left. We’re looking to make some noise in the county tournament.”
The way the Marauders are playing, you can count on it…
Congrats to Secaucus’ senior guard Kristina Ulrich, who was informed last week that she had been selected to participate in the New Jersey Scholastic Basketball Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game next month at Monmouth University.
It’s a great honor for Ulrich, who had to become the leader of the Patriots after the graduations of standouts Andie Lennon and Julia McClure and did so with style and grace, leading the Patriots in scoring. Now, Ulrich gets to end her high school career among the state’s 30 best players. Secaucus has a battle Monday when the Patriots face Queen of Peace for the NJIC Liberty Division title. Queen of Peace, coached by former St. Anthony great point guard Jiovanny Fontan, has taken the state by storm this season with a host of transfers and a 14-1 overall record. Both teams are undefeated in the NJIC Liberty…
Rumor is in North Bergen that head football coach Czar Wiley is out after four seasons and although the job has been posted with several prominent coaches applying for the position, the job will be filled by assistant coach Ed Somick. Wiley, the 1996-97 Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year during his playing days at North Bergen, had the tough task of replacing the legendary Vince Ascolese and never really returned the Bruin program to glory…
St. Anthony’s boys’ team is not only the No. 1 team in the Hudson Reporter Top Five, but is also the No. 1-ranked team in the entire state now, courtesy of their perfect 16-0 record…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Anthony (16-0). 2. Hudson Catholic (12-3). 3. Union City (14-3). 4. St. Peter’s Prep (9-6). 5. Snyder (10-5)…
Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (14-2). 2. Lincoln (13-2). 3. Secaucus (13-3). 4. North Bergen (11-4). 5. Marist (11-6).—Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com