TASTY TIDBITSFormer Hudson Catholic great Barrino lands with San Diego

Sad tale of former Prep standout Hill probably over for good

Five years ago, when Nassir Barrino decided that he wanted to attend Hudson Catholic from his native Newark, leaving his childhood friends behind, Barrino did so with one thing in mind.
Heading to Jersey City every day from Newark and going to Hudson Catholic was Barrino’s shot at heading to a good NCAA Division I school after high school.
“I wanted to be able to get a scholarship, because I knew my mother couldn’t afford to send me to school on her own,” Barrino said. “Without the scholarship, I don’t think I would have been able to go to college.”
So Barrino went to Hudson and had a great career with the Hawks, helping Hudson Catholic win four consecutive Hudson County championships – and he was a part of all four, playing a major role right away when he was just a freshman. He still remains the lone Hudson Catholic product with four county championships to his credit.
But Barrino didn’t get the scholarship he truly wanted after his high school career was over. He had offers from places like St. Peter’s University and especially Fairleigh Dickinson, which pursued Barrino extensively.
Barrino liked the fact that FDU had Hudson County products Greg Herenda and Dwayne Lee among the coaching staff, former guards like him that Barrino could relate to. In fact, Barrino seriously considered the FDU offer.
“I took my visit to FDU and I really liked those guys,” Barrino said. “But in my heart, I felt like I could do bigger than FDU. Nothing against them, it’s just something that I felt.”
Barrino took the gamble and turned down the local offers.
“Seeing all my friends go on to major colleges was hard for me,” Barrino said. “But I kept it in mind that I could go bigger and better.”
So instead of going to a smaller Division I school, Barrino decided to go the prep school route and went to Worcester Academy in Massachusetts.
“I felt at home there,” Barrino said. “I was able to relate to the coaching staff there. It was a great place for me.”
The goal never changed. It was all about getting to a good Division I school. Barrino also knew that he had to get better as a player, especially his ability to shoot the basketball. It was probably the only major deterrent in Barrino’s game. He had a different shooting form and it led to Barrino missing more shots than he made from the perimeter.
“I definitely knew that I needed work on my shot,” Barrino said. “The coaches at Worcester [namely head coach James Sullivan and assistants Sean Baptiste, Edward Reilly and Daniel Sullivan] worked with me a lot on my shot.”
Barrino said that he would get up early, around 6 a.m. daily, and head to the gym to take jump shot after jump shot. That’s the advantage of attending a prep school. You can literally crawl out of bed and head to the gym on a regular basis.
“I became more confident in my shot,” Barrino said. “A lot of it was muscle memory from doing the same thing over and over, doing it the right way.”
Barrino’s persistence paid off last Monday, when he gave a verbal commitment to the University of San Diego, where he will play next season.
San Diego is part of the West Coast Conference, where schools like Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and Pepperdine are members. It’s a challenging league and Barrino will be severely tested there.
San Diego became interested in Barrino after Hudson Catholic head coach Nick Mariniello made a few phone calls on Barrino’s behalf.
“I can’t thank Coach Nick enough,” Barrino said. “He’s the one who set this all up for me by making the call.”
Barrino took a visit to San Diego and fell in love with the campus – which wasn’t hard, as San Diego is generally considered the nicest spot in the United States with perfect weather every single day.
“The campus is great and the weather is great,” Barrino said. “I was able to relate to the coaching staff. My mother loved it. I’m getting a chance to do something special.”
The Toreros (got to love that nickname) were coached this season by first-year head coach Lamont Smith, who is a graduate of the school where he played basketball.
“For an inner-city kid, I’m getting a golden opportunity to do what’s right for me and my family,” Barrino said. “That was my main focus.”
So it might have taken a wild route, from high school in Jersey City to prep school in Massachusetts and undergrad in sunny San Diego, but Nassir Barrino’s patience and persistence paid off.
“It’s a great feeling,” Barrino said. “It was a long journey for me and my family, but I was able to survive it. Everything paid off. My patience paid off. I always believed.”
There’s only one obstacle: Barrino suffered a torn meniscus in his knee and will undergo surgery March 24. It’s just another mountain for the determined young man to climb. Given what he’s done in the past, the knee injury should be nothing more than a little mole hill. He’s well on his way…
The troubled and sad football career of former St. Peter’s Prep great Will Hill has probably come to an abrupt end.
Just weeks after he signed a two-year, $7 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens, a team he started for and played brilliantly for last year, the Ravens released Hill Wednesday morning.
Sources told the media that Hill was handed a 10-game suspension by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, thus the reason why the Ravens cut Hill loose.
It marked the fourth – count ‘em, four – time that Hill failed a drug test since he first signed with the Giants five years ago. He had two drug suspensions in 2012, another in 2013, where he served a four-game suspension and then finally, a six-game ban in 2014 for admitting to drug testers that he had been smoking marijuana. That was the final straw for the Giants, who helped and coddled Hill through two drug rehabilitation stints, one that was personally arranged for by Giants owner John Mara.
Hill once told the NFL that he failed a drug test because of second hand marijuana smoke, not realizing that second hand smoke doesn’t end up in your blood stream.
Hill had a great opportunity with the Giants and stood to sign about a $30 million contract before he blew that contract literally up in smoke.
After the Giants cut him, Hill hooked on with the Ravens last year and had a great season, even returning a blocked field goal for a touchdown on the final play of the game on Monday Night Football to beat the Cleveland Browns.
The Ravens had him penciled in as the starting free safety for the coming season and gave him a decent contract as well. But apparently, Hill has rolled up this contract and smoked it as well, ending what could have been a fantastic professional career.
Hill should have been a role model and a shining light for St. Peter’s Prep, someone to admire and treat with reverence. After all, he’s the greatest player in Hudson County high school football history. That fact shouldn’t even be up for debate.
Sad to say, but Hill’s professional career is now over at age 26 and he is going to have to find a new job. – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

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