St. Anthony’s Gist proves that last move was the best

He had bounced from Roselle Catholic to Marist to finally St. Anthony in a span of a little more than a year, but Asante Gist was sure that he had found a basketball home, albeit in his final year of high school.
“I knew I should have been here from the start,” Gist said.
But Gist wasn’t. He was first at Roselle Catholic, the Friars’ dreaded rival over the previous three years. Then, in the middle of last season, Gist packed his bags and headed to Marist, where he played the final 13 games of the year and helped the Royal Knights advance to the Hudson County Tournament semifinals.
However, over the course of last summer, Gist became disenchanted with Marist and decided to transfer once again to St. Anthony.
Imagine transferring from one rival to another? It’s like a Hatfield waking up and suddenly wanting to be a McCoy.
It’s like a member of the Boston Red Sox just suddenly craving for Yankee pinstripes – wait, that’s happened, just see Wade Boggs, Johnny Damon, Jacoby Ellsbury and the immortal of turncoats Roger Clemens.
It’s like a soldier in the Civil War trading in his Confederate flag for the blue and gray of the North.
You catch the drift. Needless to say, it wasn’t going to be an easy transition for Gist. He was going to play for Bob Hurley. Did Gist realize that part of the deal?
“It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks,” legendary St. Anthony Hall of Fame coach Hurley said. “I have to be honest. It wasn’t always a smooth transition. He found out the way we played basketball was a totally different process.”
But Gist swallowed his pride and trudged on.
“When I was young, I always said that I wanted to play for Coach Hurley,” Gist said. “I think the timing was great. It was a different culture, a different atmosphere here. It was harder to get acclimated to it all. It was a bit of a shock for me.”
Gist had to go from being the main focus of the offense to a secondary player. Although he already had a scholarship to Eastern Kentucky, the 5-foot-11 guard had to learn to come off the bench with the Friars.
“I admit that I wasn’t used to it,” Gist said. “I never experienced that before. It was a bit of a shock.”
“His Dad [James] backed off a little on him,” Hurley said. “As a parent, he had a much higher level of expectation than I did. James had to realize that it was better for Asante to have one voice to listen to. When he arrived, it was more like, ‘Is he prepared to play at this level?’ His support group was pretty good.”
It helped that Gist and teammate Shyquan Gibbs have been the best of friends since 6th grade, playing on a team called FACES that was coached by Gibbs’ father, Shelton, the head coach at Snyder.
“When I came over, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Gist said. “I had to come off the bench and give the team a spark. That was my role. When it first happened, I didn’t know how that was going to play out.”
There was more intrigue and drama. Someone appealed Gist’s transfer application, deeming the move to be fueled by sports instead of why the NJSIAA considers transfers in the first place, namely academic purposes.
Gist had to sit out the first five games of the season while an appeal process untwined down at the NJSIAA headquarters in Robbinsville. When he was finally given clearance to play, he was behind in the pecking order of guards, all of whom were his childhood teammates like Gibbs, Jagan Mosely and R.J. Cole.
Gist also had to learn quickly that it was either Hurley’s way or the highway.
“I was going to make the best of it,” Gist said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be like it was before. I got used to sitting and watching those first five games. I knew it was going to be so totally different.”
Gist said that he liked the role of being a bench player.
“It was different, but as the season went on, things got easier,” Gist said. “Coach [Hurley] stayed on me and told me what I needed to do. I just did my role, come off the bench, give the team a spark.”
Last Monday night, in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final at the Sun National Bank Arena in Trenton, Gist had one of his most impressive moments.
Gist knocked down four long 3-pointers en route to a team-high 16 points, as the fabulous Friars capped a 32-0 undefeated season with a 55-38 victory over Linden. Gist hit one 3-pointer in each quarter. His trey at the first half buzzer gave the Friars a 24-20 halftime lead and gave them momentum going into the fourth quarter.
For his efforts, Gist has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week, the final such honoree in the winter scholastic sports season.
“When I hit that shot right before the half, I think that gave us a big momentum boost,” Gist said. “Then, in the third quarter, we just put our feet on their necks. It was a big step for us.”
And after all the school changes, the stops and starts, the getting familiar with new teammates, Gist finally had a home – and had another state championship to go along with the one he earned at Roselle Catholic when he was a sophomore.
“This was a huge accomplishment,” Gist said. “Finishing 32-0 and winning the T of C. We’re able to earn our place with all of the other great St. Anthony teams.”
Spoken like a true Friar indeed.
“Before I got here, basketball was all about scoring,” Gist said. “But I learned about other things I didn’t know. I learned more about defense and working in a system. It has prepared me for the next level. It’s not going to be a culture shock going to college, coming from this program.”
“Going to college, where he’ll be a point guard, he had to be able to do more than score,” Hurley said. “He helped us win some big games all season. He’s lifted his entire game and now he’s college ready.”
But there was still that coach/player relationship to the bitter end.
“The last day of practice, I was yelling at him,” Hurley said. “I think the end justifies the means. We had to extract other things from him and it worked out well.” – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached at

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