Tonawanda News


December 13, 2013

St. Joe's, O'Hara enter basketball season with new blood

Tonawanda News — There aren’t many familiar faces that preside on the court at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute. St. Joe’s went 20-6 last season and graduated eight seniors, including all five starters.

But there’s one player Marauder fans are accustomed to seeing in forward Justin Hollins, who looks to lead St. Joe’s to a Monsignor Martin League championship. Hollins averaged 6.7 points per game last year as a junior and has made the leap into St. Joe’s star player early in his senior season, scoring 26 and 29 points in the Marauder’s first two victories.

“We’re inexperienced with really only one guy who played a ton of varsity basketball last year in Justin Hollins,” said coach Mark Simon.     

But that inexperience hasn’t lowered Simon’s expectations for his team to win the league this year — a goal he doesn’t think is unrealistic. Beside Hollins is sophomore guard Justin Jones, who saw some varsity action in last year’s playoffs as a freshman. Jones averaged 6.4 points in five games.    

“A lot of this year will be about growth and still trying to compete and go on the shoulders of Justin Hollins and Justin Jones,” Simon said. 

Outside of Hollins and Jones, Simon doesn’t have the comfort of reaching to his bench for experienced players. The depth is young, especially at guard.

Matt Fritz, a junior, starts at point guard with 5-foot-5 freshman Naseer Jackson backing him up. Jackson saw extensive time in St. Joe’s blowout loss to Aquinas on Monday and displayed flashes of potential. He has a great handle on the ball and attacks the basket with creativity, but nerves as a young freshman seemed to plague his potential for a breakout performance.     

“[Jackson] is a very talented player and an athletic young man, but he came from grammar school to varsity basketball so he’s still learning how to play,” Simon said. “He’s going to learn through trial and error.”  

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