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From Friars to Bobcats: two Quinnipiac players learn from legendary coach
New Jersey has its signatures that residents are all aware of. The beach and boardwalks. The spiral pizza. And the high school basketball.
While the state is dominated by powerhouses such as Saint Benedict’s or Patrick School, there is one team that is more recognizable than any other school, not just in New Jersey, but perhaps in the nation as well: The St. Anthony Friars.
Located in Jersey City, the private school has an enrollment of less than 250 students. The average attendance of a basketball game at St. Anthony? Anywhere from 600 to 800 fans. Since 1968, the school has won 27 state championships, the most recent of which occurred last year. The Friars are a consistent national powerhouse, and are led by Naismith Hall of Famer Bob Hurley. They have also produced two current Quinnipiac basketball players: senior forward Jamee Jackson and freshman guard Tariq Carey.
“They have a tremendous program with a tremendous history, but the most important thing is those guys are more prepared than most kids coming out of high school,” said Quinnipiac assistant coach Eric Eaton, who played an instrumental part in the recruitment of both players. “Hurley coaches them like a college team. Accountability factor is through the rough. He has the ultimate respect. They know going into the door that they’re going to be more prepared when they leave.”
MSG Varsity senior writer Mike Kinney agrees with Eaton’s notion that the players are more college-ready.
“[The players are] extremely composed and undoubtedly as prepared for an opponent as any high school player could be,” he said. “The game knowledge that Hurley imparts upon his players is almost always evidenced in late-game, tension-filled situations.”
Around the time of his recruitment period, Jackson’s squad was featured in “The Street Stops Here,” a documentary focused around Hurley and his journey to acquire the school its third national championship and the economic challenges it faced in the process. In the end, the movie portrays Hurley, who has been at the school for 41 years, as an essential savior for not just the program, but the players themselves.
“We definitely took a lot of pride in playing for coach Hurley,” Jackson said. “Legendary coach. It was pretty tough mentally because he’s constantly on you but in the end it definitely made me a better player and more prepared for college in terms of transitioning.”
The culture at St. Anthony High School, because of Hurley, is not just academics, but to breathe basketball.
“It’s about playing hard. Playing with passion. That’s what it’s about. They teach you to play hard, play like you love the game,” Jackson said.
Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore has worked directly with Hurley, both as assistant at UConn and now as head coach at Quinnipiac. He thinks that it is not just the 65-year-old’s coaching style that leads to success, but his personality as well.
“He’s incredibly driven,” Moore said. “He’s a perfectionist which translates to his players.”
Carey is the kind of player that Hurley molds best. After three years playing at Newark East Side in Newark, N.J., he was ranked as the No. 2 recruit in the state (alongside his future teammate and UCLA superstar Kyle Anderson at No. 1). After a short stint at Saint Benedict’s, Carey made the switch to St. Anthony’s.
“Tariq was different,” Eaton said. “His first three years of high school he was the best player on his team. For him to go to St. Anthony’s, he was used to being a piece to a puzzle. It was a learning experience.”
While somewhat polarizing, Carey didn’t find the experience to be all that daunting.
“At first it was tough because I really didn’t know him that well, but as I started to learn him and what he wanted, it wasn’t that hard,” the freshman said. “I was used to high school basketball and he trusted me. It was a great opportunity and I made the best I could of it.”
For Carey, though, playing for Hurley was not the lone takeaway of his stint. It was the high-profile stage that came with it.
“It was great to me,” he said. “I always have played in a big atmosphere, but that was that everyone wanted and expected us to win. It was electric. It was like our home court every time we went somewhere.”
“Its home court in Jersey City, the CERC [Jersey City Recreational Center], is extremely small, so it fills early and is hot and loud,” Kinney said. “St. Anthony has a loyal following of adults throughout the season, and Hurley’s recognition always draws curious basketball fans.”
The experience taught Carey how to play on a big stage. And what better way to do so than in his final game, a game that ultimately clinched the Friars their fourth national championship. He scored 18 points.
“I just thought it was my last game, I felt like it would be my duty,” he said. “I felt like if I didn’t play that way, the team that we played would have had a chance to beat us. If I scored four or five less points, we would have lost. I felt I was obligated.”
But still, he attributes much of his success to his former coach, who he still speaks to anytime he returns to New Jersey to catch a game.
“Hurley demanded so much as your game being crisp,” Carey said. “At your senior year, he expected you to know certain things. It sharpened my game and my scoring availability, especially playing with those high-caliber players.”
For Moore, one of the important aspects of Hurley-produced players is their humility and discipline.
“They don’t come in with this attitude that they’re the big fish in a small pond,” the sixth-year coach said. “They know their place.”
As for the years to come, Quinnipiac will continue to recruit from the unofficial N.J. basketball factory.
“Anyone who doesn’t try to recruit from there isn’t doing their job,” Eaton said. “We’ll definitely keep looking there.”