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Coach Eugene "Bam" Robinson will guide his Columbia Cougars against local rival Seton Hall Prep, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19, as one of nine attractive games in the 16th annual Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic set to happen this year in the Newman Center at Caldwell University. (Photo by Richard Morris/SHP)

Anthony Tavares will map out strategy for his Newark East Side Red Raiders when they face nationally-ranked Roselle Catholic in Dec. 20th action at the Hoop Group's Tip-Off Classic at Caldwell University. (Photo by Bob Thomas)

Notre Dame-bound senior guard T.J. Gibbs will help lead Seton Hall Prep as the Pirates look to drive past rival Columbia in annual Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic set for Dec. 19 at Caldwell University. (Photo by Richard Morris/SHP)

Roselle Catholic's hot prospect Nazreon Reid (0) will lead the Lions as they take on Newark East Side in Tip-Off Classic. (Photo by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

Caldwell University Will Host
Both Tip-Off Classic & WEAHF
By Steve Tober

CALDWELL- The 2015-2016 winter hoops season has already tipped off in a sense with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association ‘Tryout’ portion of this week (Nov. 23-25) as teams can try and figure out their rosters followed by the long Thanksgiving weekend and then full-scale pre-season practice fully underway on Monday, Nov. 30.

All that means we’re not far from the annual Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic, which this season moves into the Newman Center at Caldwell University for nine games on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 19-20, featuring state powers including Roselle Catholic, Hudson Catholic, Gill St. Bernard’s, Linden, Seton Hall Prep and Newark East Side.

Prep powers St. Benedict’s and Hun will also be on hand (see full schedule below plus a list to players to watch).

Montclair Immaculate, which has upgraded its hoops program with the arrival of Playaz AAU guru Jimmy Salmon as its new head coach and the addition of players such as former West Orange standout Justin Winston, will help tip-off the Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic when the Lions face Bergen Catholic, 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19. Capping the evening will be the annual Super Essex Conference clash between longtime local rivals Seton Hal Prep and Columbia at 7:30 p.m.

SHP is led by Notre Dame-bound guard TJ Gibbs and his backcourt partner Stephen Ferraro, while Columbia coach Eugene “Bam” Robinson is in the process of retooling his lineup with the graduation of last winter’s star Michael Runcie.

Among the featured games on Sunday, longtime coach Phil Colicchio sends his Linden Tigers up against the Hun School at 4:10 p.m. followed at 5:30 p.m. with Newark East Side vs. nationally-ranked Roselle Catholic with its assortment of Division I recruits.

St. Joseph of Metuchen, with highly-touted players Tyus Battle (Syracuse) and Breein Tyree (Mississippi) will face Ramapo in the 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 20, nightcap

West Essex Area Hoops Festival Returns To Caldwell University

In addition to the high-profile Hoop Group season-christening event, Caldwell University will also return as the host of the West Essex Area Hoops Festival with suburban teams James Caldwell High School, Cedar Grove, Verona and West Essex.

The spacious gym will host four first round games of the WEAHF at 2:30, 4, 5:30 and 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 28 and then a pair of consolation contests, followed by the back-to-back title tilts at those same times the following day.

In the first round this season, the girls matchups are Cedar Grove High vs. West Essex and Caldwell going up against Verona, while the boys battles will be Verona vs. Cedar Grove and JCHS vs. Wessex.

The event was founded in the late 1970's and was originally known as the West Essex Chamber of Commerce Basketball Tournament, but was then renamed the WEAHHF by a longtime sports writer from The Progress newspaper, after the chamber ended its sponsorship late last century.

“We at Caldwell University are very, very happy to have this event back on our campus; it's a great event which includes the four local high schools and that's what makes it so special,” said CU sports facilities manager Dennis Gregory. “We're really looking forward to it.”

There you have it to get scholastic hoops off and running with several Top 20 boys teams before Christmas followed by a nice local sampling of area suburban boys and girls hoops squads will keep Caldwell University as a busy venue for high school hoops, plus there are reports that Immaculate will be playing some home games at the Newman Center as well.

2015 Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic:

Saturday, Dec. 19:

1:15: Montclair Immaculate vs. Bergen Catholic

3 p.m.: Teaneck vs. Gill St. Bernard’s

4:30 p.m.: Don Bosco Prep vs. CBA

6 p.m.: Hudson Catholic vs. Blair

7:30 p.m.: Seton Hall Prep vs. Columbia


Sunday, Dec. 20:

2:30 p.m.: St. Benedict’s vs. Rutgers Prep

4:10 p.m.: Linden vs. Hun

5:50 p.m.: Newark East Side vs. Roselle Catholic

7:30 p.m.: Ramapo vs. St. Joe’s (Metuchen)

About 2015 Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic Field at Caldwell University:  

Nationally ranked Pre-Season:  Roselle Catholic #29 Ball is Life, St. Benedict’s #35 Ball is Life,

The 9 of the top 11 teams in New Jersey ranked by NJ Hoops:  #3 Roselle Catholic, #4 St. Benedict’s, #5 Blair, #6 Hudson Catholic, #7 St. Joseph’s Metuchen, #8 Seton Hall Prep, #9 Newark East Side, #10 Gill St. Bernards, #11 Linden

17 of the Top 30 teams in New Jersey ranked by NJ Hoops:


Nationally ranked:  Roselle Catholic #20 USA Today, #20 MaxPreps,  St. Benedict’s #44 USA Today


SENIORS:   Tyus Battle – St. Joseph’s Metuchen - #25,  #36 ESPN,  TJ Gibbs – Seton Hall Prep #64,  #73 ESPN

JUNIORSAndre Rafus – Roselle Catholic - #67,  Kodye Pugh – Blair Academy - #78

SOPHOMORESNazreon Reid – Roselle Catholic - #6, #6 ESPN, 


Tyus Battle – St. Joseph’s Metuchen - Syracuse,  TJ Gibbs – Seton Hall Prep – Notre Dame, Breein Tyree – St. Joseph’s Metuchen – Mississippi,  Arnaldo Toro – St. Benedict’s – George Washington,  Pat Andree – CBA – Lehigh, Brandon Anderson – Don Bosco Prep – Brown,  Austin Harriott – Hun - Loyola 


SENIORS :   Tyus Battle – St. Joseph’s Metuchen,  TJ Gibbs – Seton Hall Prep,  Breein Tyree – St. Joseph’s Metuchen ,  Arnaldo Toro – St. Benedict’s ,  Pat Andree – CBA,  James Scott – St. Benedict’s,  Bourama Sidibe – St. Benedict’s,  Matt Bullock – Roselle Catholic, Brandon Anderson – Don Bosco,  Branislav Vujadinovic – St. Joseph’s Metuchen,  Peace Ilegomah – Roselle Catholic,  Julius Stoma – Gill St. Bernards,  Stephen Ferraro – Seton Hall Prep,  Adam Mitola – Gill St. Bernards,  Jack McGuire – CBA,  Matt Latka – Ramapo

(16 of NJ Hoops top 60 Seniors)

JUNIORS:  Deng Gak – Blair,  Andre Rafus – Roselle Catholic,  Kodye Pugh – Blair,  Nate Pierre-Louis – Roselle Catholic,  David Beatty – St. Benedict’s, Leondre Washington – Roselle Catholic,  Matt Turner – Blair,  Pat Strzala – Hudson Catholic,  Khalief Crawford – Linden,  Tyrese Jenkins – Newark East Side,  Elijah Olaniyi – Newark East Side,  Taj Benning – Bergen Catholic,  Warren Williams – St. Benedict’s,  Tyheem Burno – Hudson Catholic,  Jayden Saddler – St. Benedict’s,  Amadu Benbow – Newark East Side,  Jaiyer Jinwright – Newark East Side, Mike Morreale – Gill St. Bernard’s,  Marcellus Livingston – Linden,  Kahmonie Foster – Hudson Catholic,  Jason Oweh – Rutgers Prep,  Raheem Carter – Roselle Catholic,  Quayon Taylor – Newark East Side,  Treyvon Bennett – Seton Hall Prep,  Xavier Townes – St. Joseph’s Metuchen

(25 of NJ Hoops Top 60 Juniors)

SOPHOMORES:  Nazreon Reid – Roselle Catholic, Jahvon Quinerly – Hudson Catholic,  Luther Muhammad – Hudson Catholic, Jaquaye James – Teaneck,  Justin Winston – Immaculate Conception, Jalen Carey – Immaculate Conception, Tavon Jones – Linden, Alanzo Frink – St. Joseph’s Metuchen,  Dallas Hoffman – Gill St. Bernards,  Jahid Jenkins – Newark East Side,  Zedrick Farrell – Blair,  Alex Schachne – Gill St. Bernards,  Ron Harper – Don Bosco

(13 of NJ Hoops Top 40 Sophomores)

For More Information: or email Dave Fedor at and for the latest info on the statewide hoops scene, log on to

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

Phil Colicchio's Linden team faces Hun, 4:10 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 20, as one of the games in Tip-Off Classic. (Photo by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

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