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Millburn senior swingman Max Jacobs (32) is seen going hard to the basket in Group 4 state tournament game vs. Plainfield last winter. The 6-foot-2 Miller senior star recently committed to the University of Chicago during NCAA's early signing period. (Photo by Glenn Kross- see glennkrossphotography.com)

Morristown-Beard's senior forward Morgan Bartner recently signed the papers to finalize her commitment to play Division I women's basketball at Marist. Pictured with the Crimson's 6-foot-2 standout are, from left, seated, her dad, Steve Bartner. Standing: Peter Caldwell, headmaster at Morristown-Beard, Mike Sturgeon, the Crimson's head basketball coach, and Joanne Dzama, the athletic director at the Morristown-based school. (photo courtesy of Bartners)

MKA's fine senior catcher Joe Amato (second from left) recently signed with Georgetown University where he will play Big East baseball in 2016. Joining the Cougar standout on his special day are, from left, MKA assistant baseball coach Andrew Prince, veteran Cougar head diamond mentor Ralph Pacifico, and MKA Athletic Director Todd Smith. (photo courtesy of MKA Athletics)

Jacobs, Bartner & Amato Relish
Signing With Top-Notch Colleges
By Steve Tober
For sidelinechatter.com

For Millburn boys basketball coach Rodger Blind, the news that his prize senior swingman Max Jacobs had decided to commit to the University of Chicago on the recent (Nov. 12th) start of the NCAA’s early signing period brought a wide smile to his face.

“I’m incredibly excited for Max because he has selected a school in Chicago that has the perfect combination of basketball and high academics, and that’s the way it’s been for all our kids heading to the next level,” said the veteran Millers’ head mentor. “When it comes to preparing for the next stage in life, if you can still play the game you love, and get a great education at the same time there is simply no better way than what Max will do and all our other kids have done before him.”

Like Jacobs, girls hoops stars such as Morgan Bartner of Morristown-Beard (Marist) and baseball standouts including Montclair Kimberley Academy’s Joe Amato (Georgetown) are among the other examples of youngsters choosing a high-level academic institution while also following in the footsteps of other excellent student-athletes from their schools who moved on to play at the next level.

Jacobs, the outstanding 6-foot-2 senior swingman who led Millburn to a 22-5 record last winter, always said he wanted to play college basketball even though he’s also an outstanding baseball player for the Millers’ superb diamond program in the spring. He will join a number of former Millburn boys hoops standouts who have shined in college, including recent Middlebury graduate and star point guard Joey Kizel, who is playing pro ball in Israel; forward Alex Rosenberg, who although being sidelined for this season due to a broken foot, was a first-team All-Ivy League performer for Columbia University last winter, and Tony Bai, who is a reserve forward for New York University.

“There are some excellent young men from our school who have gone on to play in college, also including Jesse Steele, who also graduated and was a captain at Monmouth, and Ben Kizel, Joe’s brother, who is a freshman for Wentworth,” said Blind. “All these individuals had one thing in common: they all have strived to be outstanding students in addition to being college basketball players, and that’s what you love to see.”

Chicago, a Division III program, plays in the University Athletic Association.

For Morristown-Beard’s Bartner, she will try and follow in the footsteps of two siblings, older brother Brian, a former Crimson standout, who is a junior forward for Wesleyan, and older sister Stephanie,who played soccer for Franklin & Marshall.

Plus, she has a former Crimson girls hoops standout to try and emulate in University of Rhode Island junior forward Tati Johnson.

“Tati is a great athlete and role model as a student athlete from our school who is playing for a fine university in Rhode Island,” said Bartner, a 6-2 forward and Florham Park resident, who averaged 18 points per game last winter for a Mo-Beard girls court squad that won the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference-Liberty Division title with a perfect 12-0 record to go along with a fine 18-8 overall mark, a vast improvement from a 9-17 record the season before. “I chose Marist because I really enjoyed my visit there and the coaching staff made me feel right at home the minute I set foot on the campus, plus they’ve done extremely well as a women’s basketball program and I really want to be part of that moving forward.”

Marist, under coach Brian Giorgis, is a 10-time Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion and finished 27-6 last winter while once again reaching the NCAA Tournament.

For now, Bartner will go about trying to lead Mo-Beard to further success this winter season as one of the better girls hoops squads in Morris County.

“We’re excited about the season ahead and head coach Mike Sturgeon has also added (former Oratory head boys basketball coach) Brian Martin to our coaching staff, which will be great for the program,” she said. “We made our first trip to the Morris County quarterfinals last year before losing to Randolph, but we’d love to make a Final Four and then shoot for the championship this time around.”

A noted Essex County girls hoopster who committed during the early signing period was East Orange’s superb 5-4 guard Kyiarah English, who will be a Bucknell Bison in 2015-2016.

For MKA’s Amato, a superb catcher for coach Ralph Pacifico’s Cougar baseball program, the choice of Georgetown was an easy one for a very specific reason.

“From the beginning of my recruiting process, my goal was to play at the best academic school possible that has a Division I baseball program,” said the Essex Fells resident. “When I first got on Georgetown’s radar a few years ago, and visited, it felt like a great fit for me both academically and athletically.

“I am equally as excited to study in our nation’s capital as I am to play baseball in the Big East.”

Amato also follows in the footsteps of other high academic baseball standouts from MKA to play at the next level, and beyond, including Harvard graduate and big league pitcher Frank Herrmann of the Cleveland Indians.

“This program has always been special to me, and to be referenced with a long line of MKA baseball players is an honor,” he said. “This program has been like a family to me, and I am excited to watch the future successes of the program when I am no longer in uniform.”

Amato has also benefitted by having the longtime Cougar coach Pacifico in his corner along the maturation path.

“Coach Pacifico has been the key to my development not just as a baseball player, but also as a man,” said the current Cougar senior. “He has always supported me regardless of my play on the field, and he has been instrumental in my development. He believed in me and I will always be grateful for that. I could never thank Coach ‘P’ enough for all that he has done for me.”

Amato and junior lefthander Conor Nolan, one of the top pitchers in Essex County, will return as one of the best batteries in North Jersey in 2014.

“Conor does an amazing job on the mound and he will continue to be the leader of our staff,” said Amato. “It has been a pleasure watching him mature from his freshman year, and I can’t wait to see him on the mound this coming season. The sky is the limit for Conor!”

Seton Hall Prep’s Alex Baratta (infield-UNC Asheville), Matt O’Neill (catcher-Penn) and Tyler SanFilippo (1B-Rider) are also among those baseball players from Essex County who signed on Nov. 12. Livingston’s Mark Silvestri (pitcher-Rhode Island) and Tyler Zuppa (pitcher-UMass), Newark Academy’s Mike Gibbons (pitcher-Lehigh), Caldwell’s Hunter Smith (catcher- William & Mary) and Montclair’s Nick Starpoli (outfield-Arcadia) are among the others who committed from Essex.

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

Senior forward Morgan Bartner (left) helped lead Morristown-Beard to Morris County Tournament quarterfinals last winter and recently signed with Marist.

Newark Academy's senior right-hander Mike Gibbons is Lehigh bound and has signed his necessary papers with the Mountain Hawks. (photo courtesy of NA)

East Orange's outstanding senior guard Kyiarah English will play her women's college basketball at Bucknell University as another top student-athlete from Essex County. (Photo by Jim Connelly-The Item of Millburn and Short Hills)

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