MONTCLAIR- Gary Wallace has liked a lot of what he has seen as his Montclair High basketball team undertakes another challenging season in the hoops-rich Super Essex Conference.
“I just look at the way guys are paying more attention to detail, listening and also pushing each other to get better,” said the Mounties’ third-year head coach. “I know what I expect of them and when I see them challenging each other and also competing at a high level I think more and more that we can do some great things this season.”
Montclair, coming off a 9-14 season (3-9 in the SEC’s top division, the American), is now a member of the loop’s second-best division, the Liberty, where it will challenge the likes of Columbia, Barringer, Orange and East Orange Campus for a division title come February.
The Mounties open up the new season at Orange 7 p.m., Friday, before entertaining longtime local rival EOC at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 18. Montclair will also compete in the Marist Holiday Tournament Dec. 27, 28 and 30th in Bayonne.
While a core group of seniors return from last winter’s up-and-down squad, there are also a few new pieces as Wallace sees a good chemistry developing.
“There are a lot of different pieces added to the puzzle and who knows how it will all come together, but I’m excited by the energy in the gym and we’re ready to see who wants to play,” continued Wallace. “A lot of our guys were here last year when we faced an extremely competitive schedule in the ‘A’ Division and they saw how hard it is to win in this conference, but they also had a chance to develop a mindset of being tougher and learning from that experience.
“We think it’s also going to be very competitive in the Liberty, and we know we’ll have to come ready to play each and every day.”
Leading the list of returnees is 3-year starting swingman, 6-foot-3 senior Charles Murphy, who was last season’s leading scorer and is a superb athlete as the veteran hoopster has also recently made a verbal commitment to play football at Towson University. He was the quarterback on the Mounties football team this past fall, but his best role is as a Division I caliber wide receiver.
Joining Murphy in the Mounties’ 2018-2019 senior mix are 6-2 swingman Gabe Schreiber, also a starter last year; 6-2 combo guard Shawn Summers, 6-5, 230-pound strongman Izaiah McPherson, and 5-9 guards Deshawn Davis and Steven Rose, all of whom saw action last season.
Other seniors adding to the mix this season are football wide receiver Walter King, a 6-1 forward, and energizing 5-6 guard Tyran Palmer. Matthew Basile, a 5-10 senior reserve guard, also adds to a potentially very deep bench.