Floriani At Jersey City’s Hamilton Park LeaguePosted by jstevrtc on July 31st, 2010
JERSEY CITY, NJ — I can’t really file this under “How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation,” because for those of us devotedly fanatic about this game there is no time off. No college games are contested, but there are other items such as the NBA Draft in June, the NBA playoffs, and of course, on the college front, the summer circuit and recruiting.
Players who want to take it to the proverbial next level also realize there is no extended down time. Summer is a time to work on your game and improve. A place where players can do both is the Hamilton Park Summer League in Jersey City, one of the most popular leagues. As you’d suspect, it derives its name from the Hamilton Park location (the late Al McGuire always said, “keep it simple, stupid”).
For officials, it is a great way to stay sharp and work on deficiencies. Games are fast, competitive, and a test to one’s judgment and game-management skills. To yours truly, on the officiating and reporting end it is a virtual Nirvana, an opportunity to work and write about some excellent games and programs putting it all out there.
The past few seasons saw the HP league operate with a grade school, girls’, and boys’ high school divisions. This summer saw a shift as the girls are at Dickinson High School while the grade school relocated to High Tech about six miles away in North Bergen. The action this season is limited to the boys with a strong 17-team contingent.
National power and defending champion St. Anthony’s (located just three blocks away) is, to little surprise, considered a serious contender if not the favorite. Hudson Catholic (a school whose alums include Mike O’Koren and Jim Spanarkel) has been a pleasant surprise and a dangerous club. There are a few AAU teams as well as high school programs as Union, Bayonne, Dickinson, St. Mary’s (JC), Snyder, and Lincoln — the latter four all from Jersey City. Even nearby Essex County sends the likes of Newark Tech and East Orange.
The league runs Monday through Friday with four games each night. Games began in late June and the schedule ends with the playoffs just before Labor Day. There is even an all-star game slated with a team from Holland set to visit and face the best of Hamilton Park.
There are no rainouts. Mix an outdoor league and New Jersey’s humid thunderstorm climate and you have trouble. Pat Devaney — the league director and its version of David Stern — studies the Weather Channel and any hint of precipitation calls for a change of venue to the indoors, specifically School 7 in the Heights section.
School 7 has air conditioning, but players, coaches and we officials enjoy the outdoors. The neighborhood sights and sounds assimilate with the action on the court. In its purest form, the “City Game” are contests best settled on asphalt. Many of the players here learned the game that way and are at Hamilton Park to refine their skills.
The photos here give us a glimpse of Hamilton Park, not School 7. With all due respect to that fine locale, the essence of Hamilton Park is that of an outdoor league — the City Game.