Veritas basketball teams shoot for great season

Sports. The Veritas Christian Academy boys and girls basketball teams are gearing up for a very promising season.

| 11 Nov 2019 | 01:40

Greg Gaffney is the assistant athletic director of the girls and boys teams at Veritas Christian Academy and they're looking forward to another great year. He also teaches the music curriculum part time.

“My current assistant coaches have excellent pedigrees themselves, Armand Milanesi being very successful as the former head varsity boys’ coach at Parsippany Christian and as a coach with the New Jersey Magic AAU program and Marlene Meyers served as the head coach for the Sussex Christian girls’ program before joining us last year,” he said.

During his tenure, Veritas has a record of 202-45 and has earned six Metro Christian Athletic Association regular season titles (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2019) , four post-season titles (2012, 2013, 2017, 2019), six Christian Character Awards (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019), two Mid-East Region Christian School Tournament championships (2018, 2019) and one BJU National Invitational Championship (2019).

“We have also set records for wins in program history in eight of those nine years, including this past year’s new record 32,” Gaffney said. “We have seen 23 of our girls named to the All-Conference team over those years, including the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 MVPs.”

Graduates over the last three years who played at the collegiate level and who were All-Conference for the school include: Karlea Zazapoulos (2018 Eastern University), Jane Valkema (2019 Gordon College), Hannah Delbury (2017 SCCC/Piedmont International University), Brenley Knakkergaard (2017 Sussex County Community College), Joy Miladinovich (2018 Orange County) and Naomi Delbury (2019 soccer – Sussex County Community College).

Stephon Blair begins his third year as the boys’ head coach.

“He's taking over a rebuilding project after the very successful tenure of Tim Dillon who lead the boys to their only two league titles and a record 32-1 season in his next to last year as head coach, Coach Blair took a team with only one returning starter and one bench player with any significant playing time and lead them to a 9-21 record.”

In his second season, with players a year into his system, the team went 23-11 and won the Ross Corners Christian Invitational and the Bergen County Christian Invitational (the latter for the first time in school history.) Blair's team also won the MCAA Christian Character Award last season.

“Even though we graduated four seniors, who contributed significantly to the best team in our school history, (32 wins including a 6-1 record versus 2019 NJSIAA qualifiers), the team was so talented that we still return a very good group who played well in the Hopatcong Summer League,” Gaffney said. “Somehow we managed to finish in a tie for second, being competitive in every game and only losing to very good Sparta and Randolph squads. Though not as tall as a year ago, we still have good height, are quicker and more potent offensively and with the newcomers are still quite deep – though not as deep as a year ago.”

Veritas will return the Metro Christian Athletic Association league MVP and two MCAA All-Conference players along with an MCAA All-Conference player from 2018 who was injured in the second half of last season but recovered to return and play well during summer league.

“I anticipate another good year,” the coach said.

The boys lost four seniors off last year’s 23-win team including last year’s RCCA tournament MVP Ty Yurgel.

“He again was injured the second half of last season and the team learned to play well down the stretch without him,” Gaffney said. “One of the other seniors, Aaron Burke was a major contributor and will be tough to replace, however, four starters from the team that finished the second half return along with a key bench player. Included in that group are two Metro Christian Athletic Association First Team All-Conference Players, including the runner up in voting to the MVP in Dylan Cuperus.”

He said there has been a lot of growth, both in skill and physically, in the starters over the summer making the starting five a “solid.”

“Depth will be a concern as seven newcomers join returnee Joe Kesselring to vie for playing time off the bench,” Gaffney said. “If one or two of the newcomers step up, this team could be better than a year ago, but it may take a while to find that chemistry.”

Stand out players on the girls team include Chloe Milanesi, a 5’9” guard.

“She is the most decorated player, entering her senior year with 1544 point and 689 rebounds already accumulated,” Gaffney said. “The two time league MVP has a chance to become the school’s first 2000 point scorer, boys or girls.”

Her sister, Charlotte, is a 5’6” sophomore guard who has 655 career points and is on pace to pass 1000 points. Junior Rose Hockman, a 5’9” forward, has 461 career points after her year was cut short by injury last season. A returning starter, senior 5’11” forward Amy Van Grouw is a defensive stalwart and versatile performer who has played all 5 positions in her career. All four players have been named MCAA All-Conference during the careers among other honors.

For the boys, 6’6” senior forward Dylan Cuperus will lead the way. He's a 1000-point scorer who averaged 15.1 points along with 9.9 rebounds per game. Ethan Mulder, a 6’7” junior forward, complemented Cuperus with 10.6 point and 11.8 rebounds per game.

“The key to the team success probably lies with the play of senior guard Jonathan O’Brien and junior guard Simon Valkema,” Gaffney said. “Both stepped up to claim starting spots in the second half of last season. Last year’s do everything forward, Wesley Kuperus, will vie for significant playing time with newcomers’ guard Caleb Kuiken and guard/forward Aiden Ingraham. A number of other newcomers will also compete to join the rotation.”

Both teams will play in prestigious tournaments.

“These two teams and all teams at Veritas practice a philosophy of Total Release Performance, which means measuring ourselves against the standard of excellence rather than an opponent,” Gaffney said. “...That makes the team we play become our teammates in the pursuit of excellence rather than the enemy and also ensures that we don’t play to the level of our opponent, as winning or losing doesn’t ultimately measure our success.”

The program fields varsity teams but carries as many players as they can to develop players for future teams. Practices started on Monday, Nov. 4.

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