Summer league high school basketball returns to Hudson County

Whether it’s in the park or at the gym, the sound of a basketball hitting the court has long been a staple of summers in Hudson County.

With schools out and the temperatures rising, high school summer league basketball is back and arguably bigger than ever – both in size and importance. Both boys and girls leagues are going on in Jersey City and Bayonne this summer as well as various clinics featuring some of the past and current greats from the County.

“We’re just trying to have development for the kids,” said Bayonne head boys coach Ben Gamble. “When I talked to Jerry Walker with his program and Mandy Johnson with Jersey City Recreation, the first things that came up was skill development and trying to bring the interest back to where it was in Jersey City.”

Gamble and Bayonne girls coach James Turner are running multiple leagues and clinics under the Hudson County Board of Commissioners. For the first time, Bayonne is hosting a girls league that is held on Mondays and Wednesdays at Korpi Arena. Thirteen teams are in the inaugural season, including the Bees, Union City, Snyder, Kearny, Lincoln, Weehawken and Memorial locally as well as some of North Jersey’s top programs in West Orange, Paterson Eastside, Lodi Immaculate, Teaneck, Columbia and Newark West Side.

“I think it’s a big deal,” Turner said. “You want to challenge yourself over the summer and I tried to find teams that have won their county or have good kids coming back to challenge my kids over the summer.”

The boys varsity league starts its second season on Wednesday at Stephen Gregg Park and has expanded to 12 teams. In addition to Bayonne are fellow HCIAL programs Snyder, Dickinson, Lincoln, Ferris, McNair, Hoboken and Kearny as well as Payne Tech, Newark Vocational of Essex County, Jackson Memorial from the shore and Staten Island’s Port Richmond.

“You want to see improvement and my thing is that this is the time of year where you can start to see the direction of where the program is heading,” Gamble said. “There’s always room for improvement, there’s no finished products, but where you’re looking for us if you’re improved from the end of last season.”

According to Gamble, a weekly series of free clinics are being offered at both Gregg Park and Lincoln Park in Jersey City. Among the guests are former Brooklyn Nets guard and St. Anthony alum Tyshawn Taylor and current Rutgers guard Paul Mulcahy. In addition, several local coaches are set to speak including, among others, Gamble, Turner, current NJCU men’s basketball coach Marc Brown with his Hall of Fame father Charles and longtime Jersey City coaches Shelton Gibbs and Tom Best.

Other clinics are scheduled during weekdays throughout the summer.

The Hudson County Board of Commissioners are also sponsoring a boys junior varsity league and a youth league for kids in grades 5-8.When it comes to summer hoops in Hudson County the gold standard for years has been the Hamilton Park Summer League. Sponsored by The Jersey City Department of Recreation, Hamilton Park’s 19th season began on June 6 and once again features some of the state’s top teams, headlined by Hudson Catholic, St. Peter’s Prep and The Patrick School.

“We started this league with St. Anthony. All of these that came down to the park wanted to play St. Anthony,” said league coordinator Pat Devaney. “Now they want to come down to play Hudson Catholic, St. Peter’s Prep and The Patrick School to get better.”

St. Joseph of Metuchen, Watchung Hills, Westfield, Trenton, Union, Ridge, DePaul, St. John Vianney, North Star Academy and Newark Tech are among the top out-of-area squads in the 21-team league. They’ll be joined by local staples Dickinson, Snyder, Lincoln, McNair, Ferris and Memorial. Games are Monday through Friday at Hamilton Park with Franklin L Williams School (PS 7) serving as the rain site.

Play has also begun at the annual Jersey City Girls Summer High School Basketball League.

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