CEDAR GROVE, NJ - With 126 points so far this season, it is no wonder that Joe Rufo has helped lead his basketball team to multiple victories. For the second year in a row, Joe Rufo has earned the honor of TAP into Verona/Cedar Grove Panther Athlete of the Week.

“It feels amazing to be named TAP into Athlete of the Week,” Rufo said. “I was named it once last year as a junior and to be it again really is awesome.”

Rufo has been a key player this season for the basketball team, which currently holds a 7-6 record after winning 59-53 to Science Park Tuesday. The senior player earned the team 10 of those points.

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“The season is going pretty well as of right now and I think as a team we are starting to play well together and with each other,” Rufo said. “As a team we are starting to get hot at the right time, which is huge.”  

The Panther athlete credited the team’s winning record to the defense the players have exhibited and said that has been a highlight of the season so far.

“So far a huge highlight of our season would definitely be our defensive performances against good teams,” Rufo said. “We really stepped up on the defense of side and held some good teams to low scores.”

The Panthers also have their challenges, with one of them being the size of the team, Rufo said, adding that although they are not the biggest team, the key is to focus on rebounding the ball.

“One of our main goals as a team is to be playing our best basketball the time playoffs come around and I think we are headed on the right track,” Rufo said.

For him personally, Rufo noted he wants to be the best player and teammate he can be to help the Panthers win.

That goal is one that may be easily attainable, according to Coach TJ Jones, who said that Rufo is one of the most coachable student athletes he has come to know in his tenure as a basketball coach.

“He is the type of kid who you only have to tell him something once and then he makes the adjustment immediately,” Jones said of his player. “He is always one of the hardest working players at every practice from start to finish as well as at every game from first to last whistle.”

It isn’t just his skill that makes him a great player, but also his work ethic and leadership, Jones added. It is that attitude that makes Rufo’s fellow teammates want to play with him and know that he will have their backs during practices and games.

“We talk about being a family,” Jones said. “And Joe Rufo sets the standard of what it means to be part of something greater than yourself.” 

Editor's Note: The "Athlete of the Week" is a weekly reoccurring feature story that highlights an individual student-athlete's success. The Cedar Grove High School Athlete of the Week is selected with the assistance of the school's athletic director and coaching staff.