VERONA, NJ - Heading into the 2020 season the Verona Boys Basketball Team is prepared to go to war in an effort to compete at the highest level.

    “We expect to battle in the conference even though the conference is brutal….we’re going to battle day in and day out for the conference.  We hope to make the state playoffs and we’ve had a nice rivalry during our Holiday Tournament, but we’re taking it one game at a time,” said Head Coach Eric McElroy.

    Currently the Hillbillies are working tirelessly to get back into the swing of things as the season is a mere three days away. Having a collection of a number of multi-sport athletes McElroy has had to adjust on the fly in preparation for the year.

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    “We’re trying to shake the rust off, basketball preseason isn’t too long so you don’t get a ton of time to get everything nailed down so we’ll be working on the little things all the way until March, but right now we’re working as best we can to be prepared for Livingston on Friday,” said McElroy.

    This season Verona will return six seniors to the squad, three of which saw significant action. One of those key players is forward Nicholas Gonzalez. Gonzalez was a staple in the offense last year averaging over 10 points per game.

    “[Gonzalez] is a very good shooter, when he’s on he’s very tough to stop.  His range is super deep -- he can go two to four feet behind the line, he’s also a big kid and will have to rebound a ton…he’s going to have to do a lot,” said McElroy.

    Joining Gonzalez will be fellow senior Shane Lawless, who is also working his way back after a long football season. Lawless is a hard-working guard who can be a thorn in the side of opposing offenses.

    “[Lawless] is just a very good competitor, he loves to compete every time he steps on the floor…he just wants to win,” said McElroy.

    In the front court Derek Jocelyn will also return as a senior. Jocelyn was solid as a supplemental scorer and rebounder for the squad last year who will help to provide second-chance points. 

    Rounding out the returning senior veterans will be Andrew Emanuilidis. Emanuilidis does it all for Verona and affects the stat sheet in a number of ways on both ends of the court. 

    “[Emanuilidis] is very crafty, your typical wing thrasher type of player.  He cuts really well, jumps really well, he’s a very good rebounder for his size…he’s pretty much a jack of all trades,” said McElroy.

    As for the underclassmen junior Kyle Malanga will build upon what was a surprising sophomore year. One-third of Malanga’s games last season ended with double-digit scoring a number he will undoubtedly improve on after a strong offseason program.

    “[Malanga] has definitely gotten a lot stronger.  He’s gone to the weight room a lot, he’s rebounding with some strength and he’s taking it to the basket with some strength…it will definitely help him,” said McElroy.

    Verona will look to open their season on a winning note as they take on Livingston on Friday. The two teams shared a thrilling game last year, which Verona will look to avenge.

  “They’re going to run their sets really well, they’re going to shoot the ball really well because they always do…it’s a nice Friday afternoon game and hopefully we can come out, play hard and get a win,” said McElroy.

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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