WEST CALDWELL, NJ -- The Caldwell boys basketball team, which got its season under way with a 57-44 victory over Belleville last week, has three two-year starters in its backcourt and the pedigree of an 18-7 season last winter.
But that impressive record came at a price, as the Chiefs were moved up into a more competitive division of the Super Essex Conference with a more demanding schedule this season. Last year, the Chiefs played a Freedom Division schedule, but they'll toil in the Independence Division this time around.
"We are moving up a division and are expecting a challenging season," said Caldwell head coach Mike Fess, whose team returns Hank Morgan, Tyler Krisinski and Brendan O'Donnell to the backcourt. "[We] are looking to Matt DiBlasio and Jason Fusaro to add some scoring punch, while newcomers Mike Giannetta, Logan Flaherty and Kyle Ross are looking to shore up the frontcourt."
Morgan, who averaged 14.5 points a game last season, put together a spectacular opening game this season with 23 points and 14 rebounds. While Morgan is an offensive asset, one of the things that made Caldwell such a tough opponent last season was its defensive yield of just 46 points per game.
Sophomore Cristian Talavera adds depth to an experienced backcourt while Jack Sasso, Aiden Torok and Justin Bryant will supply Fess with options off the bench.
"Our strengths this season include experience and depth in the backcourt," Fess said. "We return three starters and have some depth coming from last year's bench and JV program. Our frontcourt will be a combination of first-year varsity players who will gaining experience as the season goes on."
Caldwell will be co-hosting a holiday tournament with West Essex High School on Dec. 27 and 28 before getting back to its regular-season slate at home against Newark Academy on Jan. 3.