NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — As the winter sports season rages on, the West Essex boys basketball team is in the thick of the hunt due to the emergence of a new star in the ranks by the name of Chris Corbo.

“We’re looking to be a lot better than we were last year,” said Corbo. “We feel like we have the team chemistry and the right guys to lead and make a good run at the State Tournament.”

The sophomore has been a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses so far this season. In the mold of a Kevin Durant type of player, Corbo uses his size to his advantage, scoring both inside the paint and along the perimeter of the defense.

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“I’ve got a lot better with the mid range and inside game,” said Corbo. “Last year, I was only interested in shooting the three ball because that’s where all my scoring came from.”

Corbo has averaged in double figures this season with nearly a third of his games as of last week, producing double-double outputs in points and rebounds.

“I figured that to be a great high school player, you need to be able to score from every part of the floor,” said Corbo. “I figured being in the post with my size and length would be a good asset.”

Corbo’s skills were on display from the first game of the season, when he made an immediate impact. In a 61-42 opening-night victory over Cristo Rey High School, Corbo notched 22 points along with a nearly 20-rebound effort.

“We played a bit of an undersized team for me,” said Corbo, proud of his performance that day. “I was able to show I’m not just a three-point shooter; I’m able to do some damage on the inside.”

Corbo’s emergence has worked to the advantage of the Knights as a whole. As other teams begin to key in on the lanky sophomore, others are getting open due to forced double teams.

“Now I’m getting more opportunities inside the paint besides the three-point line and creating other opportunities for my teammates to score,” he said.

Passing has been another element of Corbo’s game that was lacking last year but has drastically improved in the 2019-2020 season. He noted that after working on the all-around aspect of his game his assists total has begin to climb as well.

“I’ve been working on my ball handling a little bit and my passing, I feel like a lot better a passer over these couple games,” said Corbo.

The results for West Essex have been astounding with Corbo on the court, as the group currently stands at 6-3 on the season as of Jan. 14.

“We’re starting to win games,” said Corbo. “We’re starting to move the ball better, and you can tell we’re into it and we’re ready to work hard at practice.”

Corbo and the motivated Knights are continuing to set their expectations high. As the Essex County Tournament and crunch time of regular season draws near, the group is looking to turn up the energy.

“We want to make a deep run in the county tournament, and we think we can win our division too, which would be huge for us,” said Corbo. “We want to put up a banner in the gym because there’s no banners in there for basketball.”

Individually, Corbo has also set his personal bar high for the remainder of the season. In addition to the hopes of a 1000-point career by the time he graduates, Corbo looks to take an incremental approach to success in 2020.

“I would like to get over 15 points per game and average a double-double with rebounds,” he said. “I feel like, with my size, I should be able to grab most of the rebounds that come off the backboard.”

The West Essex Knights will take on Glen Ridge on Thursday in an away game at 4 p.m.