Montclair boys hoops preview: Clean slate for new coach, team to make their marks
There is a new coach on the sidelines for the Montclair High School boys basketball team.
Cecil Stinson, a Montclair High School alum, has taken over for Gary Wallace, who led the program the last six seasons. In 2021-22 the Mounties went 6-16 but were hampered early in the season because of a COVID-19 shutdown.
Stinson, a 2006 graduate of the high school and a thousand-point scorer during his years for the Mounties, debuts as coach on Thursday, Dec. 15, at home against Newark Tech (4 p.m.).
He comes in basically fresh, as most of the Montclair starters from the 2021-22 season graduated.
Many of his players got a taste of Stinson's coaching during the summer in the competitive Bloomfield High Summer League. In addition, many played in the Bloomfield College and Paterson Recreation fall leagues.
"The energy from fall league has transitioned greatly into tryouts and practice," the coach said last week.
Stinson will need to replace the production of graduated seniors Collin Gibson and Shahaad Sutton, who were both on the All Super Essex Conference Liberty Division honorable mention list. They were the top scorers for the Mounties last season.
For 2022-23 the coach likes the depth of his team but says its members need to come focused for every contest.
"Our rotation can be anywhere from seven to 10, depending on the flow of the game and if our guys show up focused," said Stinson, who is taking over after a coaching stint at Cristo Rey Newark High School (formerly Christ the King High School). "If everyone is locked in, we have the potential to have great depth."
The Mounties have a good mix across the board, starting with six seniors, Ryan Murphy, Ian Muchineuta, Charlie Ruben, Jaden Reid, Shindon Thompson and Semaj Adams, who was an All North Jersey Super Football Conference first team running back for the football team.
The team has several players like Adams, who play other sports, including sophomore Martin Quiros and junior Shawn Kirkley, who also played football, as well as Muchineuta and junior Evan Schmitt, who play lacrosse.
"We have quite a few guys that play more than one sport," Stinson said. "Having athletes that have experienced being a part of something bigger than themselves is priceless. We'll look to lean on those experiences in our growth process."
Muchineuta is one of the top players coming back this season and is big for a guard. "Ian has great size from the guard spot, and his size can be bothersome as an on-ball defender," the coach said about the senior, who will be playing lacrosse at Wagner University next school year.
"Offensively Ian can be streaky, but when he's making shots it’s a sight to see. We will definitely be looking to free him up and get him to his spots for some easy looks. Most importantly Ian brings experience and leadership."
Other players who saw floor time last season include Thompson, junior Noah Hutchinson and sophomore Jahi Whitney.
Whitney has long-term appeal for the Mounties. "While still young I believe this past summer and fall have helped prepare him for the speed and physicality at the varsity level," Stinson said.
"He has a great mid-range game and can play out of the dunker spot and perimeter. He also has the ability to guard multiple positions. I'm looking forward to watching him progress."
The coach said Thompson is the leader on the squad who helped get him acclimated with the team. "Shindon is great," Stinson said. "When I was board-approved as the coach for Montclair High School there was less than a week left of school, and Shindon served as a liaison to get things going with the team for the summer. He's put in a lot of work during the off-season, and I'm looking forward to his continued progression."
Stinson likes Hutchinson’s energy and his defensive intensity.
"He does a lot that does not always show up on the stat sheet," the coach said. "He has a great understanding of our defensive concepts and coverages, and he never complains, even when things aren't working in his favor."
The other players who will be top picks in the early going for the rotation include Murphy, Reid, Quiros and freshman Tom Diomedi.
For this season the Super Essex Conference did a big shakeup of its divisions, and the Mounties moved from the SEC Liberty Division to the Colonial Division. Instead of East Orange and West Side, Montclair will face the likes of Belleville (18-9) and Glen Ridge (20-8), which both had big seasons in 2021-22.
Montclair Boys Basketball Schedule
(Games at 4 p.m. unless noted)
Dec. 15 Newark Tech
Dec. 17 at Orange
Dec. 20 Millburn
Dec. 22 at Verona
Dec. 27 Payne Tech, Jingle Bells Tournament, at Paterson STEAM High School, 6 p.m.
Jan. 3 at Glen Ridge
Jan. 5 Belleville
Jan. 7 at Newark Collegiate, Noon
Jan. 10 at West Essex
Jan. 12 at Newark Tech, 7 p.m.
Jan. 14 Columbia, 1:30 p.m.
Jan. 17 Orange
Jan. 19 at Millburn
Jan. 21 at Weequahic, Noon
Jan. 23 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Jan. 24 Verona
Jan. 28 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Jan. 31 Glen Ridge
Feb. 2 at Belleville, 7 p.m.
Feb. 4 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Feb. 7 West Essex
Feb. 11 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Feb. 14 at East Orange, 7 p.m.
Feb. 16 Central