Rec league competitors prepare to put their best feet forward
Although Amherst Regional High School is home to an elite basketball program, it is the rec league that garners most of the attention throughout the early winter months.
Marc Keenan is the self-proclaimed commissioner of the league.
“I have a shirt that says it,” he said.
Mr. Keenan estimates that he has been involved with the league for roughly 25 years and has been running it for about 15 years.
“It’s all a blur,” he said.
Running the league is one of Mr. Keenan’s favorite parts of the year.
“I love arguing with everybody and making the teams,” he said.
He is not sure if any team is a clear frontrunner for the prestigious rec league trophy this year.
“I’ve done this long enough to know that you can’t tell. I just hope everybody gets some wins,” said Mr. Keenan.
Despite his inability to say which team was the early season favorite, Mr. Keenan identified Amherst Dental as a possible dark horse candidate to win the championship.
“Dental has the best duo in the league, with two former varsity basketball players on their roster. That team could be a real threat to win it all,” he said.
Mr. Keenan was unable to disclose the names of the two players as they had requested to be left out of all pre-season press coverage in order to avoid distraction.
Despite their anonymity, it is clear that they are two immensely talented basketball players.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they outscored teams by themselves most weeks,” he said.
Keeping every team competitive is Mr. Keenan’s main goal every year, which is something that has proven to be very difficult.
“It’s very hard; I screw up every year,” he said.
Despite this, Mr. Keenan does his best to split up the league’s most talented players in an effort to keep the teams balanced.
“Olivier Ndikumana, Oliver Fay, Noah Fay, and Owen Wright are some players to look out for,” he said.
Olivier Ndikumana, a guard for the Rao’s Rebounders, agrees with Keenan’s statement that he is an elite player in the league.
“I am the best guard in the league,” said Ndikumana.
The Rebounders suffered a heart-breaking last-second loss in the semifinals of last year’s playoffs, and they are hungry for another shot at the championship.
“We are a lock to win it, no question,” he said.
Ndikumana believes that the only real threat to his team’s championship run will be Strides, a team led by Oliver Fay.
“He’s a very dominant player,” he said. “I look forward to playing him.”
The Primetime Players, another team looking to build off of last season’s success, are also eager for redemption.
The Players made an unexpected run to the championship last season; however they suffered a loss at the hands of a very talented Cherry Hill team.
“They were a very good team,” said Primetime captain Jacob Kaplan. “But this year they have no chance against us. We have learned from our mistakes.”
Kaplan is confident in his team’s ability to get back to the championship this year.
“We play as a team and we don’t have any weak links. That being said, our stars, Ryan Dinger, [Jeremy Waldinger-White], and Jared Kannel will lead us to the Promise Land. Jared in particular has a signature move. We call it the slip-and-slide, which no opposing player can stop,” he said.
Kaplan is not worried about any other teams infringing on Primetime’s success this season, as he believes that he knows how to stop Strides star Oliver Fay.
“Oliver is what some would call a mentally weak person. He can be good sometimes, but all it takes is one miscue to throw him off. He’s like a ball on top of a very large mountain peak. Everybody else starts below him, but if you give him enough of a nudge, he rolls all the way down,” said Kaplan, later adding that Fay has “no supporting cast.”
The rec league began on Saturday January 2.
The twelve highly competitive teams are all looking to make a name for themselves in their early-season matchups.