High school basketball begins today. Or, more accurately, the preparation for high school basketball in New Jersey officially begins today.
Today – the Monday before Thanksgiving – is the first day that schools in the Garden State can practice. Though, strangely enough, today’s practices and those tomorrow and Wednesday, do not really count.
NJSIAA rules, designed to satisfy families that wish to travel and enjoy other family activities during the Thanksgiving weekend without worrying about their son or daughter missing practices, do not allow practices on Thanksgiving or the Friday, Saturday and Sunday that follow. Strangely, practice is permitted on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Anyway, a student athlete is required to attend six daily practice sessions before being eligible to play in a scrimmage game. But these three practices – today, Tuesday and Wednesday – do not count toward those required six sessions.
Enough about irregular practice rules.
There have been some coaching changes since last season ended.
Most recently, former Wildwood High School star and longtime assistant, Teresa Cunniff, has been selected to succeed Dave Troiano as the Warriors head girls coach.
Kenny Johnson, who won 141 games at Pleasantville but was not brought back last season, has taken over the boys program at Absegami after the retirement of the legendary Greg Goodwin.
Jackie Siscone, a 1,000-point scorer at Hammonton and a member of the school’s Sports Hall of Fame, has been selected to replace Dennis Smith as the Holy Spirit girls coach. Siscone coached two seasons (21-29) at Hammonton and was an assistant at Atlantic Tech last year. Smith won 138 games in seven seasons before rtetiring, the 21st highest total in Cape-Atlantic League history.
Former Ocean City basketball and baseball player Sam Picketts has been named the new boys basketball coach at Bridgeton, replacing Kevin Nash, who also coached Sacred Heart before the school closed.
Pleasantville has selected Aminah Davis, a 1,000-point scorer for the Greyhounds who played college basketball at St. Peter’s, to replace Alex Harley.
Albert Porter takes over as Vineland’s boys coach for Jack Martine, who coached the Fighting Clan for seven seasons during two separate periods.
St. Joseph has chosen Joe Rosa, a former three-sport athlete at St. Joe who has been a grammar school coach, to replace Shea Belte, who stepped down after one year because of a family commitment.
Most of these changes have been reported. But little has been said of one other change.
Jessica Sartorio, who played for Goodwin at Absegami and has been an assistant to Joe Fussner at Stockton University for four years, has been selected to replace Fran Raph as Cedar’s Creek’s girls basketball coach.
Raph should not fade into history quietly.
She is one of 15 girls basketball coaches in CAL history with five or more years as head coach to win 70 percent of their games. Her teams at Cedar Creek were 135-58 in seven seasons, including three conference championships, two South Jersey titles and one state championship. She has produced consistently competitive teams.
And not just for Cedar Creek basketball.
She will remain as girls track coach for the Pirates where her teams have been 31-4 in dual meets with two conference titles.
Raph’s softball teams won 150 games at Oakcrest, where she also coached girls soccer and boys tennis.
As an athlete, Raph won 10 varsity letters at Mainland including more than 1,100 points in basketball. Between basketball, tennis and softball she played on six championship teams and was an all star in all three sports. She is a member of the Mainland Athletic Wall of Fame.
After high school, Raph went on to Monmouth University where she was team MVP in basketball and a successful doubles tennis player.
Cape-Atlantic League basketball will miss Fran Raph.
CAL Basketball Coaches 70 Percent Club
(five seasons or more)