By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Those associated with the Wildwood Catholic High School boys basketball team are used to a lot of media attention.
Over the past few years, many of the Crusaders’ games have been covered by multiple print and online media outlets. Most of the teams’ games over the past couple of seasons have been streamed online. Quite a few contests have been broadcast on local radio.
But Wildwood Catholic’s program has never been the beneficiary of the kind of coverage it’s scheduled to receive in early February.
The Crusaders will play in a nationally televised game.
Wildwood Catholic is set to face The Patrick School in what could be a state Non-Public B title game preview on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 5:30 p.m. at RWJBarnabas Health Arena as part of the Metro Classic showcase event, which had previously been held at Kean University. The contest is scheduled to air as the front end of a televised doubleheader on ESPNU. The second game pits Sierra Canyon (Calif.) against Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) at 7:30 p.m. The sons of NBA stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each play for Sierra Canyon.
RWJBarnabas Health Arena is located on the campus of Toms River North High School. It was formerly known as the Ritacco Center and Pine Belt Arena. The non-public boys and all girls state championship basketball games have been played in the 3,200-seat arena for more than a decade. Every one of those seats may be needed Feb. 8.
Wildwood Catholic and The Patrick School are both expected to begin the season ranked among the top five teams in the state. Wildwood Catholic, coming off a 27-2 season and an overtime loss to eventual Tournament of Champions winner Ranney in the South Jersey Non-Public B title game, returns all but one player from its regular rotation. Leading the way for the Crusaders are seniors Taj Thweatt and Jahlil White, who’ve committed to play at West Virginia and Temple, respectively. Complimentary players such as Jacob Hopping, DaSean Lopez and transfer Martin Anguelov are also receiving significant college interest.
Meanwhile, The Patrick School, a perennial state power, has been bolstered by the addition of three transfers, most notably 6-9 junior Jonathan Kuminga, who is being touted by some in college recruiting circles as the nation’s No. 1 high player regardless of class. Another 6-9 forward, Adama Sanogo, is also enrolled at The Patrick School. Kuminga and Sanogo were previously teammates at national power Our Savior New American. The Celtics have also landed yet another transfer, point guard Noah Farrakhan, who spent last season at renowned IMG Academy in Florida.
The Patrick School roster also includes Boqiao Jiao, a 6-11 center who played for the Chinese team at the 2018 U17 World Cup in South America.
The game against The Patrick School is one of many high-profile matchups for the Crusaders scheduled for the 2019-20 season. Other non-league games include matchups with Elizabeth, Camden, Paul VI, Notre Dame, Seton Hall Prep, Manasquan, Marist, Burlington Township, Boys Latin (Md.) and Archbishop Wood (Pa.). The team will also play a non-conference contest against St. Augustine Prep, as well as two Cape-Atlantic United Conference games with St. Joseph.