Former Monroe and Notre Dame HS Head Coach Takes Helm at BGA
|Bob Turco returns to coach in the Greater Middlesex Conferences as the new boys basketball coach at Bishop Ahr High School.|
NORTH EDISON, NJ—Bishop Ahr is a sleeping giant in Greater Middlesex Conference Boys Basketball. A program that has won two MCT/GMCT titles in 1982 and 1992 with victories over neighborhood rival and fellow Non-Public A South member, St. Joseph’s, Bishop Ahr has not had much success in boys hoops over the past 26 years. But there has always been the potential of greatness.
Since the 1992-93 campaign, Bishop Ahr, which was formerly known as St. Thomas Aquinas, has only been to the GMCT Final Four one time, and that was in 2011 when led by the likes of Roger Kilgore, Rashad Kilgore, Kenny Virden, Ryan Blakely, and Dillon Salva, the Trojans reached the GMCT Semifinals at South Brunswick only to lose to then top seeded Piscataway. Other than that, BGA has only made the GMCT Elite Eight five times since 1999 including last season.
In addition, Bishop Ahr has only won or at least gotten a share of 6 division titles in boys basketball since the formation of the Greater Middlesex Conference during the 1985-86 academic year. Five of those titles came in a period of five straight years from 2008 to 2012 while playing in the GMC Blue where Ahr has been since moving down for the 2002-03 season. After several seasons of mediocrity, Bishop Ahr returned to contention in GMC boys basketball a couple seasons ago.
Under the guidance of former BGA standout, D.J. Griffin, the son of Piscataway boys basketball head coach, Darius Griffin, the Trojans finished 2nd in the GMC Blue behind Carteret and received the 7th seed in the 2017 GMCT. However, Alex Santiago, Deontae Crawford, Sean Kudelka, and the rest of the Trojans were dispatched by an upstart and 10th seeded J.F. Kennedy team that began the year at 1-7, and made a run to the 2017 GMCT Elite Eight.
Last season, the Trojans finished 2nd again in the GMC Blue behind Carteret, and earned the 6th seed in the 2018 GMCT. Led by Alex Santiago, Quadry Adams, Rashan Ruff, Matt Panganiban, Simon Llaguno, and Jack Roarty, BGA then coached by Ron James, rallied from behind to defeat 11th seeded North Brunswick in the Round of 16, but then lost in the Quarterfinals to Old Bridge in a rematch of a regular season game that the Knights came from behind to defeat Ahr in North Edison.
During the off-season, James, who had taken over for Griffin after Griffin was severely injured in a car accident in October 2017, stepped down, and Ahr moved quickly to hire a replacement, and a solid choice was made by the school when it selected Bob Turco to return to Middlesex County, where he enjoyed success as a player, assistant coach, and head coach. Turco, the older brother of former Carteret, South Brunswick, and St. Joseph’s head coach, Dave Turco, who became the new men’s basketball coach at Middlesex County College in September, was an assistant coach at Carteret, Colonia, and South Brunswick before striking out on his own to take over the Monroe boys hoops program prior to the 2005-06 season.
At the time, Turco inherited a Monroe program that finished 9-12 after having a promising start with 6 straight wins following an opening night loss at Colonia. The team was led by A.J. Rudowitz, who was a solid player, but had struggled in somewhat of obscurity in Middlesex County due to the struggles of the Monroe program his first three years. Turco took that squad with the likes Rudowitz, Colin Horsch, Bernard and Justin Mitchell, and Vinny Mahmoud, and guided it to historical heights by Monroe standards.
Prior to that season, the farthest that Monroe had ever gotten in the GMCT was the Quarterfinal round of the 1996 GMCT, where, led by 1,000 point scorer Jamaine Miller, gave then perennial powerhouse St. Peter’s all it could handle before falling. Turco took the Purple City Bird Gang to the semifinals where it pushed top seeded Metuchen, led by Marqus Blakely and Dejuan Miller to overtime before losing. The Falcons, which ended up 24-5 in 2005-06, then reached the Central Jersey Group 3 Championship Game at Franklin High School, where it lost to Hamilton of the Colonial Valley Conference.
Monroe’s appearance in the 2006 GMCT Final Four, would be the first of three semifinal berths by the Falcons during the five years that Turco was at the helm. The Falcons with the likes of Timmy Brix, Danny Brix, and Ahmid Williams would come back to the GMCT semis in 2009 where it would lose to eventual champion, Piscataway at South Brunswick, and again in 2010 where it would defeat Sayreville before losing to St. Joseph’s and his brother Dave Turco in the school’s only finals appearance in MCT/GMCT history. In the summer of 2010, Turco stepped down as the Monroe boys basketball coach to take the coaching job at Notre Dame.
Landing in Mercer County, and Colonial Valley Conference territory, Turco didn’t waste time in bringing the Fighting Irish back to glory. Within two years, Turco took Notre Dame into the Non-Public A South Semifinals, where the Irish lost to Paul VI. Ironically, St. Joseph’s led by Quenton DeCosey, Danny Brix, and a talented freshman named Karl Anthony Towns, would defeat Paul VI in the sectional final en route to its first ever state championship. Notre Dame would return to the sectional semis two more times after the next four years losing to Paul VI again in 2013 and a St. Joe’s squad led by Tyus Battle, Bree Tyree, and Alanzo Frink in 2016.
Last season, Bob Turco was on the coaching staff at Point Pleasant Beach, and helped the Garnet Gulls win the Central Jersey Group 1 Championship before falling to eventual state champion, Woodbury in the state semifinals. Turco inherits a Bishop Ahr program that no longer has Alex Santiago, who graduated in June, but still has the likes of Adams and big man Marquis Billingsley along with new faces such as Jalen Jones (transfer from Mater Dei), Omari Fleming (transfer rom the Patrick School), Derrick Grant (transfer from Piscataway), and Hassan Jackson (transfer from North Brunswick). In addition, the Trojans have a solid sophomore class, which won the Perth Amboy Freshmen Tourney Championship over Sayreville last season.
Bishop Ahr opens the season at home against South River on Friday night, and then takes on the newest member of the Greater Middlesex Conference, Calvary Christian of Old Bridge in the 6:00 PM game of the Friends of South Amboy Benefit Showcase on Saturday night. GMC Hoops will be covering both of these games as it launches its 19th season of covering Greater Middlesex Conference basketball. Follow along at https://www.facebook.com/GMCHoops, or on twitter @gmchoops.