J.P. Stevens Standout to Play for Lions of Region 19 and NJCAA D2
Solomon Smith of J.P. Stevens puts up a contested jumper against neighborhood rival, Bishop Ahr in an early season GMC Crossover contest in North Edison that was won by the Hawks on December 22nd. Smith recently announced that he will be attending Raritan Valley Community College in the fall.
NORTH EDISON, NJ—Another Hawks standout is headed to the next level to play basketball. Earlier this spring, Naysean Burch announced that he is going to attend The College of New Jersey in the fall. Last week, GMC Hoops learned that, point guard Solomon Smith has committed to Raritan Valley Community College.
After Stevens finished among the GMC Top 12 depending upon where you looked, some thought that the Hawks would lose a step coming into the 2018-19 season. Losing the likes of Tyrese Conover (College of St. Elizabeth) and Elisha Smith to graduation last year, the Hawks, led by the likes of Solomon Smith and Burch made it clear that they would still be a formidable team to contend with.
During the Summer of 2018, the JPS Hawks competed in the Rahway Summer League, and went an undefeated 13-0 including wins over Scotch Plains in the semifinals and Rahway in the Championship. Following the solid performance during the summer at Rahway, the Hawks looked much more like contenders, and received a ranking of 8th in the 2018-19 GMC Hoops Pre-Season Top 10. Stevens didn’t disappoint early on.
The Hawks climbed the rankings to as high as No. 3 in the regular season poll after defeating Bishop Ahr at Stevens on December 22nd and St. Joseph’s on January 3rd to start the season at 7-0, which was the best start since the 2007-08 season. Unfortunately, Stevens struggled through the mid-season including a heartbreaking loss at arch rival, Edison on January 14th in the City of Light Game. J.P. Stevens managed to finish the season well though.
With dominant crossover wins over Piscataway Tech (2019 GMCT Preliminary Round), South River, and Dunellen, coupled with solid efforts in two late season defeats to Piscataway including the 2019 GMCT Round of 16, the Hawks were able to improve upon last year’s 12-13 overall record. Despite a comeback effort that fell short to Union in the opening round of the 2019 North Jersey Section 2 Group 4 playoffs (47-45), J.P. Stevens completed its campaign at 13-13 overall including a 6-8 mark in the GMC Red, a two game improvement over the 2017-18 season.
A three year varsity player at Stevens, Smith played in 25 games this past season, made 97 field goals, 17 threes, and 83 free throws for a total of 324 points, or an average of 13.0 points per game. For his career at JPS, Smith competed in 56 games, and made 154 field goals, 24 threes, and 127 free throws for a total of 503 points, or an average of just under 9.0 ppg according to NJ.com. Over his three seasons, Smith improved from 2.4 points per game as a sophomore to 6.8 per contest as a junior to 13.0 points per game this season.
Smith scored in double figures in 16 of the 25 games that he played in 2018-19. In three of those games, Smith scored 20 points or more. Smith scored in double figures 22 times during the course of his career with the Hawks. Smith notched a career high of 22 points on four field goals, and 11 foul shots in the 49-42 overtime victory over St. Joseph’s in North Edison on January 3rd. The win over the Falcons was the first by the Hawks since December 2007. Smith will be joining an RVCC squad looking to improve.
During the 2018-19 season, the Lions went 5-19 overall despite averaging 81.4 points per game. RVCC started the season at 4-4 in the month of November before ending the season with losses in 15 of its last 16 including 13 straight. One of those losses was a 96-80 defeat to the County College of Morris on December 4th in Branchburg in a game covered by GMC Hoops. Raritan Valley Community College has had a number of former GMC standouts over the years.
Former players from the Greater Middlesex Conference include: Marvin Crawford (J.P. Stevens), Rasheed Howard (J.F. Kennedy), Omar Smith, Antoine Beverley, and Thaddeus Dalton of Piscataway, Kristian Svendsen (Timothy Christian), Sal Hasan (St. Joseph’s and South Brunswick), and Zaire Robinson (Woodbridge). One of the best seasons for RVCC in recent years was in the 2013-14 season.
Led by Crawford, a former J.P. Stevens standout, who went on to play at NCAA D2 school, Holy Family University of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, the Lions finished 20-7 overall including a 14-4 record in the NJCAA Region 19 Division 2 league. The Lions defeated defending champion Essex County College, led by former North Brunswick standout, Dion Rogers, on December 4th in another game covered by GMC Hoops.
The Wolverines exacted revenge though with an 88-52 win in Newark on February 11th, and again in the Region 19 D2 Championship Game at Brookdale College in Lincroft (99-74) on March 1st. Two years ago, Robinson, a former Woodbridge standout, helped guide the Lions to an 18-11 overall finish including a 5-5 record in conference play, and a semifinal berth in the NJCAA Region 19 D2 Tournament before losing to Rowan College at Burlington County (81-78). Congratulations Solomon on making it to the next level, and best of luck in the future.