Every team has players just waiting to bust out and make people notice their talents. They may not be a high-level high school prospect, for the most part, just yet. But this could be the season they break out and open up more eyes.
Here are five such under-the-radar players in Morris and Union counties in the Garden State.
Lauren Rusas — 2022 Oak Knoll/NJ Panthers
Rusas is a 6-foot-one rising senior at Kent Place in Summit, and you cannot teach height.
She managed 88 points (14.7 ppg), 18 rebounds, and seven steals in six games this past season. Sure, a small sample size, but she proved she can post solid numbers, scoring double-digits in five of the six tilts played.
More importantly, Rusas has improved every year since her freshman campaign in 2018-19. Across her first two high school seasons, she poured in 393 points (8.7 ppg) and grabbed 114 (2.5 rpg) rebounds in 45 contest, including a 35-point outburst in a 64-41 win versus Union as a sophomore.
Grace Kinum — 2024 New Providence/Asphalt Angelz
As just a freshman, Kinum rang up 182 points (12.13 ppg), pulled 54 boards, and dished out 55 dimes in 15 contests.
Defensively, the rising sophomore made 33 thefts in 15 games this past season.
Kinum owns a solid inside-outside game, with a nice, smooth touch on her jumper. Before you know it, she will no longer be a hidden gem as long as she works hard and smart in pursuit of hardwood excellence.
Olivia Lawlor — 2022 Summit/United AAU
It is hard to think of Lawlor as an under-the-radar player after pouring in 237 points (16.9 ppg), coming down with 123 boards, and blocking 40 shots in 14 contests last campaign. Plus, she has committed to Division I Dartmouth.
However, Lawlor does not grabbed the headlines like other girls at bigger-named hoops schools with as much, or even less, pure athletic talent that she possesses.
But that does not mean the 6-foot-2 three-sport athlete does not deserve more praise and adulation. Her stats, tireless work ethic, and wiliness to play multiple position speak for themselves.
After three seasons as a Hilltopper, Lawlor is within earshot of the 1000-point milestone, with 891 points.
Alyssa Alfano — 2023 Hanover Park
Alfano posted 136 points (10.5 ppg), recorded 34 rebounds, and made 18 steals in 13 affairs this past season.
Additionally, she dropped in a season-best 24 points in a 63-42 victory over Villa Walsh in February.
After two years on Hanover Park, people around the girl’s program believe the rising junior will do note-worthy things for the Lady Hornets in 2020-21 year.
“Yeah, she’s gonna be the big gun this year,” Hanover Park Boy’s Head Coach Todd Hartman said of Alfano’s producing ability.
In addition to basketball, Alfano plays softball and soccer, scoring eight goals and dishing out six assists on the pitch.
Samantha Cicerone — 2024 Hanover Park
Cicerone, another Lady Hornet, played pretty well for the team as a freshman. She scored 69 points, collared 70 boards, and had 11 takeaways last campaign.
After a season of high school hoops under her belt, Hartman feels the rising sophomore could capitalize on the experience and enjoy a productive season.
“There is a young sophomore named Sammy Ciccerone,” he said. “I think that she is going to be good.”
Cicerone also plays lacrosse for Hanover Park.
— Jerry Del Priore