Sydney Morang might already be the best girls basketball player in Central Jersey and have a Division I college commitment in hand, but nothing she’s accomplished has stopped her from putting in the hard work required as she looks to take her team and her game to an even higher level.
The New Providence High School junior and University of Florida commit made her mark as a freshman, averaging 18 points and 7 rebounds, before kicking things up a notch last season, going for 20 points and 9 boards per contest and leading the Pioneers to the North 2 Group I final.
Still, Morang isn’t resting on her laurels.
“The girl just works hard,” said New Providence coach Cap Pazdera, whose team finished 22-7 last year. “If there are things that she’s not good at, she gets in the gym and just works at it. She’s just willing to work on parts of her game, parts of her game that need the work and parts of her game that are already good but she wants to improve.”
And while doing her best for her team is certainly a factor, at the end of the day, Morang said, her motivation to work hard is really about her love for the game.
“I’m not really about trying to do it for anyone but myself,” said Morang, who was a Courier News first-team All-Area pick last season. “I absolutely just love playing. I have so much fun every time I’m playing. Of course, no one likes when they’re playing bad. It’s kind of a way for me to relieve stress. It’s my entertainment. My fun.”
New Providence cruised through the regular season last season, going 13-1 in the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division. The Pioneers also had little trouble during the first two rounds of the county and state tournaments, handling their opponents by an average of nearly 30 points per game.
But as those tournaments wore on and New Providence went up against the bigger, more accomplished teams, things started to get tougher, as it fell to eventual state champion Shabazz in the sectional final after bowing out to Roselle Catholic in the county semis. Add that to the fact the Pioneers have moved up to the Watchung Division this season, a division featuring all the top teams in the UCC, and things aren’t going to be as comfortable this time around.
Instead of regularly facing schools their own size, the Pioneers will be going up against the likes of Roselle Catholic, the Patrick School, Westfield, Cranford and Union, and Morang has been working on her rebounding, her jump shot and lifting weights to make herself physically stronger to withstand bigger opponents, helping to give her club the presence inside the tiny program might otherwise lack.
“We moved up and now every game is going to be a fight for us, which I think is so important,” Morang said. “When we went into states, in a way, it was a little bit of a shock because we didn’t play teams that were of the caliber of Shabazz or even Secaucus in the regular season. So I think this is going to help us so much in getting prepared for what we really want to accomplish, which is winning counties and states.”
Morang’s desire to up her game has also been helped by the presence of her cousin, sophomore guard Katie Kinum, who joined Morgan on the varsity club last season. Kinum posted 11 PPG, and her relentless play and defensive toughness not only raised Morang’s game, but the entire squad’s.
“They push each other. They like to compete, and in a good way,” Pazdera said. “They just keep the level of intensity up. They like to go up against each other in practice, so they’re constantly getting that competition and getting that push from one another, so it’s been nice. They’re a close family, so it just adds to that bond that we have with their teammates.”
“It was a really cool experience,” Morang said. “Of course, sometimes there’s a little bit of butting heads, because we’re so competitive, but it’s really helpful to have someone like her on the team because she’s always going so hard and trying her hardest, which is good because you need someone that’s going to push you. And that’s exactly what she does for me and I think I do the same for her. She’s only a sophomore, but she’s out there pushing everyone else, also. It’s nice having someone who understands the game like her on the team.”
With Morang and Kinum back, New Providence also got a boost from the return of senior Emily Molstad, who missed last season with an ACL. Add sophomore guard Sarah Zeto and great leadership from senior captains Molstad and Quinn, who excels at what Pazdera called “the dirty work,” and the recipe is certainly there for the Pioneers to take that next step.
“The seniors on the team, Emily Molstad and Kelsey Quinn, have been doing a really good job of pushing everyone and giving us the motivation that we need,” Morang said. “We need to work hard to accomplish what we want to accomplish and I think we have that. It’s going to be a good year for us.”
Staff writer Simeon Pincus – CNGirlsHoops@aol.com