After making an hour-plus long commute to high school for the past two years, Justin Willis will now merely need to walk across the street to attend classes and play baseball.
Willis, a rising junior right-hander and one of the state’s top pitchers, has transferred from St. Joseph in Metuchen to Memorial in his native West New York.
A major Division I prospect, Willis has already received scholarship offers from San Diego, West Virginia and Missouri. He is also is being recruited by national powers such as South Carolina, Miami and Vanderbilt.
Citing a lengthy rail commute and tuition costs, Willis’ stepfather, Al Aguero, said his son will benefit from transferring to Memorial, a Hudson County and state power.
Under NJSIAA transfer rules, Willis, who moved with his family from North Bergen to West New York, will not have to sit 30 days because of a bonafide address change.
“He’d wake up at 5:30 to get on a 6 a.m. train and walk a mile to school if he couldn’t get a ride,” Aguero said. “Coming back after practice, he wouldn’t be home until 9 p.m. depending on if he caught the train or just missed it. It was taking a toll on him. Now he has to cross one avenue and will be at school.”
Aguero, who graduated in 1997 from Memorial, where he also played baseball, said “financial considerations” for the future factored into Willis’ decision to transfer.
“We love ‘Bucc’ (St. Joseph head coach Steve Bucchignano), we love the program and we really do like the school,” Aguero said of St. Joseph. “It was just a family decision after thinking things over.”
Willis led the Greater Middlesex Conference last season with a 0.74 ERA and 0.894 walks/hits per inning ratio. He fanned 70 batters and allowed just 34 hits in 66 innings. Willis fashioned a 7-1 record including a no-hitter of Piscataway and a two-hitter of Calvert Hall, which was ranked No. 1 in Maryland at the time.