The best way to find out what kind of a basketball game Jaren Sina is having is to watch the man guarding him.
If the Gill St. Bernard’s senior point guard takes a long deep breath and sighs in resignation before tugging on his shorts and taking a defense stance, you know Sina is doing pretty well.
The Lake Hopatcong resident is a menace to anyone who is trying to cover him on the court. Sina recently signed his National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Northwestern University next fall.
Preseason workouts are underway for the Knights in preparation for their season and home opener on December 14 against Our Saviour New American of Centereach, N.Y.
Sina was heavily recruited by numerous Division I programs and was more than happy to end the selection process with the stroke of a pen. He had given an early verbal commitment to the University of Alabama but rescinded it and took his time in making a final decision.
“It was really hectic,’’ Sina said. “Every night you are getting six or seven calls, sometimes more than that and every day letters. You have schools calling you every day. It’s crazy. It’s not a bad problem to have but it’s tough balancing it out with friends and schoolwork.
“Sometimes you have a certain amount of schools you want to consider but you have so many more coming in and so many great programs at the (same) time. It’s tough to balance it out.’’
Sina’s relationship with Northwestern assistant coach Fred Hill was one reason for his choice. Hill had been in contact with Sina since he was a high school freshman and Hill was the head coach at Rutgers University. Another selling point was the school itself. Northwestern is long regarded as one of the top educational institutions of the Midwest.
“Playing in the Big 10 (conference) is huge,’’ Sina said. “It’s one of the biggest conferences in the country with the ACC. It’s a top 10 academic program. I think I have a good shot of playing right away as a freshman. Those are the great factors for me. The campus was beautiful and it’s right outside of Chicago. It’s a big city. You have Lake Michigan out there and the suburban areas. You have the best of both worlds right there.’’
When it comes to professional sports, Sina is a huge Chicago Bulls fan and being able to watch his favorite team all the time and perhaps even attend a game or two in person was a mark in Northwestern’s favor, too.
Like many high school athletes, signing on the dotted line and setting his future in motion provided Sina a sense of relief.
“It was exciting,’’ Sina said. “I was just happy to get it out of the way. Signing that document obviously meant that I was accepted for a scholarship. I was happy about that, just to get it out of the way. Now I can focus on getting better. It’s not as stressful now.’’
Seton Hall, Miami, Memphis and Pittsburgh were other schools he seriously considered. The Northwestern University basketball program was just as pleased to get Sina, who is considered to be a savvy, pass-first point guard.
Sina grew up around the sport. His father Mergin Sina played at Seton Hall University and University of Rhode Island before competing professionally in Europe for 13 years. The Sina family moved to Lake Hopatcong in 2000. Some of Jaren Sina’s earliest memories revolve around the basketball court.
“I’ve just always been around it,’’ Jaren Sina said. “It’s something where every time I’m on the court—even if I’m having a bad day—it’s fun for me. It’s always relaxing when I’m on the court. I’m not thinking of anything else but basketball.’’
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound athlete averaged more than 20 points and 8 rebounds a game for the 28-4 Knights last season. As a shooter he has tremendous range. He shot 42.9 percent from 3-point range last season and is very comfortable in stepping back to knock down shots from way behind the arc. However it’s what Sina brings to the game mentally that makes him such a sought after recruit.
“He has a high IQ,’’ Gill St. Bernard’s Coach Mergin Sina said. “He understands that positioning of the offense. He makes the right play all the time. He gets the game. He almost slows it down to a point where the right play happens. He really has a great feel for the game.’’
Sina has been a key player for the Knights since his freshman year. He has more than 1,600 points in his varsity career and with a good season may become the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Gill St. Bernards, a school which is located in Gladstone and straddles the border of Morris and Somerset Counties, is expecting to have another sensational year. The Knights advanced to the Non-Public B final before losing to the eventual Tournament of Champions winner St. Anthony’s of Jersey City by a 67-39 score last March. Despite losing some key players (Dominic Hoffman, Alex Mitola) from last year’s team, the Knights have a good core returning and a new group of transfers. They believe they have added some quality to their team.
“We have more depth,’’ Jaren Sina said. “I think we are more athletic. We have some new pieces so we have to make sure the chemistry is still strong. The new guys have to fit their way into the offense. There will be some tough points early, but I think we will be a better team at the end of the season.’’
Now that the distractions are out of the way, Sina can focus on what he likes to do, playing basketball and having a senior season to remember while occasionally checking in on his team of the future.
“Now I know where I’m going and I can watch that team on TV and see where I’m going to fit in there and what I need to work on to play at that level,’’ Jaren Sina said. “I like it because it keeps you motivated and when you see your team playing on ESPN, it’s kind of exciting to think that next year I get to play there.’’