The St . Joe's Wildcats boys basketball team is off to an impressive start. At 9-1, having won six straight games, the leaders of the United division are showing the the Hammonton is school is more than just a football school.

"It's kind of crazy actually," admitted St. Joe's second year head coach Paul Rodio Jr. on the South Jersey Sports Report.

The Wildcats graduated some of their top performers from last year's 18-7 team, including their top scorer, Jordan Herrin, who averaged 15.2 points per game, along with Auris Tverijonas who was one of the top rim protectors in the Cape-Atlantic League.

"We were expecting to regress a little bit," Rodio explained.  "But we kind of had a next man up approach and the kids are happy to play and we're just trying to make some noise."

And they have.

Led by Rodio, a 2009 St. Augustine Prep alum, who's in his second year as the head coach of the Wildcats.  Basketball is in his blood, his father Paul Rodio, has been the head coach of one of the most successful programs in South Jersey at St. Augustine Prep, and is now coaching in his 40th season.

Having that lineage has been a big help in getting the program moving in the right direction.

"It helps," Rodio admitted. "Being a young coach with that last name it definitely helps, my dad pops into practice three days a week."

When Rodio was younger, instead of running around with his friends, he was taking in the Hermits practice with his dad, and like a sponge, he took it all in and in the process fell in love with the game.

"I've always had this in my blood," Rodio said.  "My life right now is basketball."

You can see a lot of similarities in the way father and son coach, save for a few minor differences, they share many of the same philosophies.

"It's funny when we're playing the Prep, we're almost running the same plays, just different names," Rodio Jr. said with a laugh. "I figure he is the leader in wins in South Jersey, why should I try to change the blue print?"

On the court, St. Joe's has put itself in position to be apart of the conversation for a top seed with St. Augustine and Atlantic City in next months the Cape-Atlantic League playoffs, but Rodio says you would never know it by attending one of his practices.

"You would have thought at the last couple practices, with me yelling and screaming that we were 0-12," Rodio stated. "But I see it (the league) wide-open, so I want the kids to understand you don't always have this opportunity."

The goal and the message from Rodio to his Wildcats remains clear; keep working hard and be playing the last week of February at Stockton University for the CAL title game.

Coaching high school kids at this time of the season can be tough, with the holidays in the rear view, school work, and just day-in-and-day-out practices, their minds can start to wonder. However, Rodio is just eight years removed from his playing days at St. Augustine and remembers that feeling, so he tries to keep a fresh approach at his practices each and every day and its worked.

"We try to switch things up, keep them on their heels," Rodio said.

And it's working, this year's team is one of the top scoring teams in the CAL, averaging 67.6 points per game.  But they also play defense, giving up just 50.5 points per contest.

Everyone seems to be chipping in.

They have two of the top scorers in the league, led by sophomore Marcellus Ross (18.7) and senior Ron Gaskins (17.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks) the duo is one of the top scoring pairs in South Jersey.

Ross is also the top 3-point threat in the league, hitting 24 through 10 games.  Senior J.D. DiRenzo also been a great role player, scoring 10 points per game while pulling down 7.7 rebounds and has also blocked 17 shots.  Junior DeAndre Tull-Kennedy has nine steals, while sophomore Corey Blackwell has handed out 21 assists.

"We just want to keep climbing the ladder and keep the foot on the pedal," Rodio said.


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