Vernon Vikings ready for challenge

Vernon. The Vernon Vikings will begin the 2020 portion of their season on Friday with a home game against Hopatcong. With strong leadership, the Vikings are looking to overcome tough opposition.

30 Dec 2019 | 02:36

With a clear idea of the goals that they want to achieve and the a full understanding of the tough opposition that awaits them, the Vernon High School boy’s basketball program undertakes the 2019-2020 season.

The Vikings are scheduled to begin the New Year with a home game versus Hopatcong on January 3.

Key returning student athletes to the varsity include Andre Pierce (senior, guard), Cody Williams (senior, forward and wing), Jacob Buurman (senior, center), Stefen McKinnon (senior, guard and forward), Kyle Dunbar (senior, guard) and DJ Springstead (junior, guard).

“We are very junior and senior oriented this season,’’ Vernon head coach Connor Healy said. “We currently have one sophomore beginning the year with us, Aidan Clifford. He plays the wing and forward position and he brings defensive intensity, rebounding and shot making. I am very excited to see the growth of our freshmen and sophomore class.’’

Leadership is prevalent for Vernon this year.

“Cody Williams did a terrific job of helping organize the off-season captain’s practices and being a great role model for our younger student athletes,’’ Healy said. “Andre Pierce is an unbelievably skilled player who can do it all on both ends of the court. He has a great handle, great jump shot and is continuing to work on improving his game on the defensive end. He has developed a great relationship with the players in the program and will be a great role model for our younger athletes.

“Jacob Buurman, Kyle Dunbar, Stefen McKinnon and DJ Springstead have also developed into great leaders for our program as well. I am really excited for this year, especially because of our experience at the varsity level.’’

The Vikings tallied nine wins last winter.

“My main goal is simply to improve each and every day throughout this season,’’ Healy said. “I like to take it one practice at a time and one game at a time. I emphasize to my players that we need to improve individually as well as a teammate each time we step on the basketball court. I believe if we stick with this mindset, we will have a great season ahead of us.

“As a coach, this is my first year as the head boy’s varsity basketball coach at Vernon Township High School. I am 26 years old so I am very anxious for this great opportunity. Prior to this, I spent two seasons as a middle school boys coach in Vernon at Glen Meadow Middle School. Before coming to Vernon, I spent four years as an assistant boys basketball coach at West Milford High School under John Finke.’’

Vernon plays in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Colonial Division along with North Warren, Sussex Tech, Morris County Vocational Tech, Kittatinny and Hopatcong.

“I do believe that we are a contender in our Division this year,’’ Healy said. “I believe we have the talent to compete with each of the teams in our Division. Kittatinny had a very impressive season last year and they are the first team to come to mind [as a top team to beat in the Division]. However, I believe all of the other teams in our Division can compete at a high level so we are not going to take anyone lightly.’’