John Valore was all set to be an assistant basketball coach, but he admits he is having the time of his life guiding a new team.
The head coach the previous five seasons at Camden, Valore resigned after he went 118-36 and guided the Panthers to four South Jersey championships. He was also a long-time successful head coach at Cherry Hill East.
This year, the 74-year-old Valore was planning to be an assistant coach at Paul VI before Frank DelRossi called.
DelRossi is the first-year athletic director at Holy Cross Prep Academy. Like the coach, Holy Cross Prep Academy has a new lease on life.
In Dec. of 2017, the Trenton Diocese announced that Holy Cross would cease operating as a diocesan high school at the end of that school year, meaning it would close on June 30, 2018.
Technically the school did that, but it opened the next day on July 1 as an independent school.
“Tell people we are very much alive,” DelRossi said.
That would include the basketball program which just earned a share of the Burlington County League Independent Division title with Palmyra.
“It’s great to win a title,” said point guard Gianmarco Arletti.
That title wouldn’t have been won without Arletti, a 6-foot-6 smooth shooting junior, who is one of two players on the team who came over this fall from Italy. The other is Giovanni Cessel, a rapidly improving 6-9 junior, who was averaging 11.8 points and 11.6 rebounds.
Another top scorer is 6-5 junior Aiden Nesemeier, who averages 12 points and 7.2 rebounds. Guards Clark Conaway and Ryan Keller, have provided senior leadership.
The two Italian players didn’t know each other before coming to Holy Cross. Arletti is from Bologna, while Cessel is about 110 miles away from Sienna.
What they have done is help make the basketball community aware of Holy Cross.
Even more impressive than Arletti’s performance, which has led to him being a unanimous selection to the all-conference team, is the way he has adapted to a new country.
He said he didn’t know any English when arriving in September, but conversed well during a recent interview after Tuesday’s win over Maple Shade.
“You listen to English every day and you get better,” he said.
He’s also gotten much better on the court and one reason is the confidence Valore has shown in him.
“I don’t think I was a good shooter when I came here but coach said in the games (to) shoot whenever I want,” Arletti said. “That gave me confidence.”
Valore has one gripe - or, let’s call it a suggestion.
“I wish he would shoot more,” said Valore, whose team entered the weekend 16-9 after going 13-15 last year.
Arletti says the biggest thing he has learned about playing in the U.S. is that he has to bring it every game, no slacking off.
“I wasn’t that aggressive when I came here,” he said. “Here, you have to be aggressive every single play.”
Boys’ basketball is one of five sports that has won a division title this year at Holy Cross, with girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ soccer and field hockey joining the group.
As well as the teams have done, the school’ success depends on increasing enrollment. DelRossi said there are about 75 per class and this year’s senior class consists of 74.
“We will bring in that many, if not more next year,” he said. “Next year we are bringing back the arts which will attract more kids.”
And next season the basketball team, with its three leading scorers being juniors, could be even stronger.
Right now, Valore is only focusing on next week. That is when the No. 10 seeded Lancers will travel to No. 7 Trenton Catholic in Wednesday’s opening NJSIAA Non-Public South B tournament game.