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Joe Arbitello calls this the greatest week of his life, and it has nothing to do with his successful debut as Christ the King boys’ basketball coach Wednesday night: a 104-54 blitzing of Jamaica in Middle Village.
That game was on his mind for weeks – that is, until his wife, Veronica, gave birth to a baby girl, Ava Noelle, on Monday at 6:53 p.m.
“God has a funny way of putting things into perspective for you,” Arbitello said. “There’s nothing in the world like having a baby. It’s such an experience. I never thought I would like something better than athletics.”
The nerves he thought he’d feel had nothing to do with the game. Sure the Royals jumped out to a 34-9 lead and were up 63-19 late in the first half, but Arbitello’s biggest concern was that Veronica had a fever, which led him to check his cell phone at the scorer’s table often.
Arbitello, the Christ the King athletic director, is the de facto head coach of the Royals in the absence of Bob Oliva, who coached for 27 years, but is sidelined with a heart ailment that resulted in a hospital stay last month. While the school hasn’t made an official announcement, it appears that Arbitello will likely be the head coach for the rest of the season.
And if Wednesday’s season opener is any indication, it is sure to be another exciting year for Christ the King.
“It’s a great start, but that’s what I expected,” he said. “I feel like we’re a lot better than this team, but we have to show we’re a lot better. We have to play like we’re better. It’s been a long time since Christ the King totally put a team away. For our first win, I think we did an incredible job.”
Senior Sean Johnson said he plans on waiting until the end of the season to make his college commitment, banking on what he hopes is a solid senior season. The guard got off on the right foot on Wednesday, torching Jamaica for 30 points in just over two quarters.
“I feel like it’s my team, took control of it and I just went out and played,” Johnson said. “I’ve been working on my shot and my ball handling – it has to get better.”
Johnson scored 12 of his team’s first 14 points and 19 in the first quarter alone. He had 26 at the half and the only mistake he seemed to make on the offensive end was a failed one-handed dunk on a two-on-none breakaway.
“It doesn’t matter what game of basketball you’re playing, you still have to make the shots he was making,” Arbitello said. “He shoots like that, he’s a big-time player.”
Maurice Barrow, a 6-foot-4 junior forward who has already garnered interest from Division I schools Hofstra, Fordham, Manhattan, South Carolina and Arkansas, added 16 points and Kareem Thomas had 12. Jermaine Johnson led Jamaica with 16 points, while Joseph Halloway added 14.
When the game was over, Arbitello was in his office. He had no idea how many points Johnson scored or even what the final margin of victory was. Instead, he was scrolling through his BlackBerry looking at photos of his newborn daughter.
“I can’t help but smile,” Arbitello said. “It’s a tremendous experience.”
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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