Jersey Fusion off to a strong start

first_img The Jersey Fusion, a first-year women’s semi-pro basketball team, has gotten off to a fast start. Jersey Fusion The 3-1 Fusion play at the Red Bank Salvation Army as a first-year team for the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League. The Fusion are coached and owned by former Monmouth University player Audrey Taylor. Taylor explained what semi-pro actually means. “These are pro-level athletes at lower skill levels,” Taylor said. “There are some players who used to — and still do — play overseas, as well as some former WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association] players.” Taylor is currently in her fourth year as the assistant coach of the Cardinal McCarrick High School Lady Eagles in South Amboy. Prior to coaching at Cardinal Mc- Carrick, she spent time as an assistant coach at Monmouth University and coached and trained youths at recreational facilities in Virginia. Taylor’s longtime friend and partner, Rodney Harris, serves as the Fusion’s director of basketball operations. “I coordinate gym time, transportation, and help the girls with fundraising,” Harris said. “I also act as a scrimmage player against the girls.” Below left: Jersey Fusion’s Geneva Livingston tries to get her hand on a loose ball during the second quarter of the game against the Whitehall Lazers held at the Red Bank Salvation Army on June 20. Harris was a standout basketball player at South River High School from 1983 to 1987 and has amassed a 147-18 record coaching youth basketball for 10 years. Harris has also served full time with the 108th Air Refuel Wing at McGuire Air Force Base for the past 13 years. Harris and Taylor have another business, called Millennium Ballers, which specializes in youth basketball training. So far, the two have enjoyed their fast start but differ on what the expectations were when they were going in. “No, we didn’t expect the early success,” Taylor said. “Being a new team, with the reputation the league has, we didn’t expect to be this good this quick.” “Honestly, I thought we’d be 4-0,” Harris said. “But you’ve got to understand, we are a new team and haven’t gotten to see a lot of the teams play.” According to Taylor, players’ pay varies widely. “It really varies a lot throughout the league,” she said. “Some players get $150 or so per game and some only get compensation for travel.” While the team operates on a low budget, this is an opportunity for the players to showcase their skills on the court. “Hopefully, we get some scouts from the WNBA or overseas [to] come out and see some of the girls play,” Harris said. “These girls can really [play].” The team is composed mostly of local women, including Felecia Harris, Geneva Livingston and Tomora Young, who all hail from Red Bank. “It’s been fun and exciting so far,” Livingston said last week. “We have really started to click.” Livingston has been a friend and summer league teammate of Taylor for the past two years, but said the coach-player relationship has been a smooth transition. “It hasn’t been difficult at all,” Livingston said. “She believes in me and I take what she says as constructive criticism.” The roster includes former college players from Monmouth, Rutgers, Delaware, St. Peter’s College and Rider University among others. Five-foot-9 former Western Michigan Bronco Carrie Moore leads the team. Moore is averaging 23.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Moore led the nation in scoring at Western Michigan during the 2006-07 season by averaging 25.4 points per game. Moore also briefly appeared in the WNBA. “Carrie Moore is our role model,” Taylor said. “She has played in the WNBA and overseas.” Also putting up big numbers is the 5- foot-10 guard Livingston, who is averaging 16.0 points and 6.7 rebounds, and 6-foot-1 Wagner College alumna Leeah Thomas, who is averaging nine points, 8.5 rebounds and one block per game. “Geneva is our on-court leader,” Taylor said. “She is our ‘silent assassin.’ She is a great shooter and very calm out there on the court.” One weakness thus far for the team has been their lack of size and their rebounding deficiencies. “Rebounding has been a problem so far,” Taylor said. “We are believing in each other, and our chemistry is going to be very solid.” “Rebounding has been a problem,” Harris agreed. “We are not really big. “Well, we have some bigger girls, but no true post player,” Harris added. “Everyone wants to be a guard.” “We need to be more consistent on both ends of the court,” said Livingston, who spends time as both a small and power forward. “A lot of what we have discussed after the games has been missing defensive assignments and things like that. “Once we get a little more consistent, we will be very tough to beat,” she added. While the Fusion may not have the size, they have built their early start with speed. “We play an up-tempo, fundamentally sound style,” Taylor said, “a mix of old school and new school. “We have some flashy new-school players,” Taylor added, “but we are fundamental. We box out, run plays and set screens.” The Fusion’s speed also translates on the defensive side of the court, as they play a very active zone to go along with a fullcourt press. “We play two types of defense mostly,” Taylor said. “We play a 3-2 match-up zone as well as a full-court man-to-man press.” One of the challenges of the season is that the teams operate out-of-pocket from the owners. “Fundraising has been difficult as a firstyear team,” Taylor said. “Getting word out and getting people to come to the games has been difficult.” “Being the only women’s semi-pro team in New Jersey, it’s been hard to get people to go to the games,” Livingston said. “It’s been hard to get support, but I think it’s starting to grow because we are winning.” Another challenge for the low-budget team is travel. Teams in the same division include teams from Massachusetts, Delaware, New York City, Long Island, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. According to Taylor, travel has yet to be a problem, and the team takes vans to away games. “Travel has not been too bad,” Taylor said. “They put a four- to five-hour limit on how far a team travels.” “We got up to New Hampshire in four or five hours,” Taylor added. “We made it down to Virginia in about three and a half hours.” So far, the experience has been viewed as a positive one for both Taylor and Harris. “It’s been really exciting so far,” Harris said, adding, “I’m glad I’m a part of this.” “It’s been great so far,” Taylor agreed. The Fusion swept through a home-andhome series with the Massachusetts Marvels, as well as defeating the Delaware Lady Destroyers and losing by 15 to the DC Bluestreakz. The Fusion hosted the 1-1 Whitehall Lazers on June 20 at the Red Bank Salvation Army in the fifth of the 11-game schedule. Tickets may be purchased online at the Fusion’s website, http://www.jerseyfusion. com, or may be purchased on-site. Locals on roster of women’s semi-pro basketball team BY KENNY WALTER Staff Writer last_img