Garden State’s Basketball Talent Blooms in N.C.A.A. Tournament

“Total culture shock,” he said. “You’re playing outdoors, it smells like weed everywhere, there’s an M.C. on the court named Cha-Ching who calls every white kid who can shoot Baby Love, for Kevin Love. You feel like you’re a part of that culture and then you bring it back across the George Washington Bridge and you’re playing Somerset County basketball.”

When Princeton beat Missouri, that M.C., David Teele, posted highlights of it with commentary. He wasn’t the only one following the Tigers with glee. Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey has been swept into the excitement, too. He and his wife, Tammy Snyder Murphy, visited Princeton’s practice on Tuesday. The governor, who is originally from Massachusetts, told the players that all of New Jersey, and much of the country, was rooting for Princeton.

Speaking to reporters afterward, he also noted the success of F.D.U. and St. Peter’s and made sure to mention the state university based in New Brunswick.

“Rutgers has been in the tournament and I think got a little bit jobbed in the selection, if I may add, this year,” he said. “You’re starting to see not just the talent New Jersey produces in hoops, both women and men, but the talent staying here.”

Rob Kennedy, the head of Hoop Group, a company based in Neptune, N.J., that runs camps, clinics and tournaments for everyone from small children to elite professional-bound talent, says New Jersey’s high schools compare to any in the country. He recalled the heady days of St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, before it closed in 2017. It was led by Bob Hurley Sr., one of the most successful high school coaches ever. He was eventually challenged by another Jersey icon, Kevin Boyle at St. Patrick of Elizabeth, before Boyle migrated to Montverde Academy in Florida.

Their tradition continues. This year, four McDonald’s all-Americans — a third of the East roster — is from New Jersey, including Elmarko Jackson, from Marlton, Mackenzie Mgbako of Roselle Catholic and D.J. Wagner and Aaron Bradshaw, both of Camden High School.

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