Boys Basketball – Mater Dei Prep Dips Into College Ranks, Hires Dennis Kazimir
Mater Dei Prep made waves three years ago by hiring a former assistant to arguably the greatest high school basketball coach ever. On Wednesday, Mater Dei announced his replacement and the hire is an indication that the school is hoping to maintain the high standards of the past three seasons.
The Mater Dei Prep Athletic Department announced the hiring of Dennis Kazimir as the new boys basketball coach Wednesday, replacing former coach Ben Gamble after Gamble went 74-12 and led the Seraphs to back-to-back Shore Conference Tournament championships in 2015-16 and 2016-17 - the first two conference titles in Shore Conference history.
Kazimir - a native of Brick and a graduate of Monsignor Donovan High School and Seton Hall University - comes from the college ranks, where he most recently served as an assistant coach and interim head coach at the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
"This is a great day for the Mater Dei Prep basketball program as Coach Kazimir brings an extensive resume of coaching and managing in the NCAA ranks to our school,” Mater Dei athletic director Rob Eriksen said in a press release.
Kazimir's college resume is extensive and includes stints as a graduate assistant at Virginia Commonwealth under current University of Texas head coach Shaka Smart, the Director of Basketball Operations at Seton Hall under Bobby Gonzalez, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Tiffin University, and administrative assistant at Wright State University under Paul Biancardi.
Prior to his time with USMMA, he also served as an assistant at Rhode Island College.
"To come back home to New Jersey and be part of a dynamic and cutting edge academic institution is truly an honor," Kazimir said in the release. "I am looking forward to working with the entire Mater Dei Prep community and grateful to be doing so at an institution that empowers young men and women to make a difference in the world.”
According to Eriksen, 18 people applied for the open position.
When Kazimir gets started, it remains to be seen what players will be left at Mater Dei. Gamble confirmed that standout incoming junior Jamir Watkins planned to enroll elsewhere in 2018-19 and multiple sources have indicated Alex Rice - the son of Monmouth University coach King Rice - will not attend Mater Dei this coming season.
Senior forward Isaiah Alston, currently preparing for his season as a wide receiver on the football team, earned some minutes late in the season and he is slated to return.
Under Gamble, Mater Dei finished ranked in the top 15 in the state, according to NJ.com, in each of his three seasons and finished either No. 1 or 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 all three years. Gamble recently accepted the head coaching position at Marist High School in Bayonne, just five miles south of where he he played for and coached a national power at St. Anthony as a point guard and later associate head coach under Bob Hurley Sr.
Mater Dei's schedule remains up in the air after the Seraphs played one of the state's more competitive non-conference schedules under Gamble. They will still play the Ranney School twice in 2018-19 as part of the Shore Conference Class B Central schedule after losing four times to the Panthers last season. During Gamble's tenure, which coincides with the first three years in the careers of five-star recruits Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis at Ranney, Mater Dei went 4-5 against Ranney, including 4-1 in the first two seasons.
With Antoine and Lewis returning as seniors, Ranney is expected to be one of New Jersey's top teams in 2018-19.