The future of Ocean County Basketball…

AAU basketball has always acted as a feeder system for High School teams in the Shore Conference, especially for Monmouth County teams. There is the Central Jersey Hawks, The New Jersey Sting, the Central Jersey Cardinals and the ShoreShots. These programs have been around for years, they have for the most part cornered that the market in terms of talent. There have been other AAU teams that have popped up on occasions but most have fallen off the map or have low level AAU teams, simply because they don’t have enough talent to compete with the big girls. The Top AAU teams have numerous D1 players and have that all important name recognition, which coaches look for. It’s not easy trying to put together an Elite AAU team more or less an entire program. But in TOMS RIVER they are doing just thatputting together an ELITE PROGRAM.




Jenna Paul (jumping in blue)is one of the best 8th Graders in New Jersey!

This fall something happened that has not happened since NBS started 15 years ago. Something happened for the first time in my 5 years at the Hoop Group. A number of players from Ocean County were showing up to train regularly. So one day I  saw a player who trained with me a few years ago and I said, “wow you have really improved” and asked what had she been doing. Her response was I play for the Tom River StarZ. Then one day at the Dead Eye Shooting program a young lady showed up and I said you have a beautiful work ethic, and I asked who she played for and she said “The Tom River StarZ”. Then one day at Core Skills, I saw a stud who was clearly a special player. Her name was Jenna Paul, I thought for sure I knew all the best 8th graders around. How could I miss somebody this talented. I figure she must be a future SJV, RFH or  RBC kid. I asked her where she was from and she said the words Tom River…Right away I said, “you play for the Tom River Starz” …and she said YES”. It was then I thought something special might be going on with the Toms River StarZ. But it wasn’t until a young lady by the name of Brielle Bisogno showed up at NBS that I knew the Stars program was special.


Joe Bisogno had a vision for Toms River kids

I had known Joe Bisogno in passing. I knew that he ran the Tom River StarZ’s program and invited his kids to train at Hoop Group. Many times his kids were busy or to be honest maybe he choose to not to attend. I’m a little old school I invite you once and that’s it, you show up great you don’t no problem. It’s an approach that has worked for me all my life. So when Joe’s daughter Brielle Bisogno showed up at NBS, I was a little surprised. Anyone that has been to NBS knows this…NOBODY GETS SPECIAL TREATMENT AND WE DON’T CARE WHO YOU ARE!

When I saw Brielle the first thing I thought was daddy ball or Mommy ball. You know those kids who are talented but only train or play with their mom or dads team. You know they stay in the environment where they know they are safe or won’t be challenged by the unknown. These are the kids that coaches are afraid to coach hard in fear of daddy or mommy getting upset. These are the kids who always want to play up regardless of performance. Frankly they are the kids I rarely see, because they know at NBS you sink or swim based on performance. Brielle, I found out was none of these things. Her first day at NBS was rough, but she came back the following week and competed like you would not believe and she let me and my staff know she thrived on competition, the unknown and getting out of her comfort zone. She also just may be the best incoming freshman point guard in the shore next year.

But there was something else I discovered; all the Tom River kids wanted to be coach-ed up, especially the ones from the STARZ. After a while more and more of these kids starting showing up out of the blue and they all had a BIG work ethic and a competitive nature that is only developed though hard work…. Joe Bisogno had done something we have not seen in a while. He has created an environment for kids in Ocean County, to improve much the same way as the top AAU teams in Monmouth County.


BRIELLE BISOGNO just may be the best Freshman PG in the Shore next year

One day while Joe Bisogno was in the Corner watching his daughter who plays for the powerhouse Philly Belles. I stopped the NBS session and I said to him. I love your kids because they improve each week.  I could tell every kid in that StarZ program was accountable for their action on the court. I told him he would lose some kids because of this, but not to worry…because its the end game that matters, which is are the kid getting better and do they understand long term development. He smiled and said thanks…but what he really meant was Tiny, you don’t have to tell us that…. we don’t know any other way!


So how do you build a competitive AAU team from ground up? The StarZ organization started in January of 2010, as a feeder system for Tom River High School…sound familiar? Joe Bisogno was a former college player and grew up in a basketball family. He knew the basketball in Tom River was way behind Monmouth County. The town had local non -competitive rec leagues with rules like no pressing, no stealing off the dribble for younger ages, no defense outside the three-point line and 8 foot baskets. Joe having two daughters knew that if his kids were going to excel in basketball, it was not going to happen playing recreational basketball.  He also knew it is unfair to the local HS coaches that these kids were going to walk into HS without the basic fundamentals of the game and he said this  “I don’t believe these HS coaches should have to waste time teaching these kids basic 101 basketball”…. HE IS RIGHT and instead of talking ABOUT IT…he did something about it.When watching the Shore Conference tournament in the Poland Spring Arena in Toms River and noticing there were no Ocean County teams to be seen he knew then he had to get something in place for local girls.  He knew the Monmouth County kids were on a totally different level. Joe Bisogno set out to change all that on that day.


Soon the Shore will get introduced to players like Jess Broad!

First he convinced his younger sister Sandy Bisogno Madigan to help him run the program.  Sandy earned a full basketball scholarship to Iona and was at one time the all time leading scorer at Toms River North.  She also runs “Athletes in Training”, a program for youth kids to get involved with sports at young ages. This was big folks…Next he sold Kim Peto, who is the assistant coach at Toms River South and won a full basketball scholarship to Rider to also be part of his grand idea.  Then he brought in Tara Byrne, who earned a basketball scholarship to Georgian Court, to coach. Joe Bisogno had solved every AAU programs biggest problem…. he hired coaches with winning backgrounds who knew that game. That year he had three teams, 4th grade, 5th grade and 6th grade in 2010.


The Tom River StarZ kids are WARRIORS!

The Tom River StarZ now have six teams in the program 4th grade through 9th grade.  Each team practices two days a week with their coaches and one day a week of skills training at Toms River HS North, Toms River Intermediate North and Toms River Intermediate East….make no mistake these kids are held accountable.Guy Maire and Jim Platten coache the 4th grade, Jim Conroy coaches the 5th grade, Vito Gelosi coaches the 6th grade, Bryan Madigan coaches the 7th grade,  Sandy and Joe coach the 8th grade,  Kim Peto and Tara Byrne coach the 9th grade. They have a philosophy and it works… and soon the high schools will benifit. -LEARN MORE ABOUT THE STARZ!


The 6th grade StarZ are learning how to  win at an early age!

Last season his 7th grade team  won the AAU Mid Atlantic Title and qualified to represent NJ in the AAU National Championships in Tennessee where they went 4-3 against the best teams in the country.  All but one player are from Toms River.  The players on that team were Brielle Bisogno, Noelle Bisogno, Jenna Paul, Jess Broad, Kamryn Lister, Victoria Gelosi, Caitlyn Carroll.  This year year they added another stud in Lola Mullaney as they are 8th graders now, this group is loaded with studs…MAKE NO MISTAKE this is one of the best 8th grade teams in New jersey. Because of the success of the program other good players looking for a good fit from other towns are interested in the STARZ.  Joe knows he has built something special and rightfully so is excited about the future. Me, well I love anytime that kids are being coached up and can get quality coaching and preparation for the next level…. the TOM RIVER STARZ ARE A NEW EXCITING POWERHOUSE FOLKS….THANKS TO A MAN WITH A VISION!



Ninth graders to watch are Amanda Johnson, Emily Donzanti, Lauren Sampson and Kayden Deering.  Seventh graders to watch are Jordyn Madigan, Cristina Johnson, and Nicole Platten. 



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