Editor’s note: The following article was submitted by Richard Morris, Seton Hall Prep director of communications
WEST ORANGE – On Oct. 15, a gathering of 250 alumni, family and friends celebrated the induction of 10 new members to the Seton Hall Prep Hall of Fame. At the 31st annual event, The Prep honored alumni whose exploits on the athletic field over the last half century have added to the school’s proud and distinguished legacy.
The evening at Mayfair Farms in West Orange saw the induction of Victor Iannelli, Class of 1962 (football), Frank Diaco, Class of 1987 (football), Clayborne Fields, Class of 1987 (football, track), Scott Chisholm, Class of 2003 (golf), Jamar Nutter, Class of 2003 (basketball), Jack Decker, Class of 2004 (wrestling), Brandon Costner, Class of 2005 (basketball), Andrew Pusar, Class of 2005, (basketball), Nick Christiani, Class of 2005 (baseball), and the 1958 Football Team.
VICTOR IANNELLI, Clas of 1962
Vic was a disciplined and dedicated leader on the 1961 football team which finished the season with a stellar 8-1 record and a Parochial A Championship. His work ethic during practices and his performance on the field set a high standard for his teammates to emulate and significantly contributed to the championship season—a season in which opponents were limited to an average of five points per game. This season was also highlighted by four shutouts. Vic is credited with having the most tackles and the most quarterback sacks on the entire team. Especially noteworthy was his outstanding performance against the highly-rated Hackensack team, which ran a challenging single-wing offense. On one particularly important play, Vic’s tackle of the quarterback resulted in a fumble in the backfield and gave The Prep the ball on Hackensack’s three-yard line. As a result, The Prep scored the game’s only touchdown to win the game. This single play serves as a microcosm of Vic’s influence and impact on the defense of the 1961 SHP football team.
FRANK DIACO, Class of 1987
Frank played football in his junior and senior years at The Prep as a linebacker. In that role he broke the mold and forced football experts to devise a new equation. Frank had speed and grit, was quick to the ball and a hard hitter. Coach Tony Verducci judged such intangibles as desire and fortitude as necessary in a defensive starter, which Frank demonstrated in spades. In 1986 as a senior linebacker, he was named First Team All-Conference and was named Worrall Publications defensive player of the year. In his senior year he led SHP with 75 tackles, sacked the opposing quarterback three times, made two interceptions and recovered four fumbles. He was named to the Essex County Football Defensive Team and All-Metro Defensive Team as a linebacker. His accomplishments through the 1986 football season were gigantic although Frank was 5-feet-7 and 150 pounds. In a Star-Ledger October 1986 article Mike Kinney commented, “He broke the mold.” He epitomized the concept of teamwork that Coach Verducci stressed for his defensive group and added an interesting combination of style and tenacity. He honed his skills by watching his elders, waiting his turn. He made opposing ballcarriers pay for it, making up for his size with grit, guts and a never-say-die spirit.
CLAYBORNE FIELDS, Class of 1987
Clay was an outstanding two-sport athlete, having run as both a junior and senior for The Prep harriers and as a football letterwinner under Coach Verducci for three years. In outdoor track, his specialty was the leadoff leg in the 4×100-meter relay, with the highlight of his career coming with participation at the prestigious 1986 and 1987 Penn Relays. In football, he started on defense in his junior year at left cornerback where he snagged seven interceptions and earned First Team All–Metro honors for the 1985 undefeated and state champion Pirates. As a senior, Clay became a two-way starter, shifting to right cornerback on defense and moving up on offense to tailback. Defensively he led the team with four interceptions and again earned the first team All-Metro selection. Offensively he led the Pirates with 1,000 rushing yards and eight TDs.
SCOTT CHISHOLM, Class of 2003
When asked to name a golfer for potential induction into the Hall of Fame, SHP Golf Coach of fifteen years Kevin Williams responded: “Gotta be Scott Chisholm.” Entering The Prep as a freshman at the turn of the millennium, Scott took little time in establishing himself as a different kind of athlete, as he was named to the All-Conference Second Team in only his first year. Showing his elite competitive spirit though, that was the last time he was named to second team all-anything. As a sophomore and junior, Scott dazzled, named twice to the All-Conference First Team, placing among the top two in the Iron Hills Conference both those years. He also saw his first appearance as a Star-Ledger Golfer of the Week, claimed back-to-back Essex County Championships, and finished runner-up two years straight in the Prep School Championships.
The defining aspect of Scott’s career at SHP came in his final year, when he proved his status as one of the great Pirate athletes by finishing off his senior year as strongly as an athlete can. For the third consecutive year, he was named to the All -Conference First Team, and finished off an Essex County Championship three-peat. He was named First Team All-State by both the Star-Ledger and the NJPGA. In this legendary fourth year that merited the Men of Essex Golfer of the Year award, he was the Iron Hills Conference Champion, the Prep Schools Champion, and the Parochial A Tournament of Champions winner.
Perhaps more impressive than any of his athletic achievements were his off-the-field glories. Scott was described by Coach Williams as “one of the best two golfers in Seton Hall Prep history,” but also “elite in the classroom.” At The Prep he was a Peer Leader, a member of the National Honor Society, and a recipient of the Monsignor Thomas J. Tuohy Award, which is presented to graduating seniors who have maintained a 4.0 grade point average for four years. Finally, exemplifying all his athletic, academic and leadership qualities is his collegiate career. Chisholm went on to be a four-year starter on the Columbia University golf team, a senior year captain and MVP, and among the top greatest all-time golfers at the Ivy League university. After a teaching position at the prestigious Plainfield Country Club, he currently is Assistant Pro at Baltusrol Golf Club.
JAMAR NUTTER, Class of 2003
Jamar Nutter was a four-year varsity basketball player, with three years as a starter. It can be difficult to be a freshman on a varsity squad, but “he was a mature kid at an early age and was a stalwart for all four years,” says his coach, Bob Farrell. He scored a phenomenal 1,296 points at SHP, No. 7 on the all- time scoring list. In his sophomore year, he averaged 15.7 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game to help the team go 25-3. As a junior, he averaged 13.9 points per game with 6.6 rebounds per game, helping the team to a 23-4 record. In his senior campaign, he averaged 13.1 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game with 3 assists per game, leading the team to a 24-4 record. He was all-conference, all-county, and first-team all-state in his senior year. Among the team’s accomplishments during his years at The Prep: a state championship (his sophomore year) and four conference championships. During his sophomore, junior, and senior years the team was the runner up in the Essex County Championship.
Jamar went on to a successful career at Seton Hall University on a full scholarship, where he helped the basketball team reach the NCAA tournament in the 2005-2006 season. At SHU he averaged 10.1 points per game and scored 1,165 career points. He graduated with a B.A. in Design and Visual Communications. Following his college career, Jamar went overseas, playing professionally in Denmark, Germany, Morocco, and Uruguay. Today he is coaching for the AAU summer basketball team, the NJ Playaz.
JACK DECKER, Class of 2004
Jack Decker is one of the greatest wrestlers The Prep has ever known. Even before freshman year, Jack had extensive wrestling experience, so it came as no surprise that he made the varsity team freshman year. He had an amazing won-loss record, which is still one of the best records in Prep history: 29-7 freshmen year, 21-5 sophomore year, and 32-7 as a junior. During his outstanding career he won three District 10 titles, two Region 3 titles, and one Essex County Tournament title. He also qualified in 2001 for the NJSIAA State Tournament, placed sixth in in 2003 and second in 2004. During his senior year he became the first wrestler in school history to win 100 matches. His career record of 117 wins and 22 losses is now third on the all-time wins list at The Prep. At the end of his senior year, Jack was named Athlete of the Year unanimously by The Prep’s varsity coaches. He went on to Penn State University and wrestled there for four years. Red-shirted by PSU from 2005-2006, he later placed eighth in the Big Ten Tourney at 184 pounds and won the prestigious East Stroudsburg Open. Jack graduated from PSU’s Smeal College of Business in 2008 and received a second Bachelor’s Degree in Integrated Arts. After Penn State, Jack became Head Coach of the Prep’s wrestling team. In his six years as head coach, his teams have had an 81-53 record (.604). They won the Essex County Tournament Title in 2014, placed second in 2010 and 2011, and finished third in 2012. He has coached 22 District 10 champions, five Region 3 champions, four state placewinners, and two state champions. According to former coach John Allen, Jack was a “quiet guy, but very focused.” Although Jack was not very heavy during his wrestling career at SHP, he was still very strong for a lightweight; opponents found it very difficult to put him on his back, even as a freshman. Jack Decker is certainly one of The Prep’s greatest wrestlers and ranks highly among The Prep’s greatest athletes.
BRANDON COSTNER, Class of 2005
One of the best basketball players in the history of Seton Hall Prep basketball, Brandon Costner had a career full of victories and achievements. A student-athlete at The Prep from 2001 to 2005, Costner and his fellow Pirates won the Iron Hills conference all four years. Within those four years, Costner led the Pirates to two Essex County Tournament titles, two Non-Public A state titles, and a Tournament of Champions title. In these four years the Pirates had a record of 103-12.
Individually, Brandon was a McDonald’s All-American and Parade Magazine All-American his senior year. The most dominant player in the state that season, he was selected as the Associated Press Player of the Year, Gatorade Player of the Year, and First Team All-State. Averaging 18.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2.3 assists his senior season, he led the Pirates to a Tournament of Champions victory over St. Patrick’s (Elizabeth) in a 63-60 win. In that game, Brandon was named Most Valuable Player, scoring 31 points, with five rebounds and three blocks. He finished his SHP career with 1,220 points, 10th on the all-time scoring list. Among college offers that included UCLA, Kansas and Seton Hall University, he elected to attend North Carolina State on a full ride. There, he gained All-Freshman ACC honors and was the NIT championship game MVP. Following North Carolina State, he played in the NBA-D League, France and Belgium. Today he is currently playing in the Chinese Basketball Association.
ANDREW PUSAR, Class of 2005
Andrew Pusar was one of the top forwards in Seton Hall Prep history and a key component on some of the best teams Seton Hall Prep has fielded. A three-year starter, Andrew began his Seton Hall Prep basketball career as a sophomore, helping the team go 24-4 and winning the Iron Hills Conference Iron Division title. During that season, Andrew averaged 10.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. The following year, as a junior, Andrew was a leader on the Seton Hall Prep team that went 26-3, capturing another Iron Hills Conference-Iron Division title, the Essex County Tournament championship and the Parochial A North State Title. That year, Andrew averaged 17.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. Following his junior season, he was selected as an All-Conference, All-Essex County and All-State player. In his senior year, Andrew helped lead an outstanding, nationally-ranked Pirate team that finished with a 30-1 record and won the Iron Hills Conference Iron Division, the Essex County Tournament, the Non-Public “A” title and the Tournament of Champions titles. In his final season as a Pirate, Andrew averaged 14.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Again he was selected to the All-Conference, All-Essex and All-State teams. The 1,283 points Andrew accumulated during his basketball career rank him eighth on the all-time SHP scoring list. His coach, Bob Farrell, remembers Andrew as an unusually good offensive rebounder and a tremendous leader. Andrew’s teammate and good friend, Chris Andrews (Class of 2005) added that he was one of the best and most reliable teammates he has ever had. “Whether we were scrambling on defense or running a play on offense, he was always in the right spot,” Chris said. “I think that speaks to his extraordinary attention to detail and his appreciation for the small things that helped us win.” Andrew’s success on the court and in the classroom garnered the attention of Harvard University, where he went on to play basketball.
NICK CHRISTIANI, Class of 2005
Nick was one of the best pitchers in Seton Hall Prep baseball history. As a sophomore, he compiled a 6-0 record with a 1.93 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings. The Pirates that year were 30-1 and won the Iron Hills Conference-Iron Division title, the Greater Newark Tournament title and the Parochial “A” State championship. They were nationally ranked by Collegiate Baseball, USA Today and Baseball America and finished ranked No. 1 in New Jersey. Nick continued his dominance in his junior season, once again going 6-0, with a 0.50 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. He earned All-Conference, All-Essex County, and All-State honors, as the Pirates went 25-4.
He was the ace of a very strong pitching staff his senior season. He turned in a 10-0 record, with a 0.88 ERA, 96 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 64 innings. The team went 30-2 and won the Iron Hills Conference, Greater Newark Tournament and the Non-Public “A” State championships. The Pirates were again nationally ranked and finished No. 1 in New Jersey. Again selected All-Conference, All-County and All-State, Nick was named New Jersey Player of the Year. Following graduation, Nick chose to play at Vanderbilt University. There he continued to dominate opposing batters and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 13th round. He made his Major League Baseball debut on August 23, 2013 against the Milwaukee Brewers with an inning and a third of scoreless relief. Today, he continues to pitch in the Reds organization.
1958 Football Team
The 1958 football team played nine games that season, five of which were on the road, compiling eight wins against a single loss against top competition. Their only loss was by the score of 12-0 to an undefeated and highly ranked East Side of Newark, winner of the Newark City League that year.
The 1958 team mostly used a “straight T” formation, with an offensive line that averaged 200 pounds. They opened large holes, allowing halfbacks Charlie O’Connell, Larry Yannuzzi, Frank Codey and fullback Bob Willix to amass record rushing totals. O’Connell led Essex County in scoring with over 100 points. The offense scored 269 points, averaging 29.8 points per game, in an era of limited passing. The defense was equally as good and was mostly comprised of the offensive team. They allowed only 42 points, for an average of 4.6 per game. The team shut out four opponents and did not allow a touchdown through the air.
Many players from this team received individual awards such as All-Essex County, All-State, and All Metropolitan. Three members were selected to play in the first Essex County-Hudson County All-Star game. Several members went on to continue their football careers, at Notre Dame, the U.S. Military Academy, Villanova, Delaware, Maryland, VMI and others. Twelve members of the team have been previously inducted into the Seton Hall Prep Hall of Fame.