The Sun One-on-One … with Moorestown guard Jagger Zrada

The Sun One-on-One … with Moorestown guard Jagger Zrada

The senior sharpshooter reached a career milestone, set a school record in the same week, and explains to origin of his name. (Hint: It’s a band, but it’s not the Rolling Stones).

Moorestown senior Jagger Zrada concentrates on the defensive end during a game against Ewing. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The high school basketball season — if you can live with using other sports for metaphors — is more of a marathon than a sprint. The teams that exhibit consistency throughout the 3 ½ month grind are often rewarded when it’s time for the postseason, because they’ve survived the potential pitfalls of peaks and valleys.

But when the high school basketball postseason begins, which is less than a month away, it becomes a sprint, yet one where experience is just as crucial as talent. All of this is to say that Moorestown High School is in pretty good shape in 2019: nine of the 15 players on the varsity roster are seniors.

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For four years now, those Quakers have been well aware that the team’s last conference championship came in 2000, their last sectional crown came in 1998, and you have to go back to 1960 for their last state title. They came oh-so-close to a sectional championship last year (losing in overtime) and can secure a league title with a win over Rancocas Valley on Feb. 12.

“We look at them every day,” Moorestown head coach Shawn Anstey said of the banners that decorate the gym. “These kids are always playing hard, defense is always on point. Hopefully we peak in the playoffs, that’s when we want to peak.”

Among Moorestown’s senior-laden, battle-tested team is Jagger Zrada who arguably had the best week of any player in South Jersey recently.

On Wednesday Jan. 29, Zrada became just the 10th player in Moorestown history (and first since 2001) to reach 1,000 career points. Two days later, he broke the school’s three-point record (he had 211 career three-pointers as of Feb. 6).

“Nearly 60 percent of his points are 3’s, which is unbelievable for a guy who’s, what, 5–7? He’s just a machine,” Anstey said. “Any time you give him just a little bit of life, it’s going in. A lot of teams try to deny him, but he also does a good job of getting others involved. He works hard without the basketball. … He’s just a lights-out shooter, that’s kind of tough to guard.”

Prior to a recent game, Zrada took out some time to take part in The Sun One-on-One.

Moorestown’s senior laden team is eyeing the school’s first sectional title in over 20 years in the next month. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The Sun: Have you ever had a better week than last week?

Jagger Zrada: Athletically-wise, probably not. Getting 1,000 points was awesome and then breaking the three-point record here, I thought that was pretty cool. The fact they fell on the same week, yeah, it was a really good week.

The Sun: So were there two different celebrations? I know for 1,000 points teams will take a photo and present a poster board.

Zrada: Not for the (three-point record). It’s funny, at halftime I said, “Oh coach, you don’t have a plaque for me?” Just joking around. But I guess they didn’t have anything for that. For 1,000 points they brought out a banner, my parents came down, that was a cool experience.

The Sun: Has outside shooting always been your game?

Zrada: Yeah, I’ve always considered myself a shooter, that’s been my specialty, my thing. So breaking the record was really cool.

Moorestown’s Jagger Zrada follows through on a three-point shot during pregame warmups. Zrada recently set the Quakers all-time school record for three-point shots made. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The Sun: So when did that begin, as a kid in pickup games, chucking it from beyond the arc?

Zrada: I give a lot of credit to my dad (Stephen Zrada), he was always working on my jumpshot with me, perfecting my form. So I think even from a young age we were shooting a lot, and back when he’d play in pickup games, back when he was a little bit younger (he just turned 50) and could run around, he’d always tell me to come along to shoot. So he would always work with me. I give a lot of credit to him for my jumper at least.

The Sun: You have a really great name. Is there a story behind it?

Zrada: There actually is. Most people think — my parents were Rolling Stones fans but it actually wasn’t based on that. I don’t know if you now the band Creed? Apparently they sang a song about one of their sons, and my mom read something that he was naming his son Jagger, so that’s where they got the inspiration from. My dad didn’t like it at first, that’s what my mom told me, by he eventually came around. And I like it.

The Sun: No, it’s great. And you can hop onto Gmail or Yahoo! and you don’t have to put a number next to it, pretty sure you can get that JaggerZrada account.

Zrada: Yeah there aren’t too many Jaggers around.

The Sun: Maroon 5 or Rolling Stones?

Zrada: Probably the Rolling Stones. My parents do listen to the Rolling Stones a lot.

Zrada attempts to break through two Ewing defenders en route to the basket in an eventual 60–50 win for the Quakers. Zrada scored 17 points. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The Sun: Changing it up — if you could form the best starting five (lineup) in South Jersey, who are you picking?

Zrada: Ummm, I guess I have to go with my five, to be honest.

The Sun: That’s cool, I like that.

Zrada: We’ve been playing together since fourth grade, most of us. We’rea tight-knit group and I think that experience helps us. So I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else.

The Sun: Politically correct and a good answer.

Zrada: [Laughs] Yeah, Vinnie Caprarola, Nick Cartwright-Atkins, Brian McMonagle, me and Tommy Londres or Akhil Giri.

The Sun: Ok now we’re playing a pick-up game and everyone from South Jersey is there. Who are you picking with the top pick?

Zrada: One player? I think I’m going with Nick Cartwright-Atkins, honestly. I think we complement each other. I’m a guard, he plays underneath. He plays good defense, he’s great all-around.

Moorestown’s Nick Cartwright-Atkins prepares to shoot a foul shot with fellow senior Jagger Zrada watching in the background. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The Sun: Hollywood is making a movie of your high school career. Who are they casting to play you?

Zrada: Hmm, my favorite actor is Leonardo DiCaprio so I’m going to go with him.

The Sun: He played a high school basketball player in “The Basketball Diaries” so that works.

Zrada: Hopefully he has some basketball skills.

The Sun: OK, we’re still casting the movie. Who should we cast to play your girlfriend?

Zrada: Margot Robbie. And that’s actually his girlfriend in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The Sun: So I guess I don’t have to ask what your favorite movie is.

Zrada: [Laughs]

Zrada is one of nine seniors on the Quakers team that are hoping to add a new number — 2019 — to the sectional championship banner for the first time in over 20 years. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The Sun: Are you playing basketball in college?

Zarada: I don’t believe so, I don’t think so. I’m actually interested in the University of Miami, where my sister (Corinne) goes. I’m thinking of bigger Southern schools, or academic schools.

The Sun: [Points to Clemson hat].

Zrada: I applied to Clemson, I’m still waiting to hear back.

The Sun: Would you want to try to walk on at a bigger school?

Zrada: If the opportunity was there, I’d definitely consider it because I love basketball. But if I don’t end up playing, whether it’s walking on or going to a smaller school, I’d definitely play club or intramural, 100 percent. I’m not putting down the basketball forever.

The Sun: Favorite subject?

Zrada: Probably English, honestly. I enjoy writing. I don’t enjoy math. More of an English/History guy.

The Sun: Favorite teacher?

Zrada: I have two actually. Mr. (Lorenzo) Eagles, I had him my sophomore year and he’s also the JV coach. And Mr. (Richard) Thompson, I had him my sophomore and junior year for English.

Moorestown High School’s cheerleaders and the Quakers mascot take in the action on the court. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The Sun: Who is your funniest teammate?

Zrada: Hmm, I have to give that award to Nick or Vinnie.

The Sun: Who is the smartest person on the team?

Zrada: Akhil Giri or Tommy Londres.

The Sun: Do you have a best friend?

Zrada: I like them all, I don’t want to choose.

The Sun: You’re smart, you should go into politics.

How far do you think this Moorestown team can go?

Zrada: I think we can go very far, to be honest. Last year it was a tough loss at the end, the sectional championship, we had it and then lost in overtime. That left a bitter taste in our mouths so hopefully we’re coming back for revenge, to redeem ourselves. That motivates us, and we’ve been playing together for a long time, a lot of years since we were little, so that’ll help us. This is the last run for a lot of us.

The Sun: Last question — you’re in the state championship game, they’re announcing the lineups, and you get to pick the song to come out to. What are you picking?

Zrada: I have thought about this. I would play “We Will Rock You,” by Queen. I think that’d be awesome, with everyone banging on the bleachers (to the beat). I think that’d be a good hype (song).

Moorestown prepped for the stretch run of the season with a 60–50 win over Ewing on Feb. 6. Senior Cartwright-Atkins finished with a game-high 20 points. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)
Ryan is a veteran journalist of 20 years. He’s worked at the Courier-Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Delaware County Daily Times, primarily as a sportswriter, and is currently a sports editor at Newspaper Media Group and an adjunct journalism instructor at Rowan University.
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