Mercer CYO Basketball to induct 15 new Hall of Famers

November 3, 2023 at 7:00 a.m.
Back row, second from left, Amy (Cooke) Vannozzi poses with her eighth grade St. Paul School teammates. Courtesy photo
Back row, second from left, Amy (Cooke) Vannozzi poses with her eighth grade St. Paul School teammates. Courtesy photo

By RICH FISHER
Contributing Editor

It has been a five year wait due mostly to COVID-19; but one of Mercer County’s most popular and respected athletic banquets is making its return this month.

The Mercer CYO Basketball Hall of Fame Dinner and Awards Banquet will be held Nov. 18 at the Nottingham Ballroom. The inductees not only represent the best in basketball, but also the best in people, thanks to the core values the Catholic Youth Organization tries to instill.

The banquet begins with cocktails at 3 p.m. followed by dinner and awards from 4 to 7. Cost is $85 for individuals at a table of seven or less, and $75 at a table for eight or more. For ticket information call Director of Yardville Programs Patrick Hardiman at 609-585-4280, ext. 102 or via e-mail at [email protected].

Amy (Cooke) Vannozzi fondly remembers her time playing CYO hoops and has passed along the enjoyment to her children.

“My father [Joe Cooke] was my coach and I think he started the program at St. Paul's [Princeton],” Vannozzi said. “Coming from St Paul's, which was a small school, I created a lot of memories and made friendships along the way. Eventually even my competitors and rivals became both my high school and AAU teammates.”

Guy Chiarello, whose brother Ralph is a recent inductee, feels his time at the CYO helped shape him moving forward.

“CYO sports first and foremost taught me sportsmanship and teamwork,” Chiarello said. “The sports program provided an opportunity to both compete and build friendships, many of which I have carried with me throughout my life. I was fortunate to be on many successful teams during my time in the programs, so the self-esteem from winning was valuable for building confidence as I advanced past CYO.”

Michelle (Maguire) Smith was a coach and athletic director at St. Gregory the Great Academy, Hamilton Square, and credits her CYO playing days for giving her a starting point to succeed in those positions.

“Playing CYO sports was honestly the best time of my life,” Smith said. “The foundation laid, the friendships and relationships built, and the life lessons learned have carried me through life. CYO sports taught me how to compete, how to win and how to lose, how to work together as a team, to have discipline and to find confidence in myself. I also learned resilience by facing adversity and setbacks that only made me stronger. 

This year’s induction class also includes Tony Bucci, John Girman (posthumous), Khalid Lewis, Siena Malkin, Ed Malloy, Mike Malloy, Art Nitti (posthumous), Mick Shanklin, Joe Smiegocki, Lakeisha Sutton, Jack West and Joe Wyers (posthumous).

Anthony BucciGuy Chiarello ANTHONY BUCCI (Coach) 

Bucci coached St. Joachim’s, Trenton, for 25 years and worked side by side with fellow Hall of Famer Vince Radice. Anthony oversaw numerous winning seasons, including a 17-0 campaign in 1977-78 when St. Joachim’s won the CYO title. He joins his son, John, as a CYO Hall of Famer, as John was a member of the inaugural 2004 class.

GUY CHIARELLO (Player) 

Chiarello was a star for St. Joachim’s, playing under fellow Hall of Famers Anthony Bucci and Vince Radice. He went on to play baseball and basketball for St. Anthony’s, Hamilton (now Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy), and baseball for Trenton State College, Ewing (now The College of New Jersey). Guy is currently Chief Administrative Officer at Fiserv, Inc., the world’s largest fintech and payments company. And while his philanthropic work has provided Guy the honor of being invited to the Vatican to receive special blessings with his family from Pope Francis, he still looks at his CYO induction as special, saying “It represents a recognition of being part of the CYO family. While achievement is a key part of the honor, the CYO has done a great job over time choosing individuals who embody sportsmanship and teamwork along with achievement. I am also proud to join my brother Ralph to make this truly a family affair.”

JOHN GIRMAN (Special Contributor)

Girman coached Holy Cross, Trenton, for over 15 years and played a vital role in the planning and building of the Holy Cross Gym and Community Center, which opened in 1978. After founding JEM Trophies and Awards with Ed Letts, John’s business produced thousands of plaques, trophies, shirts and awards for the CYO and he generously supported the league along with local schools, churches and the Trenton PAL.

Khalid Lewis


Michelle (Maguire) Smith

KHALID LEWIS (Player) 

Lewis led his Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, CYO varsity team to the 2006-07 league title and he was selected to multiple all-star games. Khalid was a four-year starter for the TCA Upper School and led the Iron Mikes to the Non-Public B state title and Tournament of Champions crown. He played basketball at Illinois and LaSalle, Philadelphia, and is currently athletic director at Christina Seix Academy, Trenton.

MICHELLE (MAGUIRE) SMITH

Maguire was a three-letterwinner for St. Gregory’s, Hamilton Square, playing soccer and basketball while competing in track & field. She played basketball at Steinert, and joins her dad, Mike “Spider” Maguire in the HOF. “I am truly honored to be inducted into the CYO Hall of Fame and very grateful to sit beside many other outstanding athletes, referees and contributors but especially my dad, who was one of the best of his time. This honor would not have come without his support, coaching and love of the game.”

SIENA MALKIN (Player) 

Malkin starred at Immaculate Conception, Trenton, from 1997-99 when she won two league MVP awards and was selected to three all-star games. Siena has fond memories of her teammates, practices at IC’s gym and games at the iconic CYO Center. She was a four-year starter at Notre Dame High, Lawrenceville, where she was a three-time All-County selection.

MIKE MALLOY (Special Contributor)

Malloy’s long history with the CYO dates back to his playing days with Immaculate Conception through 1971. An all-star player, Mike served as scorekeeper and clock operator at CYO while in high school, and reported scores to local papers. He returned as Holy Cross coach from 1993-99 and led his 1999 squad to the Small School playoff finals.

Ed Malloy

ED MALLOY (Special Contributor)

Malloy, Mike’s brother, began playing for Immaculate Conception in 1964. While winning a state title at Immaculata High, Somerville, Ed also served as a CYO scorekeeper, coach, referee and assistant program director. He coached Holy Cross from 1970-95 and led the CYO All Stars to the first two Hamilton Little Lads championships.

ART NITTI (Posthumous, Coach)

Nitti coached his alma mater, St. James Parish, Pennington, from 1982-86 and guided some of the area’s all-time players, including CYO HOF members Bryan Caver and Blitz Wooten. Nitti was named All-CYO as a player in 1957 and went on to an All-State career under Father Clarence O’Shea at the original Trenton Catholic High School. His brothers Tony and Carmen are both in the HOF.

Mick Shanklin

MICK SHANKLIN (Special Contributor) 

Shanklin began coaching St. Gregory’s in 1988, moved on to the athletic council and also coached CYO girls varsity soccer. Coaching is a true love for Shanklin, who was in it for the players. His foray into CYO coaching proved enlightening, as he recalled that, “Coaching for the CYO and being a member of the athletic council has helped me get a better understanding of teamwork and sportsmanship, and to especially realize rival coaches and referees are there for the kids just as much as I am.” 

 JOE SMIEGOCKI (Coach) 

Smiegocki’s CYO relationship is homing in on six decades as he began as a player with Holy Cross in 1967 and still serves as an official for the league. In between, he coached the Holy Cross girls and St. Raphael School, Hamilton, boys for a combined 23 years. In 2009 his St. Raphael’s JV team won the CYO and Diocesan championships. Joe played at Holy Cross under fellow Hall of Famers Carl Thiel and Ed Malloy and holds the distinction of winning a CYO title as player and coach and participating in a diocesan tournament as player and coach.

La'Keisha Sutton

La’KEISHA SUTTON (Player) 

One of the greatest basketball players, either male or female, to come out of Mercer County, Sutton starred for St. Anthony’s, Hamilton, from 2002-04 and in eighth grade was named regular-season, playoff and All-Star Game Most Valuable Player. She was the 2003-04 CYO Female Athlete of the Year before going on to lead Trenton Catholic Academy to two state championships while winning the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year award. After starring at South Carolina University, La’Keisha became a Harlem Globetrotter from 2018-20 and now coaches the George School, Newtown, Pa.

AMY (COOKE) VANNOZZI (Player) 

Playing for her dad, Joe Cooke, Amy led St. Paul’s to an undefeated eighth grade season. She went on to win a state championship at Notre Dame High, Lawrenceville, in 1995. In college she became the all-time assist leader at Salisbury State, and served as head basketball coach at Hunterdon Central High, Flemington, from 2001-13.  Vannozzi is passing along her experience to her children, saying, “I now have two kids playing in the CYO and had the opportunity to go back many times to coach and also watch them play. I am grateful that they are getting the same opportunity that I had as a child and gaining valuable lessons on and off the court.”

JACK WEST (Special Contributor) 

West describes his “most enjoyable years” as playing for St. Anthony’s in the CYO High School Unlimited Summer League. He also enjoyed track & field and coached that sport at Holy Angels, Hamilton, while helping in the planning and execution of the CYO Track & Field Meet. Jack is currently Chairman of the CYO Athletic Council and has been a member for over 15 years. He received the Distinguished Graduate Award from the Department of Elementary Schools and National Catholic Education Association in 2002 at Holy Angels.  

Joe Wyers

JOE WYERS (Posthumous, Referee)

After a successful playing career at Notre Dame High, Mercer County Community College and Quinnipiac, Wyers officiated CYO basketball for numerous years and was known for the high-quality officiating he provided the league. Joe became one of the top high school officials in Mercer County, officiating 35 years with the IAABO Board 193 officials group.



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It has been a five year wait due mostly to COVID-19; but one of Mercer County’s most popular and respected athletic banquets is making its return this month.

The Mercer CYO Basketball Hall of Fame Dinner and Awards Banquet will be held Nov. 18 at the Nottingham Ballroom. The inductees not only represent the best in basketball, but also the best in people, thanks to the core values the Catholic Youth Organization tries to instill.

The banquet begins with cocktails at 3 p.m. followed by dinner and awards from 4 to 7. Cost is $85 for individuals at a table of seven or less, and $75 at a table for eight or more. For ticket information call Director of Yardville Programs Patrick Hardiman at 609-585-4280, ext. 102 or via e-mail at [email protected].

Amy (Cooke) Vannozzi fondly remembers her time playing CYO hoops and has passed along the enjoyment to her children.

“My father [Joe Cooke] was my coach and I think he started the program at St. Paul's [Princeton],” Vannozzi said. “Coming from St Paul's, which was a small school, I created a lot of memories and made friendships along the way. Eventually even my competitors and rivals became both my high school and AAU teammates.”

Guy Chiarello, whose brother Ralph is a recent inductee, feels his time at the CYO helped shape him moving forward.

“CYO sports first and foremost taught me sportsmanship and teamwork,” Chiarello said. “The sports program provided an opportunity to both compete and build friendships, many of which I have carried with me throughout my life. I was fortunate to be on many successful teams during my time in the programs, so the self-esteem from winning was valuable for building confidence as I advanced past CYO.”

Michelle (Maguire) Smith was a coach and athletic director at St. Gregory the Great Academy, Hamilton Square, and credits her CYO playing days for giving her a starting point to succeed in those positions.

“Playing CYO sports was honestly the best time of my life,” Smith said. “The foundation laid, the friendships and relationships built, and the life lessons learned have carried me through life. CYO sports taught me how to compete, how to win and how to lose, how to work together as a team, to have discipline and to find confidence in myself. I also learned resilience by facing adversity and setbacks that only made me stronger. 

This year’s induction class also includes Tony Bucci, John Girman (posthumous), Khalid Lewis, Siena Malkin, Ed Malloy, Mike Malloy, Art Nitti (posthumous), Mick Shanklin, Joe Smiegocki, Lakeisha Sutton, Jack West and Joe Wyers (posthumous).

Anthony BucciGuy Chiarello ANTHONY BUCCI (Coach) 

Bucci coached St. Joachim’s, Trenton, for 25 years and worked side by side with fellow Hall of Famer Vince Radice. Anthony oversaw numerous winning seasons, including a 17-0 campaign in 1977-78 when St. Joachim’s won the CYO title. He joins his son, John, as a CYO Hall of Famer, as John was a member of the inaugural 2004 class.

GUY CHIARELLO (Player) 

Chiarello was a star for St. Joachim’s, playing under fellow Hall of Famers Anthony Bucci and Vince Radice. He went on to play baseball and basketball for St. Anthony’s, Hamilton (now Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy), and baseball for Trenton State College, Ewing (now The College of New Jersey). Guy is currently Chief Administrative Officer at Fiserv, Inc., the world’s largest fintech and payments company. And while his philanthropic work has provided Guy the honor of being invited to the Vatican to receive special blessings with his family from Pope Francis, he still looks at his CYO induction as special, saying “It represents a recognition of being part of the CYO family. While achievement is a key part of the honor, the CYO has done a great job over time choosing individuals who embody sportsmanship and teamwork along with achievement. I am also proud to join my brother Ralph to make this truly a family affair.”

JOHN GIRMAN (Special Contributor)

Girman coached Holy Cross, Trenton, for over 15 years and played a vital role in the planning and building of the Holy Cross Gym and Community Center, which opened in 1978. After founding JEM Trophies and Awards with Ed Letts, John’s business produced thousands of plaques, trophies, shirts and awards for the CYO and he generously supported the league along with local schools, churches and the Trenton PAL.

Khalid Lewis


Michelle (Maguire) Smith

KHALID LEWIS (Player) 

Lewis led his Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, CYO varsity team to the 2006-07 league title and he was selected to multiple all-star games. Khalid was a four-year starter for the TCA Upper School and led the Iron Mikes to the Non-Public B state title and Tournament of Champions crown. He played basketball at Illinois and LaSalle, Philadelphia, and is currently athletic director at Christina Seix Academy, Trenton.

MICHELLE (MAGUIRE) SMITH

Maguire was a three-letterwinner for St. Gregory’s, Hamilton Square, playing soccer and basketball while competing in track & field. She played basketball at Steinert, and joins her dad, Mike “Spider” Maguire in the HOF. “I am truly honored to be inducted into the CYO Hall of Fame and very grateful to sit beside many other outstanding athletes, referees and contributors but especially my dad, who was one of the best of his time. This honor would not have come without his support, coaching and love of the game.”

SIENA MALKIN (Player) 

Malkin starred at Immaculate Conception, Trenton, from 1997-99 when she won two league MVP awards and was selected to three all-star games. Siena has fond memories of her teammates, practices at IC’s gym and games at the iconic CYO Center. She was a four-year starter at Notre Dame High, Lawrenceville, where she was a three-time All-County selection.

MIKE MALLOY (Special Contributor)

Malloy’s long history with the CYO dates back to his playing days with Immaculate Conception through 1971. An all-star player, Mike served as scorekeeper and clock operator at CYO while in high school, and reported scores to local papers. He returned as Holy Cross coach from 1993-99 and led his 1999 squad to the Small School playoff finals.

Ed Malloy

ED MALLOY (Special Contributor)

Malloy, Mike’s brother, began playing for Immaculate Conception in 1964. While winning a state title at Immaculata High, Somerville, Ed also served as a CYO scorekeeper, coach, referee and assistant program director. He coached Holy Cross from 1970-95 and led the CYO All Stars to the first two Hamilton Little Lads championships.

ART NITTI (Posthumous, Coach)

Nitti coached his alma mater, St. James Parish, Pennington, from 1982-86 and guided some of the area’s all-time players, including CYO HOF members Bryan Caver and Blitz Wooten. Nitti was named All-CYO as a player in 1957 and went on to an All-State career under Father Clarence O’Shea at the original Trenton Catholic High School. His brothers Tony and Carmen are both in the HOF.

Mick Shanklin

MICK SHANKLIN (Special Contributor) 

Shanklin began coaching St. Gregory’s in 1988, moved on to the athletic council and also coached CYO girls varsity soccer. Coaching is a true love for Shanklin, who was in it for the players. His foray into CYO coaching proved enlightening, as he recalled that, “Coaching for the CYO and being a member of the athletic council has helped me get a better understanding of teamwork and sportsmanship, and to especially realize rival coaches and referees are there for the kids just as much as I am.” 

 JOE SMIEGOCKI (Coach) 

Smiegocki’s CYO relationship is homing in on six decades as he began as a player with Holy Cross in 1967 and still serves as an official for the league. In between, he coached the Holy Cross girls and St. Raphael School, Hamilton, boys for a combined 23 years. In 2009 his St. Raphael’s JV team won the CYO and Diocesan championships. Joe played at Holy Cross under fellow Hall of Famers Carl Thiel and Ed Malloy and holds the distinction of winning a CYO title as player and coach and participating in a diocesan tournament as player and coach.

La'Keisha Sutton

La’KEISHA SUTTON (Player) 

One of the greatest basketball players, either male or female, to come out of Mercer County, Sutton starred for St. Anthony’s, Hamilton, from 2002-04 and in eighth grade was named regular-season, playoff and All-Star Game Most Valuable Player. She was the 2003-04 CYO Female Athlete of the Year before going on to lead Trenton Catholic Academy to two state championships while winning the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year award. After starring at South Carolina University, La’Keisha became a Harlem Globetrotter from 2018-20 and now coaches the George School, Newtown, Pa.

AMY (COOKE) VANNOZZI (Player) 

Playing for her dad, Joe Cooke, Amy led St. Paul’s to an undefeated eighth grade season. She went on to win a state championship at Notre Dame High, Lawrenceville, in 1995. In college she became the all-time assist leader at Salisbury State, and served as head basketball coach at Hunterdon Central High, Flemington, from 2001-13.  Vannozzi is passing along her experience to her children, saying, “I now have two kids playing in the CYO and had the opportunity to go back many times to coach and also watch them play. I am grateful that they are getting the same opportunity that I had as a child and gaining valuable lessons on and off the court.”

JACK WEST (Special Contributor) 

West describes his “most enjoyable years” as playing for St. Anthony’s in the CYO High School Unlimited Summer League. He also enjoyed track & field and coached that sport at Holy Angels, Hamilton, while helping in the planning and execution of the CYO Track & Field Meet. Jack is currently Chairman of the CYO Athletic Council and has been a member for over 15 years. He received the Distinguished Graduate Award from the Department of Elementary Schools and National Catholic Education Association in 2002 at Holy Angels.  

Joe Wyers

JOE WYERS (Posthumous, Referee)

After a successful playing career at Notre Dame High, Mercer County Community College and Quinnipiac, Wyers officiated CYO basketball for numerous years and was known for the high-quality officiating he provided the league. Joe became one of the top high school officials in Mercer County, officiating 35 years with the IAABO Board 193 officials group.


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