GREATER MIDDLESEX CONFERENCE
Coach: Mark Motusesky, second season (19-7)
Last season: 19-7
Letterwinners: 5 returning, 7 lost.
Roster: Addis Ralph (Jr., C, 6-5); Matt Ross (Jr., G, 5-11); Alex Fitzgerald (Sr., F, 6-2); John McHenry (Sr., G, 5-9); Tyler McNamara (Sr., F, 6-1); Mike Vick (Jr., G, 6-1); Justin Sewnarine (Jr., G, 6-1); Mike Brizuela (Jr., G, 6-0); Ezra Levitt (So., G, 6-0); Matt Purel (Sr., G, 5-8); Matt Salvent (Sr., G/F, 6-2); Ryan Ward (Sr., G, 5-10); Adam Rosa (Sr., G, 5-10).
Outlook: Coming off two consecutive appearances in the GMC finals, the Bears will turn a new corner this year after suffering several key losses to graduation, most notably point guard Amir Bell, now starring at Princeton. Vick, who manned the point on the junior varsity team last season, will run the point this season as he’s become a very good player according to Motusesky and is expected to have a good year. Ralph started in the middle down the stretch last season and is the only true interior presence for the Bears, who will have to defend and rebound to be successful. Fitzgerald is another returning starter while Ross was a sparkplug off the bench and will be counted on to play a bigger role. McNamara and McHenry also return as some combination of those six are expected to start on a nightly basis. Motusesky says they’ll need to defend and rebound to be successful and will have to be on their A-game every night, as the Bears don’t have the luxury of leaning on a Division I player like they’ve had in recent years.
Coach: Ed Breheney, 26th season (341-267, 351-300 overall).
Last season: 17-7
Letterwinners: 15 returning, 0 lost.
Roster: Joe Castellanos (Sr., C, 6-4); Kishan Patel (Sr., G, 5-11); LJ Williams (Sr., F, 6-4); Eric Slade (Sr., G, 6-2); Solomon Gayle (Sr., C, 6-4); Austin Alfonso (Sr., F, 6-4); Nate Facey (Sr., G, 5-9); Andrew Tsygan (Sr., G, 5-9); BJ Pryor (Sr., F, 6-4); Tony Tan (Sr., C, 6-5); Dante Anderson (Sr., G, 6-1); Pranay Bhandare (Jr., G, 5-10); Eric Reardon (Jr., F, 6-3); Basit Khan (Jr., G, 5-10); Francis Omowole (So., G, 5-10).
Outlook: A year after they returned no letterwinners, the Raiders bring back 15 players from last year’s 17-win team. The most notable transition for North Brunswick will be a move up to the Red Division from the White, as this squad appears to have the talent to compete for a Red Division title right away. There’s good size across the board with Williams and Castellanos inside. Patel, Bhandare, and Slade all played significant minutes as well last year and a glue-guys in the backcourt. Omowole provided energy off the bench as a freshman a year ago and should continue to do so. The Raiders are a team that shares the ball well and plays strong defense as Breheney appears to have plenty of depth on his bench.
Coach: Jim Macomber, third season (25-24)
Last season: 9-13
Letterwinners: 4 returning, 5 lost.
Roster: Connor Romano (Jr., G, 6-0); Luis Cruz (Jr., G, 6-0); Stephen Strom (Jr., G, 6-0); C.J. Santoro (Jr., G, 5-6); Sean Olsen (Sr., G, 5-8); Will Osvald (So., F, 6-0); Kyle Parris (So., F, 6-2); Dante Whipple (Sr., F, 6-2); Emerick Sawyer (Sr., F, 6-1); Warren Iachini (Sr., C, 6-5); Chris Ho (Sr., G, 5-9).
Outlook: The Knights are a perimeter-oriented team who lost their top playmaker in Tyler Drews, now playing at Caldwell. Romano, Cruz, and Strom all saw extensive time a year ago and all are capable of pulling the trigger from the outside. The biggest question mark though for the Knights remains their lack of size. Iachini is the only player on the roster bigger than 6-2 as players like Whipple will be counted on for inside contributions.
Coach: Edwin Santana, seventh season
Last season: 14-12
Letterwinners: 11 returning, 7 lost.
Roster: Carlos Done (Sr., G, 6-4); Eddie Griggs (Sr., G, 6-1); Ethon Diaz (Jr., G, 6-1); Nathanael Melendez (Sr., F, 6-5); John Wahrmann (Sr., F, 6-6); Johnny Jones (Jr., G 5-7); Jesus Garcia (Jr., F, 6-7); Marquand White (Sr., F, 6-5); Luis Rivera (Jr., G, 6-1); Jairol Robles (Sr., G, 5-10); Anderson Jerez (Jr., G/F, 5-11); Quincy Hannah (Jr., G, 5-9); Victor Soto (Jr., G, 6-1); Jeffrey Encarnacion (G/F, 5-11).
Outlook: Size, athletic ability, and a deep rotation are the biggest strengths for a Panther team looking to buil upon last season. While several key players were lost, a number of key contributors also return led by Done and Melendez. The Panthers can score in transition and also able to protect the paint with the height and length they possess with four players of 6-5 or bigger along with some bigger guards on the outside. Three starters do return, but the rest of the rotation lacks significant varsity experience as Santana will be looking for the reserves to make an impact and step up in a more important role.
Coach: Antoine Allen, third season (19-34)
Last season: 7-15
Letterwinners: 1 returning, 7 lost.
Roster: Shahmir Ahmed (Sr., F, 6-2); Dashaun Best Crossen (Sr., G, 5-10); Darius Gillon (Jr., F, 6-3); Donzell Cunningham (Sr., F, 6-3); Josiah Jones (Jr., C, 6-8); Te Pinckney (Sr., G, 5-10); Deshaun Williams (Sr., F, 6-3); John Nessler (Sr., F, 6-2); Terrence Christopher (Sr., F, 6-2); Thomas Miller (Sr., F, 6-3); Kaamal Stewart (Jr., G, 5-9); Deandre Scott (So., G, 6-0); D’Ondre Dent (So., G, 6-0); Nazir James (So., G, 5-11); Cameron Saintil (So., G, 6-1); Mekhi Morgan (So., G, 5-10).
Outlook: The Chiefs graduated seven seniors, including its entire starting five from the start of last year, as they appear to be in for a rebuilding year. Cunningham is the lone player in the frontcourt with any experience while Dent saw some time in the backcourt late last season and will be counted on to step up. Allen says if the guards can play well, they should be okay, but if they have some learning pains it could be a long season. Ahmed returns after not playing last season while Christopher is a great leader and team guy who works hard and maximizes his talent, Allen noted. Jones offers good height inside, but it still a little raw. The Chiefs appear to be a year or two away from being a contender in the Red Division.
Coach: Dave Turco, 10th season (216-46, 379-108 overall).
Last season: 30-2
Letterwinners: 2 returning, 5 lost.
Roster: Breein Tyree (Jr., G, 6-1); Marcus Ashamole (Sr., G/F, 6-4); Branislav Vujadinovic (Jr., G, 6-5); Brandon Goldy (Sr., G, 6-1); Bryce Layne (Jr., F, 6-8); Bryan Carley (Jr., C, 6-9); Connor Klementowicz (Jr., G, 6-2); Mike Granda (So., G, 5-9); Xavier Townes (So., G, 6-1); Jose Medina (Jr., F, 6-4); Tony Gamboa (So., G, 6-1); Deladem Adadevoh (Jr., G, 5-9); Dexter Jackson (So., G, 6-0); Malachi Walker (So., C, 6-7); Joe Mayers (Jr., G, 6-5).
Outlook: Things look different in Metuchen this winter as the “big three” of Karl-Anthony Towns, Wade Baldwin, and Marques Townes are all off and playing in college. The torch will be handed to Tyree, the only returning starter from last year’s Tournament of Champions title team. Ashamole, who played limited minutes off the bench, is the only other returnee with significant varsity experience and will be a starter. The only other known starter is Vujadinovic, a transfer who is expected to contribute right away. The Falcons still have high expectations of competing for a division, county, and state championship but know reaching those goals will depend on how well they can mesh with each other. The Falcons do possess size, albeit inexperienced size, that many teams cannot match. A 400th is a strong possibility for Turco, who sits 19 wins away from that milestone.
Coach: Joe Hoehman, eighth season (82-83).
Last season: 9-12
Letterwinners: 7 returning, 5 lost.
Roster: Ty Juan Dugger (Sr., F, 6-3); Jack Engel (Sr. G. 6-1); Terrence Wong (Sr. F, 6-1); Jaier Garrett (Jr., G, 5-9); Sean Nally (Jr., G, 6-1); Eric Savage (Jr., G/F, 6-3); Michael Ugarte (So., G, 6-0); Eric Pietrefesa (Sr., F, 6-3); Jaren Almonte (Jr., G, 5-9); Danesh Thirukumaran (Jr., G, 5-10); Greg Lee (So., G, 5-10);Ryan Moran (So., 5-9).
Outlook: The Vikings lost their top two scoring threats in Corey Lumpkin and Jason Saldivieri, but do return the rest of their core from last year. They experienced a lot of offseason success, Hoehman noted, as he’s hoping it translates over to the winter. Dugger, Engel, Wong, and Savage all played significant minutes last season while Ugarte, Garrett, and Nally are all also returnees as Hoehman will depend on those seven in the early going. Hoehman says the Vikings experience and outside shooting will be a strength, but lack of size could be a problem with no player bigger than 6-3.
Coach: Chris Chiera, ninth season
Last season: 17-9
Letterwinners: 8 returning, 2 lost.
Roster: Chase Barneys (Jr., G, 5-11); Jodrell Thompson (Sr., F, 6-1); James Corbett (Sr., G, 6-0); Bryce Barneys (Jr., G, 6-0); Chris Handville (Sr., G, 6-1); Dez Jackson (Sr., G, 6-0); Brandon Haines (Sr., G/F, 6-2); Parsa Arab (Sr., F, 6-1); Pat Naguib (Sr., C, 6-5); Trevor Bevilacqua (Sr., G, 6-0); Kolby Chapman (Jr., G, 5-11); Michael Lacko (Jr., C, 6-6); Justin Campa (Sr., F, 6-1).
Outlook: A strong core returns for the Patriots, who reached the semifinals of both the county and state sectional tournaments. Both Barneys brothers, Thompson, Corbett, and Haines all started on the defense of the Patriots’ football sectional finalist team as the Patriots may be vulnerable in the early goings with so many players playing deep into the football season. Four of those guys are returning starters with Bryce Barneys a key contributor off the bench. Naguib is the only starter who didn’t play football, as the Patriots are primed for a strong season as a move down to the White Division should work in their benefit.
Coach: Charlie Mohr, 12th season
Last season: 11-15
Letterwinners: 2 returning, 6 lost.
Roster:Juston Payne (Sr., G, 6-1); Al Newcombe (Sr., G, 6-1); Brandon Radd (Jr., G, 5-6); Justin Turner (10, G, 5-10); Ishmael Treadwell (Sr., C, 6-4); Varun Thind (Sr., G, 5-10); John Zanfordino(Jr., F, 6-1); Alpha Tarawally (Jr., F, 6-2); Kenny Guido (Jr., G, 6-0).
Outlook: Only two players are back for the Eagles in Payne and Newcombe as they’re otherwise relatively inexperienced on the varsity level. Radd, Turner, and Treadwell are expected to round out the starting five as the goal for the Eagles is to try and finish in the top half of the division. Their quickness and versatility is a strength, but the overall lack of experience and size could be a downfall for Mohr’s club.
Coach: Robert Jones, sixth season
Last season: 6-17
Letterwinners: 4 returning, 4 lost.
Roster: Jayvon Blacknall (Jr., G, 5-10); Michael Lionikis (Jr., G, 6-2); Shawn Edwers (Sr., C, 6-4); Chandra Paruchuri (Sr. ,G, 5-9); Zachary Valbrun (Sr., G, 5-9); Marquis Crawford (Sr., F, 6-5); Michael Katims (Jr., G, 5-8); Liam Azulay (Jr., G, 5-9); David Cosgrove (Jr., G, 5-7); Shivam Patel (Jr., F, 6-3); Rishav Ghosh (So., F, 6-3); Chris Chukwuneke (So., F, 6-1); Alex Corrigan (Jr., G, 6-0); Nick Dooley (Sr. ,F, 6-2); Francois Ballou (Sr., C, 6-5).
Outlook: The Hawks were competitive at times last season but also saw their share of struggles as they’ll look to up that win total this season. Ballou, Corrigan, and Dooley are the only experienced players back as they’ll be joined in the starting lineup by Blacknall and Lionikis. The Hawks have solid depth in the front court and at guard.
Coach: Nick Puleio, fifth season (53-51).
Last season: 12-13
Letterwinners: 6 returning, 2 lost.
Roster: Matt Cocorikis (Sr., G, 6-3); Tyler Salzer (Sr., G/F, 6-3); Eddie Pinto (Jr., G/F, 6-4); Adam Darwish (Sr., F, 6-1); David Okoh (Sr., C, 6-4); Alex Infosino (Sr., G, 6-1); Enrico Viani (Jr., G, 5-11); Mike Ferrero (Sr., F, 6-1); Cameron Coleman (Sr., F, 6-2); Jared Simmons (So., G, 5-11); Rahul Patel (Sr., G, 5-10); Matt Gonzalez (Sr., F, 6-2); Akeer Franklin (Sr., G, 5-9); Garon Jones (So., G, 5-9); Peter Nesti (So., G, 5-11); Seven Small (Jr., G, 6-1); Kenny Sysyn (Jr., F, 6-1).
Outlook: A strong core of returning players led by Cocorikis and Salzer lead the way for the Falcons. Okoh, a strong defensive player and rebounder, returns in the middle as does Pinto, a transfer last year who has continued to impress. Leadership is the strength of the team, Puleio says, as the team is heavy in seniors and experience and also sports a deep bench and largest rotation the Falcons have had in recent years.
Coach: Art Tooles, first season (97-157 overall).
Last season: 0-21
Letterwinners: 8 returning, 2 lost.
Roster: Trevon Blakey (Jr., G, 5-8); Aldin Cameron (Jr., F/G, 5-9); Samaad Davila (Jr., G, 5-9); Carlos Hernandez (Jr., G, 5-7); Emmanuel Osei (Jr., C/F, 6-5); Dewardric Scott (Sr., G/F, 5-8); Nadir Whitten, Sr., G/F, 6-0); Glen Williams (Sr., G, 5-11); Anthony Blakey (So., G, 5-7); Wenzel Dunlap (So., G/F, 5,8); Curtis Revan (So., C/F, 6); Naadir Riles (So., G, 5-5); Elijah Bennett (Jr., G, 5-7); Maurice Ffrench (Jr., F, 5-8); Cheikh Nyidae (Sr., C/F, 6-4); Malik Morgan (Sr., G, 5-10); Thompson Sharrybay (Sr., G, 5-10).
Outlook: There’s nowhere but up to go for the Zebras, who endured a struggling winless campaign last season. The biggest change is Tooles coming over from Middlesex as the team’s new head coach. He’ll look for his team to improve each day and compete while trying to change the culture of the program. Tooles says the Zebras have a lack of size, but their athleticism helps compensate for that. With a large amount of players back, the Zebras’ success could boil down to whether or not they buy into Tooles’ philosophies.
Coach: John Wojcik, fifth season (55-49).
Last season: 24-4
Letterwinners: 5 returning, 6 lost.
Roster: Jehyve Floyd (Sr., F, 6-8); Mike Valentin (Sr., G, 6-1); Justin Santos (Sr., G, 5-9); Dan Gomes (Sr., G/F, 6-1); Zach Alessi (Jr., G/F, 6-2); Marcus White (Sr., G, 5-9); Steve Kerekes (Sr., G, 5-10); Kris Tookes (Sr., G, 5-10); Mitch Strandberg (Jr., G, 6-1); Andrew Gay (Jr., G, 5-11); Jahsim Floyd (So., F, 6-8); Jayson DeMild (So., G, 6-2).
Outlook: Coming off the best season in school history, the bombers will be hard-presses to match the success of last year’s team but do contain a key building block in Holy Cross-bound Jehyve Floyd, who along with younger brother Jahsim, give the Bombers plenty of size in the paint with a pair of 6-8 players. The two are very athletic in transition for their size as the Bombers will look to mix their grind it out style and toughness on defense with their up-tempo offense in transition. Valentin, Santos, and DeMild are expected to join the Floyd brothers in the starting five as Sayreville overall lacks experience.
Coach: Matt Connell, second season
Last season: 6-18
Letterwinners: 7 returning, 7 lost.
Roster: Devon Dabel (Sr., G, 5-10); Jason Lee (Jr., F, 6-1); Jordan Hankerson (Sr., G, 6-3); Jason Worthem (Sr., F, 6-1); Ephraim Johnson (Sr., G, 5-9); Kevin Jacobs (Sr., G, 6-0); Lamont Williams (Jr., G, 6-0); Isaiah Norman (Jr., F, 6-3); Nate Mensah (Jr., F, 6-0); Nick Polizzano (Jr., G, 6-1); Jake Alba (Jr., G, 5-6); Will McLaughlin (So., G, 5-10).
Outlook: The Tigers take a big step up in moving to the White Division from the Blue this season, as they’ll have bigger and deeper teams on their schedule on a nightly basis. Connell says this year’s squad is quick and a better shooting team than they’ve had in recent years, but they lack size with no player bigger than 6-3. Dabel, Lee, Hankerson, Worthem, and Johnson are the starting five Connell projects to go with as the Tigers have a challenge ahead of them in the White Division.
Coach: Matt Gigliello, third season (36-17)
Last season: 13-12
Letterwinners: 5 returning, 5 lost.
Roster: Zahneer Shuler (Sr., G, 6-1); Charles Cole (Sr., F, 6-5); Quassim Glover (So., G, 6-2); Zaire Robinson (Sr., G, 6-3); Tyler Smith (Sr., G, 5-11); Keshaun Henry (So., G, 5-9); Allan Thermitus (Sr., F, 6-4); Dante Hatcher (Sr., G, 5-9); Ryan Alcott (Sr., F, 6-2); Harry Rutkowski (So., F, 6-3); Hura Blaine (So., G, 5-10); Zach Torres (Sr., G, 5-10); Nat Opoku (Jr., F, 6-2); Austin Taylor (So., G, 6-1); Trajan Pritchard (So., F, 6-1).
Outlook: Four starters and a lot of experience comes back for the third year of the Gigliello era at Woodbridge. Shuler and Robinson will be counted on for their senior leadership while Henry and Glover both started as freshmen last year and will be expected to step in and make plays on both ends of the court. Cole, who give the Barrons some height, and Smith both had great offseasons according to Gigliello as he’ll also be counting on those guys. The Barrons’ success will dictate on how well the newcomers can pick up the system and defend in full court and half court situations.
Coach: Dennis O’Keefe, 24th season
Last season: 15-8
Letterwinners: 3 returning, 4 lost.
Roster: Eddie Hayes (Sr., G, 5-11); Kevin Krolick (Sr., F, 6-3); Corey Ciszek (Jr., G, 5-4); Harry Gelpke (Sr., F, 5-10); Tom Weiler (Sr., F, 6-3); Anthony Abano (Sr., G, 5-9); Pat Astarita (Sr., G, 5-10);Collin Belk (Jr., F, 6-1); Anthony Lancia (Sr., F, 5-10); Dane Lupton (Jr., G, 5-10); Donald Fackina (Jr., G, 5-11); Sean Kudelka (So., F, 6-3); Bobby Golden (Jr., G, 5-6).
Outlook: The Trojans once again should have a core that can be competitive in the Blue Division. They’ll have to replace graduated Owen McLeod, who was a steady presence at point guard, but bring back Tom Weiler at forward as the senior will be a critical piece for O’Keefe’s club. Astarita and Gelpke are among the returnees that bring experience to the backcourt while Kudelka, a transfer from Bishop Ahr, adds to the frontcourt depth off the bench.
Coach: Ben Gamble, first season
Last season: 7-16
Letterwinners: 2 returning, 5 lost.
Roster: Clinton Smith (Sr., G, 5-9); Santiago Dervishaj (Sr., F, 6-6); Elijah Mitchell (So., G, 6-2); NyQuan McCombs (Jr., G, 5-10); Josh Green (Jr., G, 6-2); Gilberto Cue (Jr., G, 5-10); Hodari Bazemore (Sr., F, 6-6); Ralph Menard (Sr., G, 5-10).
Outlook: A new era begins in South Amboy as Gamble, a longtime assistant to the legendary Bob Hurley, takes over. He’ll look to revive the program which has struggled over the past two seasons since longtime coach Joe Lewis stepped down following the 2011-12 season. Dervishaj is one of two returnees as Bazemore, one of several key transfers, will join him in the frontcourt. The Eagles are guard-heavy and Gamble likes his combination of guards, but the key he believes will be building team unity as a lot of the players don’t have much experience playing with each other.
Coach: Herman “Mugsy” White, sixth season (83-50).
Last season: 15-14
Letterwinners: 2 returning, 2 lost.
Roster:Amir Alford (Sr., PG, 5-10); Jaquan Robertson (Sr., SG,6-3); Ra’keem Bennett (Sr., G, 5-11); Brandon Gilder (Sr., SF, 6-1); Matt Merz (Sr., SG, 5-10); Vincent Montgomery (Sr., PF, 6-5); Ubaldino Velez (Sr., G, 5-9); Victor Spencer (Jr., SF, 6-2); Amaad Kennedy (Jr., C, 6-8); Jemar Jordan (So., SF, 6-3); James Hart (So., G, 5-10); Denali Byrd (So., PF, 6-4); Kahir Raymond (So., PG, 5-10).
Outlook: The Ramblers will look to compete at a high level on a nightly basis as they have one of the conference’s more pure scorers in Robertson, who can finish in a multitude of ways. Gilder’s an athletic player on the wing while the Ramblers also have pretty good size for a Blue Division team with Montgomery starting and Kennedy as a big body off the bench. Bennett, the running back on the football team, brings another athletic and competitive edge to the team.
Coach: Andrew Hill, first season
Last season: 15-11
Letterwinners: 5 returning, 7 lost.
Roster: Joe Duffy (Sr., F, 6-3); Stepp Oziegbe (Sr., G, 6-1); Andrew Allen (Sr., G, 5-10); Terence Young (Sr., G, 6-0); Kush Patel (Jr., F, 6-4); Lendell Parker (Sr., G, 5-9); Josh Balcacer (Sr., F, 6-6); Kobie Wells (So., G, 5-11); Joe Francis (Sr., G, 6-0); Nick Shirley (Sr., G, 5-11); Pete Obertan (So., F, 6-5).
Outlook: The Mustangs have a veteran crew returner coupled with some promising newcomers as Hill, a former Carteret point guard and Colonia assistant, takes over for Chris Banos. Duffy, Oziegbe, Allen, and Young are among the key returnees who Hill will depend on in the early going. The Mustangs should be expected to be in contention in the Blue Division.
Coach: Guy Jensen, first season (140-74 overall).
Last season: 13-11
Letterwinners: 4 returning, 4 lost.
Roster: Thomas Chalker (Sr., G, 5-10); Artie Flaherty (Sr., G, 6-0); Kenny Harry (Sr., F, 6-1); Shae Norris (Sr., G/F 6-3); Evan Collier (Jr., G/F 6-2); Conor McCadden (Jr., G, 5-11); Zak Fortuna (Sr., G, 6-0); Josh Hall (Sr., G, 5-11); Cameron O’Connell (Jr., G, 5-10); Justin Briggs (So., G/F, 6-3); Dan Flaherty (So., G/F, 6-1); Kyle Harry (So., G, 6-0); Matt Volpe (Fr., F, 6-3).
Outlook: The Bulldogs have a new coach at the helm in Jensen, a proven winner who previously had success during eight years at Piscataway. Chalker and Artie Flaherty will be the two guys most relied upon early as both are experienced guards. Collier brings an athletic wing presence while Volpe, a freshman, is slated to start from day one. It may take the Bulldogs some time to settle in though as they learn a new system and lack a great deal of size.
Coach: Jared Goldstein, first season
Last season: 14-15
Letterwinners: 8 returning, 4 lost.
Roster: Stewart Lester (Sr., G, 6-0); Marcus Evans-Little (Sr., F, 6-6); Kayshawn Wilson (Sr., G/F, 6-2); David Spencer (Sr., F, 6-3); Adam Wick (Sr., F, 6-3); Nick DiNizo (Sr., G, 5-8); Kyle Bogus (Jr., G/F, 6-1); Vince Chiera (So., G, 5-8).
Outlook: The Blue Jays are another Blue Division team to undergo a coaching change as Goldstein moves up from the junior varsity to varsity ranks. The Blue Jays will look to use their length, led by Evans-Little, as they have a decent sized team for a Group I team. Lester and Wilson are also strong players in the backcourt while Chiera is a young player who saw flashes of potential as a freshman last winter. The Blue Jays will miss 1,000 point scorer Jarrett Bogus, who graduated, though they will have his younger brother Kyle back.
Coach: Steve Mate, 20th season (258-205, 298-236 overall).
Last season: 22-6
Letterwinners: 8 returning, 4 lost.
Roster: Matthew Ciaccio (So., C, 6-7); Eric Dadika (Jr., G, 5-10); Marlon Hart (Jr., G, 5-10); Kevin Aquino (Sr., F, 6-0); Andrew Fuzesi (So., G, 5-8); Oliver Jimenez (Sr., F, 5-10); Dan Newton (Jr., G, 5-10); JT Vento (So., G, 6-1); Eugene Anderson (Sr., G, 6-1); Shawn O’Connor (Jr., G, 6-0); Eric Labella (Jr., F, 5-9); Christopher Pina (Fr., F, 6-2); Abdullah Nieskens (Fr., G, 5-8).
Outlook: If there’s one thing to be certain about it’s that Mate, a veteran of the game, will have a strong team that competes on a nightly basis. They’ll miss Jake Dadika greatly, who did so much for the Chargers during his career. The Chargers return three strong starters though from last year’s team in Eric Dadika, who will be expected to help fill some of the void left by his brother, along with Ciaccio, who played strong inside a year ago as a freshman, and Hart, a tough, rugged player. Anderson is a fourth starter, the only senior expected to start, while a sophomore in either Fuzesi or Vento are slated to be the fifth starter. The Chargers will need to develop a couple role players as they lack much depth beyond its starters.
Coach: Bernie Buniak, 10th season.
Last season: 14-12
Letterwinners: 4 returning, 3 lost.
Roster: Al-Taron Fields (Sr., F, 6-2); Yianni Garris (Jr., G, 5-11); David Johnson (Sr., F, 6-2); Jordan Jones (Sr., G, 6-1); Dan Russomanno (Sr., F, 6-3); Anthony Buccino (Fr., G, 5-9); Bowen Grasso (Jr., G, 5-9); Nazire Jordan (Jr., G, 5-7); Tyquan Fowler (Jr., G, 5-8); Conrad Paddyfoot (Sr., C, 6-0); Mike Haygood-Henry (Sr., C, 6-2); Nazir Martin (Fr., G, 5-10).
Outlook: The overall outlook is positive for the Destroyers. Fowler can be an impact player for the program. He has tremendous quickness and athleticism. Johnson is a terrific player, one of the best in the county in Buniak’s opinion, as he can score from anywhere on the floor. Dunellen is likely to struggle early as football players such as Johnson and Russomanno came late to basketball after the football run to the state final game. Once the Destroyers round back into shape though, they have a chance at being pretty good as they’ll play their trademark tough, defensive, grind-it-out style. Dunellen expects to be in contention for the Gold Division championship.
EAST BRUNSWICK TECH
Coach: Jeff Staples, sixth season
Last season: 8-17
Letterwinners: 2 returning, 2 lost.
Roster: Saadiq Riles (Sr., G); Dominique Morton (Sr., G); Enudy Jimenez (So., F); Conner Stratton (Jr., F); Silas Stanley (Jr., G); Mason Settembre (Jr., G); Noah Westbrook (Jr., F); Josh Brody (Jr., G); Brandon Perez (Jr., F).
Outlook: The Tigers have a young group that lacks much experience on the varsity level. They’ll miss Mark Alston, who’s been the team’s leading scorer and go-to player in recent years. Riles and Morton are two seniors that have experience, as Staples should lean on those two in a Gold Division that has gotten deeper with nine teams.
Coach: Derek Nobles, eighth season
Last season: 0-20
Letterwinners: 4 returning, 4 lost.
Roster: Will Jacob-Perez (Sr., C); Noah Pointer (So., G); Justin Sims (So., G); Nasir Boykins (So., F); Matt Ambrosio (Jr., G); Na’eem Ghee (So., F); Will Chen (Jr., G).
Outlook: No team should benefit from divisional realignment more than the Owls, who endured a winless campaign a year ago but drop down from the Blue Division to the Gold, where they certainly should be able to be more competitive than they were last year. It will still be a challenge though for the Owls, who have only one senior expected to contribute in Jacob-Perez. Three of the five projected starters are sophomores as the Owls are a relatively young team.
PERTH AMBOY TECH
Coach: John Meyer, seventh season (52-66).
Last season: 9-14
Letterwinners: 7 returning, 1 lost.
Roster: Jordan Little (Sr., C, 6- 8);, Noel Garay (Sr. SG, 5-10); Lou Rodriguez (Sr. C/F, 6- 4); Angel Ramirez (Sr., F, 6-1); Kyrie Byers (Jr., PG, 5-9); Richie Moya (Sr., G, 6-0); Kenny Marte (Sr., G, 5-6); Pedro Gonzalez (So. SG, 6-0); Eric Negro (So., F/C 6-2); Javon Fisher (So., F/C, 6- 3).
Outlook: With four starters returning, the Patriots should be primed to compete for a Gold Division title. It all starts with Little, a strong presence in the post who can also command the paint on the defensive end. Rodriguez is another decent sized body in the starting lineup as no other Gold Division team can match up with the Patriots’ height. Garay and Rodriguez are two more starters back as the Patriots will need to see an uptick in improvement to get to that upper echelon level of the division.
Coach: Mike Gordon, first season
Last season: 8-16
Letterwinners: 3 returning, 2 lost.
Roster: Aziz Austin (Sr., G, 6-1); Kyle Wider (Sr., G, 5-10); Frank Howard (Sr., C, 6-6); Ali Austin (Jr., G, 5-11); Khalil Smith (Jr., F, 6-2); Marc Fychok (Sr., G, 5-10) Letrell West (So., G, 6’0); Branden Barnes (Fr., F, 6-3).
Outlook: A move back down to the Gold Division after a two-year run in the Blue should help the Raiders improve upon their win-total from last season. Gordon, a former standout at Plainfield and Binghamton University who has served on Jeff Lubreski’s Plainfield staff the past four seasons, takes over for Karl Towns, who stepped aside after 15 strong years. The Raiders have some experience and athleticism led by Aziz Austin and Wider, a pair of hungry seniors in the backcourt, while Howard brings some height to the frontcourt. The Raiders, however, do lack size and depth for the most part as they’ll look to overcome those challenges.
Coach: John Zammit, first season
Last season: 20-7
Letterwinners: 2 returning, 6 lost.
Roster: Tim Kales (Sr., C/F, 5-11); Max Garcia (Sr., F, 5-11); Nick Reagan (Jr., G/F, 5-11); Keahre Ford (Jr., G, 5-10); Julian Munoz (So., G, 5-11); Ryan O’Leary (So., G, 6-3); Suhdeep Sing (Sr., G, 5-11); Xavier Llubers (Sr., G, 5-8); Riley Rone (Sr., F, 5-11); Alan Kazar (So., F/C, 6-3); Bobby Nebus (So., F, 6-2); Lane Lapoardo (Jr., F, 5-10); Justin Lewis (So, F, 5-11).
Outlook: Coming off a strong 20-win season, the Governors will be hard-pressed to match the production of graduated starters Steve Herdman and Joe Fruncillo. Zammit, a former letterwinner at South Amboy, takes over for Lenny Reyes, as he’ll look to improve for both the present and the long-term future as he works with many new faces and tries to instill a new system. The Guvs have athleticism and more depth than they’ve had in recent years, but have a large group of young and inexperienced varsity players as there coulod be some growing pains.
Coach: Rodney Harris, sixth season (67-65).
Last season: 16-11
Letterwinners: 4 returning, 2 lost.
Roster: Sean Darrar (Sr., G, 5-11); Pat Genthe (Sr., G, 5-11); Cyrus Byrd (Sr., G, 5-10); Mario Nigro (Jr., G, 5-8); Othneil Harris (Sr., F, 6-0); Maurice Lawrence (Sr., G, 5-11); Antonio Martinez (Jr., G, 5-8); William George (Jr., G, 5-11); Angel, Pesante (Jr., G, 5-8); Joel Carrasquillo (Jr., G, 5-5); Matthew Kopko (Sr., F, 6-0); Andrew Garcia (Jr., F, 6-0); Khalyil Everett (Jr., G, 5-7).
Outlook: After advancing to the Central Group I semifinals last season, the Rams lost some key pieces in Matt Martinez and Connor Devich, but do bring back Darrar, who will be critical this season in Harris’ up-tempo system. Genthe, Byrd, and Nigro are all also returnees as the Rams will have to rely on the speed and quickness to beat opponents with their guard play as they lack any height inside with no player listed taller than 6-0.
Coach: Chris Hobbs, eighth season (106-78, 154-144 overall).
Last season: 15-10
Letterwinners: 1 returning, 8 lost.
Roster: Josh Decker (Sr., G, 5-9); Will Clemons (So., F, 6-3); Lucas Page (So., F, 6-3); Michael Oduro (So., G, 5-9); Robert Saydee (Fr., G, 6-2).
Outlook: The defending Gold Division champs will look mightily different this season as Decker is the only returning player after the Tigers graduated a large and successful group of eight seniors. Hobbs will be looking for this young and inexperienced group to take on a very large role of leadership and also try to match the on-court performance from those that graduated. It will be a battle for the Tigers to try to defend their division title, but always expect them to be a lively opponent each night with Hobbs on the bench.
Coach: Eugene Maxwell, second season (4-20, 178-157 overall)
Last season: 4-20
Letterwinners: 7 returning, 5 lost.
Roster: Mike Newman (Sr., G, 5-11); Nick Palko (Sr., F, 6-4); John Pohopin (Sr., G, 5-10); Brendan O’Brien (Jr., F, 6-3); Garrett Racz (Jr., F, 6-2); Alden Racz (Jr., F, 6-2); Scott Hargrove (So., G, 6-0); Jordan Rose (So., G, 5-10); Raphael Genty (So., C, 6-4); Abdur Sajid (Jr., C, 6-3); Luke Romeo (Sr., G, 5-10); TC Weber (Sr., G, 5-9).
Outlook: The Rams had their share of struggles last season in Maxwell’s first season at the helm. They’ll try to improve on that record around the likes of returnees like Newman, Palko, and Pohopin. Maxwell noted that team defense appears to be a strength, but their ability to score could be a weakness as they’ll try to play lower scoring games and pull those out.
Coach: Corey Floyd, first season
Last season: 0-22
Letterwinners: 6 returning, 5 lost.
Roster: Asiah Avent (Sr., G 6-4); Timothy Bradley (Sr., C/F 6-5); Kendal Fletcher (Sr., G 5-11); Kareem Cotton (Sr., G 6-1); Matthew Harris (Sr., C/F 6-6); William McDaniel (Sr., G 6-0); Irving Callender (Jr., G/F 6-4); Elijah Jones (Jr., C/F 6-5); Tyler Linen (Jr., PG 5-10); Justin Orsini (Jr., G 5-10); Cameron Silver (Jr., G 5-9); Malachi Walker (Jr., F 6-4); Gregory Williams (Jr., G 5-9); Jordan Williams (Jr., G 5-9).
Outlook: There’s some optimism in Franklin as Floyd takes over after spending the previous two years as the girls coach at Piscataway and previously as the girls coach at Somerville. He’ll look to instill some discipline on his team as the Warriors do have some pieces they could build with. Avent and Harris, transfers from Piscataway and Timothy Christian, respectively, join the forces as Floyd appears to be a strong fit to take on this major rebuilding process. There’s nowhere to go but up thought for the Warriors.
Coach: Phil Colicchio, 18th season
Last season: 27-5
Letterwinners: 10 returning, 6 lost.
Roster: Otis Livingston (Sr., G, 6-0); Rick’keem Mixson (Jr., G, 6-1); Juwan Dolbrice (Sr., G, 5-11); Josh Carter (Sr., G, 6-1); James Julius (Sr., F 6-3); Quinton Dixon (Sr., F, 6-3); Joey Krempa (So., G, 5-11);
Jamar Brown (Jr., C, 6-8); Tavon Jones (Fr., G, 6-1).
Outlook: Despite the losses of starters Quadri Moore, now at Cincinnati, and Juwan Jones to graduation, the Tigers are early-season favorites in Group IV as they look to defend their title. Livingston is lethal at the point as both he and Dolbrice, who helped lead Linden’s football team to a state championship, are both superior ball handlers and playmakers. Carter and Julius bring quick hands and athleticism in the Tigers’ ferocious man-to-man defense. Dixon is a sharpshooter from the outside and can also muscle it inside if he needs to. Mixson is another returnee while Brown, a transfer, give them that inside presence they lost in Moore. With a very talented roster and one of the state’s top coaches in Colicchio, the Tigers should be in the thick of things come March.
Coach: Kevin Conroy, eighth season
Last season: 3-16
Letterwinners: 7 returning, 2 lost.
Roster: Evan Amaker (Sr., G, 6-0); Michael Famosa (Sr., G, 5-8); Edriece Patterson (Jr., F, 6-2); Jayson Peoples (Sr., G, 5-10): Marvin Pierre (So., G/F, 6-0); Jordan Tutt (Sr., G, 6-2); Jerrel Merricks (Sr., F, 5-11);
Curtis Joseph (Sr., C, 6-7); Brandon Royal (Sr., F, 6-0); Mykelti Thomas (Jr., C, 6-3); Fred Womble (Jr., F, 6-0).
Outlook: A solid nucleus returns for the Indians, who struggled a year ago, as they’ll attempt to get back to playing winning basketball. Peoples, Amaker, Tutt, Patterson, and Thomas project as the five starters as the Indians possess quickness and athleticism to play at a high-tempo, but aren’t the greatest shooting team from the outside. The Indians hope to improve upon from last season’s record.
Coach: Alex Mahony, first season
Last season: 13-11
Letterwinners: 10 returning, 0 lost.
Roster: Karl Charles (Sr., G, 6-5); Levi Holmes (Sr., G, 6-4); JaDon Robinson (Sr., G, 6-); PJ Strahm (Sr.,G,5-10); Dan Schantz (Jr., F, 6-4); Greg Smith (Jr., G, 6-1); Jayson Oweh (So., F, 6-5); Jake Needleman (So., G, 5-6); Miles Johnson (So., G, 5-11); Zach Brown (So., G, 6-2); CJ Howell (Jr., F, 6-5); Lyle Zullo (So., G, 5-5); Luigi Apollon (So., G, 6-); Chris Phillips (Fr., G, 5-6).
Outlook: A lot has changed for the Argonauts over the offseason – they’ve joined the ranks of the Skyland Conference and Mahony has also slid over from the assistant’s seat to the head coaching position for his mentor Tim Ortelli. The Argonauts will be happy to welcome back Charles, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury. Him paired with Holmes presents a strong 1-2 punch as both are athletic and capable of playing in a multitude of ways. The Argonauts have a very experienced varsity roster and are a hard-working bunch as they have the tools to be a strong contender in the Skyland Conference.
For continued Central Jersey boys basketball coverage all season long, visit the In The Paint blog online at blogs.mycentraljersey.com/inthepaint/