James Corrigan of GMC Hoops Radio’s GMC Preview


Every year on Christmas morning, children all over the world fly out of bed and run as fast as they can to their tree to collect the gifts that come their way but once a year. This is what they look forward to and planned for many months in advance, with dreams of filled stockings and the smell of Christmas cookies filling their minds. For me however, Christmas comes a little bit early each year. It remains in December, but shifts to mid December. It involves not stockings or presents, not trees or cookies, but rather the bouncing of the ball, the roar of the crowd, and the smell of basketball in the air. I am of course referring to opening night in New Jersey, and there is no better place to spend this holiday than in Middlesex County, a place where anything can happen on the court, and usually does. Last season was truly special for me, for after playing and watching my brother play throughout the years, it was time for me to give back to the community that had done so much for me and my family. In joining GMC Hoops, I wanted to shine a spotlight on some of the great people and stories that we have to offer, and I like to think that I at least partially succeeded in that. This year, however, will be something entirely different. For this year promises to be the most unpredictable season in recent memory, as any number of squads can take home the title. And Greg Machos and I could not be more excited to bring you all the action this year in Season Two of the GMC Hoops Game of the Week presented by Civile Cucina Italiana, only on the GMC Hoops Radio Network!

Of course this season will be played on a very somber note and a cloud hanging over it. When I first met Darius Griffin Jr., I knew he was young, but his enthusiasm and exuberance is what took me aback. He came off to me as a man who not only cared about his players, but would step into battle with them at a moment’s notice. Despite being the youngest coach in the GMC, his strong family background made him a great choice to be the head coach of Bishop Ahr, and he led the Trojans last year to their best season in four years. He should currently be preparing for a season that sees the Trojans as one of the best teams in the county. But as many of us know, he was involved in a deadly car crash in October, which killed the other driver and put Griffin in critical condition. He is on the road to recovery, and we at GMC Hoops are keeping him in our thoughts throughout this season, as well as his family including Darius Griffin Sr, the head coach of Piscataway. I encourage everyone in the GMC community to do the same.

With that being said, let’s get to it!


The biggest basketball related story in the offseason was the stunning bombshell that two time defending champion St Joseph had let go of their AD Jerry Smith, and more importantly, the greatest coach in GMC history in Dave Turco. The controversy that surrounds that decision is well documented. Past Falcon stars including Karl-Anthony Towns, Wade Baldwin, and Jimbo Long were stunned and spoke out against the decision. Mike Thompson takes over as head coach, and his arrival has been met with a mass exodus from the team. Aside from graduating GMC POY Letrell West, All GMC performer Malachi Walker, and steady point guard Michael Granda, they lost sophomores Richard Greaves and Zach Martini, both via transfer to Rutgers Prep. Another young standout Matt Crowley transferred to Westfield as well. The shelf is not bare however, as the Falcons still boast one of the top returners in the GMC in Tyree Tanganeca-Ford, and they are always stacked at the JV and freshman level. Is this enough to take home their 8th title in nine years? In a normal year, no. But this is not shaping up to be a normal year, and with many top teams in limbo, the Falcons can be dangerous, just as they were last year when they experienced another mass exodus. But of course, Dave Turco was their coach. They are certainly not preseason #1 this year.


The game of the year last season was, of course, the GMCT semifinal between Sayreville and South Brunswick, which the Bombers won 69-65 in OT on the Vikings’ home floor. It was a clash between two highly experienced teams ranked number one and two in the preseason. The Vikes had been to the title game the previous year, while the Bombers fielded a super team with the transfer of Xavier Townes. Both teams were in a win now mentality at the time, but now was then, and today is now(???). Of the fifteen combined players that appeared in the game, only one of them is back this year, in Sayreville’s Elijah Clark. While the Bombers retain Derek Astarita and add Matawan transfer Zaire Jackson, the cupboard is essentially bare for the Vikings. This will be a different kind of season for John Wojcik and Joe Hoehman, but these are two experienced minds who know how to teach the game. Having said that, neither side will likely contend for the title this year. Woodbridge also lost some pieces from their GMCT semifinal team as well, as NJ State Baseball POY Harry Rutkowski and star point guard Keshaun Henry have graduated. The Barrons should be fine however, as Hura Blaine, Curtis Nesbit, and Kesean Glover should maintain their winning ways under Matt Gigliello. Old Bridge also comes in with losses, as All GMC performer Kyle Parris is gone, among others.


Aside from the aforementioned Ford of St Joes, the Piscataway Chiefs return the most talent coming into the season. Despite losing All Red Division performer D’ondre Dent and other experience varsity players, the Chiefs return the high caliber trio of Mattias Arrindell, Jordan Davidson, and Keshawn Grant, and also bring back a county championship JV and freshman team. East Brunswick loses Dante Ralph, but returns Joe Sampson, Jesse Perel and others, and adds Travis Cumber from Notre Dame, one of the top teams in Mercer County last year. North Brunswick returns a trio of scorers in Manet Batra, Avery Claggett, and Jordan Salisbury, while Monroe, led by the top returning Red Division scorer Sashank Sindhia, and Colonia, led by All White Division performer Frank Lehman, return essentially their entire team. Middlesex, led by All Blue Division performer Jake Robel, returns most of its entire team as well, as the Jays look to compete with Bishop Ahr and Carteret for the division title. J.P. Stevens returns one of the county’s top backcourts in Tyrese Conover and Elisha Smith. Carteret returns one of the county’s top players in Isaiah Daniels-Porter. And we will get to Bishop Ahr in a moment……


Here are the top 20 returning scorers in the Red, White, and Blue, and the top 10 returning scorers in the Gold.

Sashank Sindhia MON 12.4
Joshua Cabezudo PA 11.7
Mattias Arrindell PW 11.5
Joe Sampson EB 11.2
Tyree Ford STJ 10.2
Luke Patel MON 9.8
Elisha Smith JPS 9.5
Jordan Davidson PW 9.3
Keshawn Grant PW 9.3
Tyrese Conover JPS 8.6
Michael Kides MON 8.3
Fritz Frage MON 6.4
Jared Meyer OB 6.4
Matt Hoyt MON 6.2
Julius Belton OB 5.5
Jazheel Espiritusanto PA 5.3
Kasi Hazzard JPS 5.0
Chris Carrera PA 4.7
Jesse Perel EB 4.4
Luis Bonilla PA 4.2

Ahyan Brown-Miller NewB 12.8
Christian Wantong EHS 12.5
Maneet Batra NoB 11.6
Luke Valeriano COL 11.4
Avery Claggett NoB 10.8
Jordan Salisbury NoB 9.7
Kristian Chapmann COL 9.6
Kamari Persol WB 8.7
Connor Bevilaqua COL 8.3
Frank Lehman COL 7.9
Joseph Harris NewB 7.4
Curtis Nesbit WB 6.0
Nymir Belk NewB 5.7
Timmy Carroll COL 5.6
Elijah Clark SAY 4.8
Oliver French COL 4.5
Aaron Hayler NewB 4.4
Kenneth Lebron NewB 4.3
Derek Astarita SAY 4.1
Mwanza Fitzpatrick NoB 4.1

Derrick Whitaker SR 22.3
Isaiah Daniels-Porter CAR 15.0
Deontae Crawford BA 14.9
Alex Santiago BA 14.8
Matt Vento SPT 14.3
Jake Robel MID 12.0
John Dickey MID 10.7
Tyler Ha MID 10.3
Abdullah Nieskens SPT 10.1
Michael DeSantis SR 8.5
Ian McCoid SP 7.6
Nasseir Moore CAR 7.4
Zachary Rafano SR 7.2
Vincent Guardiola SPT 6.9
Joseph Nigro SR 6.8
Riley Watkins MET 6.6
Dondre Tate SP 6.4
Justin Dekovics SPT 6.3
Jail Palms SP 6.0
Simon Llaguno BA 5.0
Matt Panganiban BA 5.0

Robert Saydee TC 18.3
Kyle Gasiewski SA 17.7
Branden Barnes PWT 14.5
Pierce Kokosinski TC 14.4
Type Kelton DUN 14.4
Ryan Petela WH 11.5
Ronald Jobin EBT 10.0
Chris Zambonino PWT 10.0
Sergio Rodriguez PWT 8.3
Shalon Wallace WH 8.0


Of all the years that I have been involved in GMC basketball, this is by far the toughest year to predict. Quite frankly, I do not feel good about any of these rankings, maybe with the exception of #1. These teams are all so close to each other, more so than ever before. In the past, we at least had some idea of a hierarchy of who would be good and who would not be good. I could possibly get burned on any one of these teams, but what the heck.

Just a quick note: I know that these rankings are going to be read and complained about by many of the players and coaches in the county. Yes, I know you coaches read these too, no matter how much you like to deny it. Please note that I am just one person, and by no means am I the sage of GMC basketball (that will forever be John Haley). Me ranking your team behind another team is not a notion of disrespect, but rather an on paper analysis of what I think will happen this season. Basketball of course is not played on paper. You should not care what I think, but if you do, I would love to hear your civil feedback on these rankings, and you might as well follow me on Twitter at @RealCorrigan in the process. Let me know what you think, if I missed anything, or if there are any personnel updates that we do not know about that would affect the rankings. Here we go!

10. Middlesex Blue Jays 12-13, 10-8 GMC, 6-6 Blue

Both Middlesex and South River return much of their core from last season, and despite the Rams returning All County performer and potential 2000 point scorer Derrick Whitaker, the nod goes to the Jays for finishing ahead of South River last year and for being a more experienced and balanced team. With three double digit scorers returning including the 6’6 All Blue Division performer Jake Robel, the Jays can make a run at Bishop Ahr and Carteret in the Blue. Robel is the best Middlesex has seen since Jarrett Bogus, who’s brother Jake is a senior on the team this year.

9. J.P. Stevens Hawks 9-15, 8-12 GMC, 4-10 Red

This was an extremely tough call between three Red division programs. Monroe has the vast majority of its team coming back, but the climb from last year’s disaster may be too steep, even with their new coach Jeff Warner. Old Bridge was the #5 team in the county last year, went to the CJ4 semifinals, and ended St. Joes’ 61 game winning streak against Red Division opponents. However, with only three players returning for the Knights this year, the drop off may be a bit too much. I could absolutely go with Monroe’s youth or Old Bridge’s pedigree, but I’m going with the Hawks, who have a little of both. They return one of the best guards in the county in Tyrese Conover, and his backcourt partner Elisha Smith. They lose only two players, and while they were both starters, Stevens’ excellent JV team from last year is poised to replenish the coffers. They also add a new coach in Chris Garcia who is a great defensive mind and one of the fieriest people you will meet. The Hawks should come to play every night. As usual, their season will be made or broken on January 9th when they battle bitter rival Edison at home.

8. Bishop Ahr Trojans 14-12, 14-7 GMC, 9-3 Blue

The recent rumors surrounding All Blue Division center Deontae Crawford’s eligibility have added another roadblock to a tumultuous offseason for the Trojans, aside from losing their coach of course. If he cannot go, it is a huge blow for a team with title aspirations this season. They still have the best returning player in the GMC in the vastly underrated Alex Santiago and a mix of returnees and transfers as well. With Crawford, this team would be ranked either #2 or #3, but they are here for now. Assistant coach Ron James takes over the team this year in the absence of DJ Griffin.

7. Carteret Ramblers 19-9, 15-5 GMC, 11-1 Blue

The Ramblers return one of the county’s best players in Isaiah Daniels-Porter, as well as their football quarterback Zemar Brake and senior Nassier Moore, but aside from them the vast majority of their Blue Division championship side from a year ago is gone. You can never doubt a Mugsy White coached team however, and this team should still have enough to contend for a division title. The Crawford news out of Bishop Ahr should be a big boost for the Ramblers, who are once again playing one of the more challenging non division schedules in the county.

6. Colonia Patriots 7-16, 5-12 GMC, 4-8 White

Yes, I know what their record was last year, and I know they lost to New Brunswick. But with a year under Brandon Hall’s belt and nearly their entire team returning from last year, the Pats should return to their winning ways in a top heavy White Division that is truly up for grabs. All White Division guard Frank Lehman will lead the way along with double digit scorer Luke Valeriano for a program only three years removed from a GMC and N2G3 title.

5. Woodbridge Barrons 21-6, 14-3 GMC, 10-2 White

When Matt Gigliello came to Woodbridge before the 2012-13 season, the Barrons had not had a winning season since 1989. Since then, they have had five straight winning seasons and three 20 win seasons, including the last two years. His outstanding record of 94-38 should translate to this year, as his side returns three key players from last year in Kemari Persol, Curtis Nesbit, and Kesean Glover, along with a very good JV team from last year. Glover must fill the shoes of his older brother Quassim, and the Barrons will surely miss All County guard Keshaun Henry and All White Division and baseball stalwart Harry Rutkowski, but under Gigliello, the Barrons do not rebuild, they reload.

4. North Brunswick Raiders 12-12, 8-11 GMC, 6-6 White

The Raider Birds return a trio of top scorers in Batra, Claggett, and Salisbury, but could possibly lack depth this year after graduating six seniors and fielding a poor JV team last season. Longtime head coach and noted crazy man Ed Breheney is entering year 29 at the helm, and though he may not find Dion Rogers or Iverson Fleming on his side, this is a team that can compete for his 5th division title. It was very close between numbers 4, 3, and 2 in this ranking. Considering that North Brunswick beat East Brunswick last year, and is returning a good chunk of its core, I certainly considered moving the Raider Birds higher. But there was something keeping me from moving this next team down.

3. St. Joseph Falcons 26-2, 17-1 GMC, 13-1 Red

The word of the day for this ranking is trust. I trust that there is enough talent from the Falcons’ 20-4 JV team last year which only lost two conference games, both to Piscataway, to keep them afloat in this transition year. We have seen flashes of Howard McBurnie’s talent on the varsity level, as well as the slender Dan Young, but make no mistake, this season rests entirely on the shoulders of Tyree Ford. If he can have a Letrell West type MVP season, we will likely be seeing the Falcons back in the championship game for the 11th consecutive year. Had Richard Greaves and Zach Martini stayed, this would be a slam dunk #1 team. On paper, a team returning one varsity player should not be considered for a #1 ranking. But this is still Joes, and even with the lack of experience I still wrestled with them as compared to my #2 team. St. Joes always has height, and this year is no exception. But what our #2 team has is experience, a steady hand, and a potential breakout season from a key player.

2. East Brunswick Bears 14-13, 11-11 GMC, 7-7 Red

Of all of my rankings, this is the one that I am worried about the most. It is not as if they have everyone back, for valuable pieces Ezra Levitt, Gil Wyman, Tom Connolly, and of course, Dante Ralph, are all gone. The departure of Ralph could potentially benefit the Bears by opening up the floor for them to work with. Key pieces are back for the Bears, as Jesse Perel, Mitchell Pingoy, Ryan Crocco, and Brandon Rosenthal among others, will have to play as a team the way they did down the stretch when they stunned South Brunswick in the state tournament. The addition of Travis Cumber from Notre Dame who I have heard many good things about is also a major plus. But this season comes down to one player, and that is Joe Sampson. Sampson is always fun to watch, but is incredibly frustrating at the same time. While showing flashes of his immense skill, he was at the same time inconsistent. If the Bears are going to have any success at all this year, Sampson must play to his full potential, and step up to the plate when he is needed. Tomorrow, when the Bears face St. Joes in their season opener in front of the Bear Den, all eyes will be on him. I believe he is ready, and if he and his fellow Bears can play together in front of their home crowd, then their biggest win in five years may be at hand.

1. Piscataway Chiefs 16-10, 11-8 GMC, 8-6 Red

The perfect blend of youth and experience, Darius Griffin Sr’s side returns key cogs Mattias Arrindell, Jordan Davidson, and Keshawn Grant, along with a county championship winning JV and freshman side. Of course, the departure of All Red Division performer D’Ondre Dent hurts, among others. The Chiefs did lose nine lettermen from last year, and it will be interesting to see how this core group gels together. But make no mistake, this team is primed to win, and with the experience combined with their highly touted youth, on paper, this is the team to beat in the GMC.

Next Four (alphabetical order): Monroe, Old Bridge, Sayreville, South River

South Brunswick vs Old Bridge 5:30 PM
Bishop Ahr vs South River 5:30
Timothy Christian vs PWay Tech 5:30
Highland Park vs EB Tech 5:30
New Brunswick vs J.F. Kennedy 6:00
South Plainfield vs Middlesex 6:00
J.P. Stevens vs Monroe 7:00
Piscataway vs Perth Amboy 7:00
North Brunswick vs Sayreville 7:00
Edison vs Woodbridge 7:00
Scotch Plains vs Colonia 7:00
Carteret vs Spotswood 7:00
Wardlaw Hartridge vs Dunellen 7:00
PA Tech vs South Amboy 7:00

And of course, St. Joseph vs East Brunswick at 7:00, the GMC Hoops Game of the Week! Make sure to tune in!

Enjoy the season everyone! And make sure to visit Civile Cucina Italiana at 154 Main Street in Metuchen, one of the finest restaurants anywhere in New Jersey. Especially for family style Sundays at just $25 per person. Visit their website here. Civile Cucina is the proud sponsor of GMC basketball. Civile Cucina Italiana: Where every night’s a feast!