2016 GMC Hoops Awards–Defensive Player of the Year

St. Joseph’s Vujadinovic Not Just a Perimeter Threat

St. Joseph’s Branislav Vujadinovic, known more for his prolific perimeter game, can also defend very well as seen here against Old Bridge’s C.J. Santoro on January 28th. Vujadinovic was selected the 2016 GMC Hoops Defensive Player of the Year.

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–A year ago, Branislav Vujadinovic arrived from Serbia and along with Bree Tyree helped guide St. Joseph’s to its second straight GMC Red title and its eighth straight GMCT final. His perimeter shooting and scoring ability was a welcome addition to a Falcons team in transition from an NJISAA T of C title in 2014. This year, St. Joe’s had several new additions including Tyus Battle and Alanzo Frink, so Vujadinovic’s role changed somewhat.

Adapting to his new situation, Vujadinovic focused more on his defense and his playmaking ability while still continuing to provide some pop from the perimeter. His length and his away from the ball defending made him a formidable defender that drew praise from many including fans of eventual Non-Public A State Champion, St. Augustine. His defense came up huge in a couple big games during the season for St. Joseph’s, and helped the Falcons win the GMC Red for the third straight year, and regain the GMCT crown.

Vujadinovic’s superb defensive play against some of the top GMC scorers, earned him the 2016 GMC Hoops Defensive Player of the Year. The Serbian Sharpshooter finished up with 554 points for his career at St. Joe’s. Offensively, Vujadinovic had fewer two point baskets and threes than a year ago, and averaged a bit more than half of what he scored a year ago. However, he had two more blocked shots with 18 this season, which is a testament to his length. In addition, he shut down opposing scorers, especially in key games.

First example was in a game against Old Bridge on January 28th at OBHS. While the Falcons struggled to stop the Knights top player in Connor Romano, who had 31 points, Vujadinovic made life difficult for OB’s second leading scorer, Stephen Strom, who was limited to 5 points, his third lowest point total of the 2015-16 season. Move ahead to about a month later when St. Joseph’s took on South Brunswick for the 2016 GMCT Boys Championship at Kean University. In that game, SB’s Eric Savage led the charge with 24 points as he scored from all angles, but Vujadinovic quietly held the Vikings second leading scorer, Mike Ugarte to just four points.

In the semifinals, Ugarte was huge in a come from behind 50-45 victory over East Brunswick with 17 points. Speaking of the Final Four, Vujadinovic was assigned the task of guarding Woodbridge’s junior standout, Quassim Glover, who averaged 10.5 points per game this season, and scored 16 in a GMCT Elite Eight victory over Sayreville. As St. Joseph’s rolled to an easy 66-33 victory over the Barrons, Vujadinovic limited Glover to just two points. On the defensive side of the basketball for the Falcons, Vujadinovic was complemented by junior guards, Xavier Townes and Letrell West, who were also selected to the GMC Hoops All Defensive Team.

2016 GMC Hoops All Defensive Team

First Team

  • Branislav Vujadinovic–St. Joseph’s*
  • Javon Scott–J.P. Stevens
  • Eric Savage–South Brunswick
  • Jaier Garrett–South Brunswick
  • Kush Patel–J.F. Kennedy

Second Team

  • Jay’von Blacknall–J.P. Stevens
  • Mike Lionikis–J.P. Stevens
  • Harry Rutkowski–Woodbridge
  • Mike Ugarte–South Brunswick
  • Sean Nally–South Brunswick

Third Team

  • Xavier Townes–St. Joseph’s
  • Letrell West–St. Joseph’s
  • Henderson Mautes–Sayreville
  • Kristian Chapman–Colonia
  • Tamaj Coleman–J.F. Kennedy