2016 GMC Hoops Awards–Freshman of the Year

Derrick Whitaker Shoulders the Load for South River

South River’s Derrick Whitaker puts up a jumper in the second half against Wardlaw in a game won by the Rams on January 7th. Whitaker was selected as the 2016 GMC Hoops Freshman of the Year.

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–Prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, I had been contacted by South River’s head coach, Rodney Harris in regards to his team. There weren’t high expectations in Ram’s Country coming into the season. The Rams were producing a young squad on the boys hardwood just like they had done during football season. There was promising talent that generated a lot of talk during the off-season though.

GMC Hoops didn’t cover South River at the Raritan Bay Summer League in South Amboy, where they drew some praise from some of the coaches as well as the people running the league there. However, it did manage to see the Rams in action a couple of times at the Monroe Sports Center Fall League. Both times, South River lost including a heartbreaking defeat to Freehold over establishing a large lead in the first half. There were some bright spots though, and one of them was the play of a freshman phenom named Derrick Whitaker.

Whitaker was the crown jewel of a very talented freshman class at South River. The JV squad consisted of all freshmen at SRHS. Three players including Whitaker made up the starting five on the varsity. The other two freshmen starting for Coach Harris this season were Mike DeSantis and Zac Rafano, and both made their fair share of contributions during the course of this special season that saw the Rams move into the GMC Hoops Top Ten for the first time since at least 2005, defy pre-season expectations by finishing tied for third in the GMC Gold, and reach the semifinals of the CJ Group 1 State Playoffs for the second time in three years.

It was Whitaker though that consistently put up big numbers during the course of the 2015-16 campaign, and earn the GMC Hoops Freshman Player of the Year. According to NJ.com, he played in all 29 games for the 18-11 Rams, made 104 field goals, 56 three pointers, and 116 free throws. Whitaker averaged 17.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 1.9 assists for the Rams, which won 11 of 12 games after losing their season opener to South Amboy by three points. After a tough several weeks, where the Rams lost 5 of 8 games, and lost a key player, who quit the team, South River rebounded by winning a GMCT Play-In Round game, and then winning their first and quarterfinal round games of the Central Jersey Group 1 State Tournament before losing to eventual champion, Florence.

In the 29 games that Whitaker played this season, he scored in double figures 25 times, and scored 20 points or more nine times. He scored his season high of 30 points twice this season: On December 30, 2015 against Henry Hudson in the Championship Game of the Keansburg Tournament, and against Academy Charter in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group 1 State Tournament. In the state playoffs, Whitaker averaged 24 points per game including 30 versus Academy Charter, and 26 against Henry Hudson. Both games were won by the Rams. South River will be moving up to the GMC Blue for next season. So, even more will be expected of Whitaker as his talented freshmen co-horts.

2016 GMC Hoops All Freshmen Team

First Team

  • Derrick Whitaker–South River*
  • Khalif Battle–St. Joseph’s
  • Mike Kides–Monroe
  • Mike DeSantis–South River
  • Ryan Patela–Wardlaw
  • Ethan Leibovits–Metuchen
  • Zac Rafano–South River

*GMC Hoops Freshman of the Year

Second Team

  • Bendiji Pierre–J.F. Kennedy
  • Dondre Tate–South Plainfield
  • Silvio Cruz–South River
  • Will Hronich–Metuchen
  • Angel Suarez–Dunellen
  • Sergio Rodriguez–Piscataway Tech

2016 GMC Hoops All 9th Grade Team (Played Freshmen Hoops)

First Team

  • Matt Crowley–St. Joseph’s-Green
  • Jack Hogarty–St. Joseph’s-Green
  • Christian Wantong–Edison
  • Kamille Pryor–Edison
  • Tyree Barba-Bey–Piscataway
  • Julius Beltan–Old Bridge
  • Sal Salsa–East Brunswick

  • Chris Carrera–St. Joseph’s-Green
  • Jalen Murray–St. Joseph’s-Green
  • Jaymin Vakharia–Edison
  • Christian Biolsi–Edison
  • Samuel Ezeonu–Piscataway
  • Christian Kuan–East Brunswick
  • Tim Gudzak–East Brunswick
  • Orion Gilliam–North Brunswick