Ramblers Boys and Girls Basketball Seasons Scrapped due to COVID-19
CARTERET, NJ—As first reported by Mike Pavlichko of Central Jersey Sports Radio and later by Greg Tufaro of MyCentralJersey.com, the Carteret school district made the heartbreaking decision to postpone several winter sports seasons including boys and girls basketball earlier this month just days before the first practices were about to take place.
Carteret, which was one of two Middlesex County schools not to play football in the fall due to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, originally had planned to play winter sports back in November when the GMC announced that all of its member schools were on board to play when Season 2 got underway. Unfortunately, rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the community including a number of staff reported cases.
School Board President Martin Murray and Superintendent Rosa Diaz made the decision on January 6th and later announced the remote classes would continue until March 1st. As of Thursday (January 21st), Carteret has had a total of 2,261 Coronavirus cases with 40 deaths. According to population data from 2019 provided by the U.S. Census, Carteret, located in the northeastern portion of Middlesex County, had a total of nearly 23,000 residents within a total land area of 4.42 square miles.
Rambler Country, which is traditionally one of the dominant programs in both football and basketball in Middlesex County, has had nearly 10 percent of its total population affected by COVID. Compared to similarly populated communities of South Plainfield and Plainsboro, Carteret has been affected much more with over twice as many cases per square mile than South Plainfield, and almost 7.5 times more than Plainsboro.
Carteret is one of the poorest communities in Middlesex County with a per capita income of $28,285 as supposed to the Middlesex County average of $39,599. A little over 13 percent of its residents live in poverty, which is higher than the county and state averages. Currently, the total number of cases of COVID-19 in Middlesex County stands at just over 57,000 with 1,600 deaths. The total number of cases in Middlesex County represents approximately a little more than 10 percent of all the cases in the Garden State (555,299) along with nearly 8 percent of all deaths.
Many of the Carteret’s residents are front line workers, and sports like basketball and football are not only a source of great pride, but have also provided a way out and a better life for the youth. From Joe “Ducky” Medwick and Ron Helley to the likes of Bob Molarz, Bob Turco, Keith Hughes, Dave Turco, John Dolan, Mike Medvetz, Lamont Repollet, and Corey Lowe in the 1970s and 1980s to the likes of Dennis Burney, Jose Rodriguez, Omar Alston, Robert Jackson, Brandon Gilder, Jaquan Robertson from the 1990s and 2000s to the likes of Isaiah Daniels-Porter, Jahlil Nix, Timmy Ellis, Cam McCargo, and Starrell Hearns over the past few years, Carteret has had a number of great boys basketball players. Many have gone on to even greater success in life as a result.
Carteret boys basketball won the inaugural Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament by defeating New Brunswick (69-67) in 1986 behind the efforts of then Syracuse bound and later Rutgers men’s basketball standout, Keith Hughes, who remains the all time leading scorer at the school. The Ramblers would reach the GMCT Final again in 2000 before losing to Sayreville. After losing to St. Joseph’s in the 2001 GMCT Final Four, the Ramblers, coached by Dave Turco and led by Hofstra bound Omar Alston, defeated defending champion, Colonia in the 2002 boys final at South Brunswick High School.
Despite numerous trips to the GMCT Elite Eight from 2008 to 2017, Carteret would not reach the Final Four until 2018. With the likes of Nix, Ellis, Malik Austin (now at Colonia), and Zamar Brake, the Ramblers won the GMC Blue and defeated arch rival Perth Amboy in the Quarterfinals, before losing a heartbreaker to St. Joseph’s (62-60) on a buzzer beating jumper by Luke Fresco in the semis. Carteret would later advance to the CJ Group 2 Championship before losing at Rumson (57-52).
Carteret reached the GMCT and North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 quarterfinals again in 2019 and 2020 despite enduring losses to graduation and transfers. After being in the GMC Blue for 11 seasons, the Ramblers were slated to move up to the GMC White along with division rival, St. Thomas Aquinas. The Ramblers have appeared in four MCT/GMCT Finals (1977, 1986, 2000, and 2002) with titles in 1986 and 2002. Carteret has made a total of 7 MCT/GMCT Final Four appearances (1983, 1986, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2018) since 1981.
Since the inception of the Middlesex County Tournament in 1965, Carteret has had an overall record of 48-53 with the four finals appearances. The Ramblers rank in the Top 15 among GMC schools in terms of winning percentage in county/conference tourney play at .475.