Vikings Have Good Nucleus Back from a Year Ago
South Brunswick’s Devin Strickland shown here shooting a jumper versus Rahway in the Linden Summer League on October 29th leads a talented and experienced nucleus back for the 4th ranked Vikings.
MONMOUTH JUNCTION, NJ—Two years ago, the South Brunswick Vikings endure some growing pains. Gone were the likes of Eric Savage (1,000 point scorer at Tufts University), who graduated in 2016, and 1,000 point scorer, Mike Ugarte, Chris James, Tavian Alford (Mercer County College), Ryan Moran, Vic Huetz, Greg Lee, and Anthony Blakey that led SBHS to the 2016 GMCT Championship, and 2017 GMCT Final Four.
The 2017-18 Vikes went winless during the regular season with a group of sophomores led by Devin Strickland, the younger brother of former South Brunswick football standout, Dontae Strickland (Arizona Cardinals, Syracuse), and baseball standout, Danny Strickland. In addition, SBHS also had another solid guard in Ahkil Edekar, who made the GMC Hoops All Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen Tourney team the year before.
Then, there were the likes of C.J. Mangrum, Ty Murchison, and Justin Carbone. South Brunswick made a big stride toward the improvement of a year ago by defeating Dunellen in the 2018 GMCT Play-In round. After some ups and downs to start the season including losses to North Brunswick and New Brunswick to start the 2018-19 campaign, the Vikings, coached by Joe Hoehman, who is now in his 13th season, began to demonstrate the potential it has coming into this season.
From January 5th to January 25th of 2019, the Vikes won 8 of 10 games after starting the season with six straight losses. Among those wins were a 47-44 upset over defending GMCT champ, St. Joe’s that put the Falcons at 5-6 on the season, and a 53-43 win over Monroe. However, South Brunswick would play Monroe two more times, and lose both. First in the GMCT Round of 16 (57-52) and then in the Central Jersey Group 4 opening round (57-53).
This year, South Brunswick has all of these players back: Strickland, Edekar, Mangrum, Murchison, and Carbone. In addition, there are some good newcomers coming up including junior sharpshooter Andrew Tesser, and sophomores Yathin Vermula, Damien Downs, and Shyheim Davis. So, not only do they have a good blend of youth and experience, but also a good deal of depth to work with. This team has endured growing pains and figured out how to win games over the past two seasons, which makes them ready for the next step.
Over the summer, South Brunswick participated in the East Brunswick Team Camp, Odie Page Summer League, Mercer County Summer League, and Summer Primetime Shootout. Then, in the fall, the Vikings played in the Linden Fall League along with GMC schools Old Bridge and Wardlaw. The Vikes reached the Championship Game of the Mercer County Summer League. In the fall, the team rebounded from an 81-62 loss at the hands of Union with victories over Bayonne (68-64) and Rahway (77-65) at Linden.
South Brunswick, which enters the 2019-20 season ranked 4th in the GMC Hoops Pre-Season Top Ten will be tested right away with an opening round match-up at 5th ranked Old Bridge, and again over the holidays in the Brunswick Classic versus 3rd ranked New Brunswick. The Vikings also have two games with 6th ranked Monroe, 7th ranked Piscataway, and 2nd ranked St. Joseph’s as part of the usual rugged GMC Red schedule. Add to that a matchup versus Lawrence of Mercer County and the Colonial Valley Conference, and you have plenty of chances for the Vikes to prove themselves worthy of their ranking.
There is also a promising future ahead for SBHS with the likes of Damien Downes, the son of former Viking all time leading scorer, and Rutgers standout, Donnell Lumpkin (1,738 points), and Jacob Brokaw, the son of Glenn Brokaw and nephew of New Brunswick’s legendary all time leading scorer Gary Brokaw, who went on to play for Digger Phelps at Notre Dame (on team that beat UCLA’s Walton Gang to end famous 88 game winning streak) and then in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Buffalo Braves. Brokaw then coached at Iona from 1986 to 1991. A year ago, Jake Brokaw led a very solid Crossroads Middle School squad that also included Danny Bellavia, who is now at St. Joseph’s.
With all the talent, experience, and youth, the South Brunswick Vikings have a top five squad to contend for a GMCT Boys Basketball championship it has yet to win despite two finals appearances in 1993 and 2016 as well as seven GMCT Final Four appearances in 1989, 1996, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2016, and 2017. The Vikes along with New Brunswick appear to be the top two public schools in the GMC and in Central Jersey Group 4 although there are always several Shore Conference Schools that will have their say about that come March.