Zebras Striving to Build on Last Year’s GMCT Run

Brown-Miller, Moore, and Harmon to Lead New Brunswick Squad Looking to Reach First GMCT Final in 34 Years

New Brunswick’s Ahyan Brown-Miller, shown here following through on a jumper against Piscataway in the 2019 GMCT Semifinals, returns with his 1,167 points to be the leading active scorer in the GMC, and to lead 3rd ranked New Brunswick on a possible run to its first GMCT Final since 1986.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—In all the illustrious history of New Brunswick boys basketball, there has been one thing that has always eluded the Zebras, and that was a county or conference championship. Since the inception of the Middlesex County Tournament in 1965, the Zebras have been in four championship games (1970, 1971, 1985, and 1986), and came away empty.

Great players such as Gary Brokaw, Derek Andrews, Eric Young, Lunearl Summers, Dave Ricketts, Lorenzo Williams, Dishone Taylor, Sharif Reid, Jamaal James, Ishmael Burgess, Allen Byrom, Marvin Taylor, Dwayne Jarrett, Eric Bynes, Jamaal Jenkins, Willie Stewart, Kolby Stephens, Karim Byrom, Nate Harris, and Josh Jones as well as legendary coaches Bob Bornstein and Odie Page were never crowned champions.

Looking to Overcome Past History of Heartache

Along the way, especially in the era of the GMC Tournament, which began in the 1985-86 season, there have been times of great heartache and disappointment in The Hub City when it comes to their boys basketball teams. Not only has New Brunswick been unable to return to the GMCT Final since 1986, but also fell short in Final Four games in 1994, 2002, and 2003. The 2003 GMCT Semifinal could perhaps be the most painful of those shortcomings.

After losing to eventual champion Carteret in the 2002 GMCT Semifinals, the Zebras returned a formidable squad again in 2003. New Brunswick, led by Jarrett and Marvin Taylor, still managed to reach the Final Four at East Brunswick despite losing the GMC Blue title to a Cardinal McCarrick team led by Mika Wilson and Billy Wagner. Versus 3rd seeded St. Joseph’s, the Zebras built up a 13 point lead with under five minutes to play in the 4th quarter.

However, New Brunswick couldn’t put St. Joseph’s away by going 12 of 29 from the foul line including numerous front end of one and ones down the stretch. The Falcons, led by Tom Scott and Jonathan Dixon, who knocked down a series of threes, rallied and following a timeout called by the Zebras with 10 seconds left when Joes was out of timeout, Josh Batts put in a layup as time ran out to lift St. Joseph’s into the final.

Samir Sanu Brings A New Era in New Brunswick Begins

Three years ago in 2016, Samir Sanu, a standout player himself at Sayreville during those two GMCT Semifinal appearances by New Brunswick in 2002 and 2003, took over the program at NBHS after it had fallen on hard times with an 8-81 record including a 5-51 mark in divisional over the previous four seasons. In short order, Samu, turned things around with a group of talented and determined youngsters.

Nicknamed the 2020s by Harris, who is now the head football coach at NBHS, players such as Ahyan Brown-Miller, Tahjay Moore, and Ny’dir Harmon, a turnaround has occurred in Zebra Country. Under Sanu, and led by the trio of Brown-Miller, Moore, and Harmon, New Brunswick went from 7-16 (2-10) in division) in 2016-17 to 8-14 (4-8 in division), to 17-8 overall including an 8-4 mark in divisional play last season.

There were some bumps along the way including a stunning loss to J.F. Kennedy (71-68) on a buzzer beating three pointer from Nadir Cassiem on January 17th and another upset road loss at Edison (40-39) a week later on January 24th. Seeded 9th in the 2019 GMCT, New Brunswick battled back from a 5 point deficit with under 20 seconds to go in regulation to force overtime and eventually outlast Metuchen (61-53).

Several days later in the GMCT Round of 16, the Zebras trailed by 8 points entering the fourth quarter to a very talented Dunellen team led by Tyje’ Kelton and Drew Johnson, who have tallied a total of over 2,200 points for the Destroyers. Then, in the final period, New Brunswick rallied behind the tough defense of big man Moore, and outscored Dunellen 25-11 to post a 60-54 victory and advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2012.

New Brunswick then rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to stun top seeded Old Bridge in one of the most controversial finishes to a MCT/GMCT game in the 55 year history of the event. The Zebras ultimately fell short to Piscataway in the semifinals, but the seeds were now planted for a big season in 2019-20. During the off-season, the Zebras have also added several new faces to its talented roster to provide additional perimeter shooting.

A Team Primed to Contend for a GMCT Title

In addition to the likes of 1,100 point scorer Brown-Miller, the godson of Shaheid Williams, a 1,000 point scorer himself at North Brunswick, Moore, Harmon, and GMC Hoops Freshman of the Year, Josiah Brown, New Brunswick has added the likes of transfers Jayvon Taylor (South River), Will Britton and Taaje Welcome from North Brunswick. Taylor and Britton, who engaged each other in a shootout at North Brunswick on January 28th last season, which the South River Rams won 80-68, both bring additional help, especially from the perimeter.

Dueling it out a year ago, in a game that had a total of 21 three pointers, Taylor had a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds while Britton led all scorers with a game high 34 points in that game including five threes. Over the summer, New Brunswick competed in the East Brunswick Team Camp, Montgomery Team Camp, and the Odie Page Summer League while a few players like Moore teamed up with the likes of former Carteret standout Malik Austin and Newark Eastside standout and Monmouth commit, Mikah Johnson Jr. on the NJ Bulldogs AAU.

In the Odie Page Summer League, New Brunswick competed versus the likes of Monroe, South Brunswick, Piscataway, and East Brunswick as well as the NJ Bulldogs and won the title by defeating the Bulldogs in the Championship without having Brown-Miller in the line-up for much of the summer. The Zebras will be tested quickly with games against at Trenton on December 23rd and holiday tournament contests versus East Brunswick and 4th ranked South Brunswick in the 2019 Brunswick Classic on December 27th and 28th at NBHS. The Zebras will also play Toms River East in the NJ Panthers HS Showcase on January 12th, Elizabeth at the Dunn Center on January 18th, and versus Piscataway in the MLK Roundball Classic on January 20th.

Led by head coach, Samir Sanu, and seniors Ahyan Brown-Miller, Tahjay Moore, Ny’dir Harmon, Will Britton, Jayvon Taylor, and Taaje Welcome, the New Brunswick Zebras enter the 2019-20 season ranked 3rd in the GMC Hoops Pre-Season Top 10, and will be looking to contend for that elusive GMCT Championship, and a Central Jersey Group 4 crown. The Zebras still have to overcome the likes of top ranked St. Thomas Aquinas and 2nd ranked St. Joseph’s, but having NBHS as the site of the semifinals, they enjoy a key advantage.