The 2023-24 boys basketball season is right around the corner with first practices beginning on November 27. Last season, the Greater Middlesex Conference was truly competitive, with its top four teams each having a chance to rise to the top. This was no match for the St. Thomas Aquinas Trojans as they finished their last season undefeated in the conference and look to keep that script alive going into this year.
St. Thomas Aquinas proved to be the top team in the GMC as they finished their season 25-4 and 10-0 in the conference. They graduated two very influential players in forward Jalen Pichardo, who finished with 264 points and guard Terrell Pitts, who finished his season with 355 points. They have also lost two dominant players, who have transferred for their final high school seasons. Michael Jones, who finished his last season with 480 points, will play his final high school season at College Achieve Charter. The La Salle commit will be greatly missed by the Trojans. Jaden Kelly, who scored 320 points last season will finish his high school career at Roselle Catholic.
The Trojans will rely on transfers this season as brothers Albion and Rion Ahmetaj from Spotswood provide versatility on the wing. Guards Kedar Scott and Aiden Ur will help with the ball-handling, while forward Rinelson Dilone will give the Trojans an interior presence.
The Trojans have won the Greater Middlesex Conference finals three out of five seasons, proving they are one of the best in the league year after year. They have a lineup consisting of returning players and with the help of potential new talent, they should be able to repeat last years successes.
St. Thomas Aquinas took home the GMC tournament title in 2023 by beating St. Joseph (Met.) in the semifinals and South Brunswick in the finals, 53-50. The Trojans will look to replicate their impressive last season and continue to be the top program in the conference.
That does not discredit the other contenders in the GMC, as the other teams will be looking to take down the Trojans this season.
Colonia was a tough team to beat last year and ended its season 22-9 and 11-3 in the GMC. The Patriots took home the North 2, Group 3 sectional title in 2022-23. Senior forward Noah Taylor was a key player for the Patriots, tallying 406 points. Senior guard Jaeden Jones, who recorded 382 points last season will be the glue for his team this year. Sophomore guard Aiden Derkack, who had an impressive freshman campaign, scoring 320 points, will also have an important role this season.
South Brunswick (20-7, 9-4) and St. Joseph (Met.) (18-11, 7-3) have also graduated big point scorers in Kalani Antoine for South Brunswick, who recorded 520 points last year, and Josh Ingram for St. Joseph, who tallied an outstanding 625 points. The Vikings also have returning senior forward Daniel Swirad, who recorded 256 points and 156 rebounds last season and will be a key player for South Brunswick this year.
Don’t Discredit the Underdogs
Old Bridge (13-13, 5-6), East Brunswick (11-16, 3-11), J.P. Stevens (13-14, 3-11), Piscataway (11-16, 6-6) and Monroe (5-18, 2-12) will all look to build back and create some momentum for a hopefully successful season this year. The bottom five teams did not have outstanding seasons last year but all have potential for winning seasons with the help of their returning players and incoming talent.
Mark your calendars for December 14, when these teams will be back in action for opening day.