I t’s apparent that if South River High School’s boys’ basketball team is to win games this season, it will need to rely on the quick development of young, untested players.
Head coach Rodney Harris, entering his seventh season, lists no fewer than three freshmen — Derrick Whitaker, Zachary Rafano and Michael DeSantis — who could see significant playing time and may even crack the starting lineup.
The Rams split the first two games of the season, dropping a 72-69 decision to Greater Middlesex Conference Gold Division foe South Amboy High School Dec. 18 and bouncing back impressively with a 79-25 victory against Barack Obama Green Charter High School Dec. 21. The Rams visit Keansburg High School Dec. 29 in a nonconference contest and will not resume action until the new year.
“We’re looking for effort and intensity,” Harris said. “If we are to meet all our goals, it will begin with those two elements.”
The Rams won’t be totally dependent on their freshmen to achieve those goals. Senior guards Antonio Martinez and Mario Nigro saw significant playing time last season when each player averaged over eight points per game, and both are off to solid starts, posting double figures in the two games they have played.
The hope is the pair’s offensive production will partially offset the loss of graduated Sean Darrar, who averaged
25.1 points per game and was among the state’s leaders in 3-pointers with 99. Darrar, an all-around athlete who topped the 1,000-point mark for his career, is now at Albright College, where he plays football. The other key loss was Zachary Torres, who averaged nine assists a game.
Harris lists seven others who he believes can provide key contributions this season: seniors Bill Jorge, Angel Pasante and Riley Fernandes, juniors Mathew Pietrzyk and Silvio Cruz and sophomores R.J. Fisher and Jaryn Bullock.
South River, which finished 15-13 a year ago, hopes to contend for the Gold Division title. Harris expects that the team to beat is East Brunswick Vocational-Technical School.