The South Plainfield High School boys basketball team enjoyed a winning season in 2019-20, and hope to add on to that success this season despite COVID-19 still raging on.
Coach John Greco’s (fourth season) boys team finished with a 14-13 record for its first winning campaign since 2006-07, and the majority of the team is back in 2021.
“We are dealing with COVID as best we can, such as keeping the varsity separate from the JV/freshman, but honestly on the court it is the same and awesome to be out there,” Greco said. “Our guys are working real hard and we are happy to bring coach (Matt) Connell back into the fold as an assistant coach. He was the head coach here previously.”
Seniors Destiny Nwankwo, Moshood Adebule, Joshua Liberato, Joshua Bradley, Jayden Grimes, Troy O’Connor, and Mitch Dudak, and junior Joseph Oduro are among the key returners for the Tigers. Nwankwo, Adebule, and Liberato are being recruited by a bevvy of Division II/Division-III programs.
Nwankwo, Liberato, Adebule, and O’Connor started most of the games in 2019-20 and Bradley also started at times as South Plainfield is chock full of depth this year. Greco says that at least 12 players are capable, so the starting five could change on a nightly basis.
Anthony Nigro and Jalen Russell, two juniors who saw very brief action last winter, could make more of an impact this season in addition to sophomore Brandon Dean, and senior Ace Price.
The Tigers’ junior varsity team went 20-2 a year ago and many of those sophomores may come up and contribute as the schedule moves on.
Adebule led the team with 308 total points and 194 rebounds last year. The forward also tallied 41 steals and seven blocks. Liberato led the team with 71 assists and also recorded 12 blocks and 45 steals. Nwankwo made 16 3-pointers and had 65 made free throws, 233 points for second most on the team, 106 rebounds, 57 assists, and a team-high 49 steals. Bradley had 48 3-pointers, 119 total points, 50 boards, 20 assists and 34 steals.
Adebule notched seven double-doubles, including one against a superstar-filled St. Thomas Aquinas team and against Bordentown in the playoffs. Adebule was an All-Blue Division of the Greater Middlesex Conference last season. Greco was named Coach of the Year.
The depth and improvement of the players bodes well for South Plainfield as it looks to put solid back-to-back seasons together, and it all starts with its stingy defense and helping each other out on the court. And while no one player has a certain pop that goes for 20 points on any given night, multiple guys have the ability to step up and have career games.
South Plainfied’s first game right now is slated for Thursday, Jan. 28, at 5:30 p.m. on the road at J.P. Stevens. Dunellen won the GMC Gold Division, Metuchen returns the bulk of their roster, Middlesex always reloads, and Spotswood can put a ton of points up on the scoreboard per Greco.
There will be no GMCT due to the pandemic, and instead there will be a two-game pod after the 13 regular season games. No spectators are allowed at games per New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 196 in November limiting indoor gatherings.
“The players have worked hard and can't wait to get the chance to prove what they can do,” Greco said. “It has been a long offseason, but this is the group that can hopefully turn around South Plainfield basketball for a long time.”
The full ever-changing schedule can be found here.
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.