The GSB Boys’ Basketball team enters the season ready to put the state on notice.
The Knights, who finished last season 20-7 on their way to a Somerset County championship and #3 ranking in the NJ.com final standings, plan to use a deep rotation and balanced philosophy to defend their title while taking on New Jersey’s top programs.
“I’m really excited about the team overall,” said Head Coach Mergin Sina, who enters his 19th season leading the program.
“We have a great blend of senior leaders and a talented group of young players. It’s going to have a major impact on what we do this year.”
The 2022-23 Knights are led by senior captains Luke Ruggiero and Nick Losada. As key role players in previous years, Coach Sina believes both guards have the attributes to make a big jump this season while mentoring underclassmen.
“Nick and Luke have been a large part of our success the past few years, whether that’s contributing in the game or in practice. They both have tremendous leadership qualities and will help this team find ways to win.”
Other seasoned players who will influence the team’s success include seniors Matt Lardieri, Andy Hearn, and Ebrahim Kaba. Lardieri and Hearn have been a part of the program for the past three years and will see an expanded role this year in part to their work ethic and basketball acumen. Kaba, who joins the Knights this season for his senior year, will sit out the first 30 days due to NJSIAA transfer rules but will play an enormous role down the stretch, especially with his shooting and playmaking ability.
“He’s a really talented kid,” said Coach Sina. “He’s a Division I player, and I can’t wait to plug him in when the time comes.”
After graduating seniors Denver Anglin (Georgetown University) and Drew Kania (Brown University) and having several talented players depart the program, Coach Sina welcomes a handful of new faces to the roster, including two players joining the team from the European ranks: point guard Jon Ismajli ’25 from Kosovo and guard Mario Castro Sanchez ’23 from Spain.
“Over the years we’ve had a positive experience of attracting international students who are a good fit academically,” said Coach Sina.
“Jon and Mario both have great course sense and a very high basketball IQ. They’re also very humble — I don’t think they truly know how good they are, but the state is about to find out.”
Coach Sina is equally excited about a core group of young players who he expects will compete for quality minutes throughout the season, including sophomores Kobe Closeil and Kevin Pikiell, as well as freshmen incomers Dorsett Mulcahy and Logan Franz.
“This team has a lot of depth. Last year we were rotating 7-8 players, and in certain situations, fatigue was an issue. This year we can go 10-11 players deep who can step out on the court. By the time we get to February and tournament time, I think that depth and player development is really going to help us.”
The Knights will once again play a highly competitive schedule, facing off against the top programs in the state, as well as a showdown against nationally ranked Lake Academy from Missouri in the Metro Classic at Kean University in February.
“These kids are motivated and ready to show those outside this building who they are,” said Sina. “People are going to quickly figure out that we’re pretty good.”
Sina is joined by Assistant Mike Lombardi, who joins the team for his first year with the program.