Kennedy Basketball Makes a Comeback

Coach+DeVoogd+poses+with+Vishal+Patel%2C+Nadir+Cassiem%2C+Papa+Asmah%2C+and+Ayman+Pitts+as+they+hold+their+awards

Coach Rella

Coach DeVoogd poses with Vishal Patel, Nadir Cassiem, Papa Asmah, and Ayman Pitts as they hold their awards

Auslin Mills, Pharrell Mensah, Nadir Cassiem, and Jodi Owusu

The 2019-20 boys’ basketball team at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School has taken large strides to improve its record from the previous years.

Unfortunate Past

It was only two seasons ago that the Kennedy Basketball Program suffered through one of the worst seasons in its history. In the 2017-18 basketball season, the boys’ basketball team was unable to record a single win. No player was able to score over 200 points in this season, and the team was quickly eliminated in the play-in round of the GMC Tournament. This subpar season may have been a result of the fact that the program moved up from the blue division to the white division the GMC.

2018-2019

After such an abysmal season, the team tried to recuperate in the 2018-19 basketball season. While the team was able to pull off key victories, such as an upset victory against New Brunswick at the buzzer, the team was only able to record 4 wins and lost in the preliminary round of the GMC tournament.

New Addition – Ayman Pitts

Ahead of the season, Kennedy received Ayman Pitts, a transfer from St. Joes who seemed to be a promising addition to the rebuilding squad. However, due to a conflict with an NJSIAA school transfer policy, Pitts’ chances of playing for the Mustangs were essentially nonexistent. Determined to play for the team, Pitts appealed the decision to the NJSIAA Board, and after careful deliberation, they allowed Pitts to play. Joined with returning players from the previous season, Pitts seemed to be the missing link that the team needed for a successful season.

Setting a Standard

The team included six returning varsity players and four new additions. Although they had a slow start, losing their first three games, the Mustangs rebounded quickly as they started to figure out what they needed to do to win games. The team improved upon aspects such as rebounding and limiting turnovers to close out games. They recorded notable wins such as a victory over crosstown rival, Woodbridge, and a game-winning three against Sayreville. On senior night, the team had a 78-61 win over New Providence. Pitts recorded a 28-point game which included a dunk, something Kennedy had not seen since the 2016-17 season.

By the end of the season, the team had three players with over 200 points. Nadir Cassiem with 235, Vishal Patel with 283, and Ayman Pitts with 410. Pitts was also GMC Player of the Week twice and was nominated for best junior guard in the state. The squad ended with a 10-12 record, a major improvement from the past two seasons.

Hope for the Future

Although they had a successful season, there is still room for improvement. As seniors, Asif, Asmah, Cassiem, and Yu, take their exit; the younger players will have to fill in the void.
Head Coach Sebastian DeVoogd describes his one regret for this season as not making the state tournament by one game. DeVoogd states, “Definitely next year, I hope to make the state tournament.” The team will be looking to have a breakout season behind the efforts of strong underclassmen players. Don’t be surprised if you see the Mustangs make a strong run in the county and state tournaments next season!