‘Embracing the Pressure’: junior Jaden Carter looks to take Raiders and game to the next level


Matthew Levine

Senior Hayden Widder waits for the ball in the corner. Widder is a three-sport varsity athlete at SPFHS.

Matthew Levine, Sports Editor

Raiders boys basketball will look different this year: a shortened season during a pandemic, a guard-heavy squad, new faces at many positions and of course, all eyes on junior guard Jaden Carter. 

“I’m embracing it [the pressure],” Carter said. “I feel like I need to prove to college coaches I’m able to play at their programs and prove to the state that I’m not someone to be slept upon, just to prove everybody wrong.” 

Carter was one of the few bright spots on a team that struggled mightily (the Raiders were 5-20 in 2020) as Carter averaged 9.1 points per game. His outside shooting and playmaking ability will be integral to the Raiders’ offensive success. 

“I’m stepping into a leadership role and I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on me but I have to just come and show out,” Carter said.  “My teammates do depend on me in practice and they are looking for me to show up in games.” 

Early returns from practices and one scrimmage signal to Carter that the 5-20 Raiders of last year are not here to stay. He has seen improved body language and energy during practices. 

“I think it’s just more about everybody being more positive, more outgoing and more energetic,” Carter said. “Practice to me feels like it has more energy. We’re all getting happy and hyped for one another.  I feel like it’s a different, more positive environment than last year. I think everybody is buying into the program and sees that we have some talent.” 

The starting five in the Raiders’ first scrimmage on Jan. 21 featured a three-guard backcourt with Carter, senior Hayden Widder and sophomore Matt Nervi along with bigs in seniors Christian Piesch and Liam Mahr. Because the Raiders are extremely guard-heavy, they have the ability to be more aggressive in applying a full-court press after scoring. 

“We’re looking to press and trap a lot, pick up full court,” Carter said. “Basically no plays off, we score a basket we’re up and we’re trapping and we’re in our man trying to cause a turnover. So it’s a huge change from last year we just have to get adjusted to.”

Due to the graduation of star forward Justin Guy, Piesch is expected to step into the starting lineup after contributing greatly off the bench last year. 

“Christian Piesch is our forward this year who we believe can fit in nicely as Justin Guy’s replacement,” coach Steve Siracusa said. “We are excited to see Christian’s hard work this offseason and preseason payoff for himself and our team this season.” 

After many important role players for the Raiders graduated last year, they are looking for Nervi and juniors Damon Schuman, Russ StaRosa and Max Sponheimer to step up. 

“We have big expectations for Matt, Russ, Damon, and Max Sponheimer this year and moving forward,” Siracusa said. “They each work extremely hard, have positive attitudes and bring a lot of energy to the team. We hope these attributes continue throughout the season and elevate our team’s performance.”

Despite only a 15 game season and a raging pandemic, Siracusa and the Raiders have viewed this as an opportunity to grow and treat each game like it could be their last. 

“It is a great life lesson that we keep telling the players; whether it is sports or in life – make the most of each day and don’t take anything for granted,” Siracusa said. 

The pandemic has caused many student athletes to opt for all virtual learning, and it’s safe to say a part of the 41% that is all-virtual are members of the boys basketball team. 

“I was initially going to go into school but then if someone in my class were to get it, I’d have to quarantine and the whole team would have to [as well] so I chose to stay home,” Carter said. “We mostly stay home or just hang out with each other in small groups. So I think we’ve all been doing a good job staying safe and hopefully it stays that way.” 

The Raiders begin their season on the road on Tuesday, Jan. 26 against Linden, and then have their home opener on Thursday, Jan 28 against Rahway. All home games will be live-streamed on the Raider News YouTube page.