It’s rare for a sophomore to be named a Player of the Year in high school basketball, and that’s just what Mikayla Blakes of Rutgers Prep did last year. Which, of course, begs the question, “What do you do for an encore?”
Answer: You do it again.
Blakes – now a junior – had another fantastic season for Rutgers Prep, the clear leader of the ballclub. As she went, Prep went. And they “went” to the tune of a 25-5 record, third straight Somerset County Tournament title, second straight Non-Public South B sectional title, and a clean sweep of the Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten’s No. 1 ranking all year, making it 28 straight weeks over three seasons.
Individually, Blakes scored 660 points on the season, by far and away not only the team’s leader, averaging 22 per game, but also the top-scorer in the CJSR area. She also led the Lady Argonauts in threes (75), free throws made (131, shooting a cool 85-percent from the line), assists (99) and steals (97).
Not only did she score in double figures every game – now on a 34-game streak including her last four postseason games last year – but she scored 20 or more in 21 out of 30 games this season, and topped 30 three times, with a career-high 35 at against Gill St. Bernard’s on January fifth.
But many seem to gloss over Blakes’ defensive prowess. She always seems to be in a passing lane, or forcing a bad pass into the hands of one of her teammates. That’s what makes her an all-around player, and the 2023 Central Jersey Sports Radio Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year.
We also have some honorable mentions. Scroll down to read more.
Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Dom Savino talk with our Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, Rutgers Prep junior guard Mikayla Blakes:
Jessica Cooper, St. Thomas Aquinas: You could pick from a lot of great players on the Trojans – including Leah Crosby, who’s won GMCT MVP two years running as a sophomore – but the senior forward gets the nod here. She not only led the team in scoring this year at 12.6 points per game, and rebounding at ten per game, but was a model of consistency, nearly a double-double every night out. In fact, she had 18 in 29 games this season, and a stretch of nine that spanned from mid-January into early February. Cooper will be attending Albany next year on scholarship.
Neysa Aguilar, Middlesex: All due respect to the rest of her Blue Jay teammates, Middlesex doesn’t reach the Central Jersey Group 1 title game without Aguilar. The senior brought it every night, scoring 577 points on the year – an average of 19.9 a game – both good for second best in the GMC. She was also their top rebounder at 7.3 a game while racking up 95 steals, impressive enough except that sophomore Jessica Devine – who’ll take the wheel next year – had a whopping 172.
Taylor Derkack, Colonia: The Patriots didn’t have the team year they wanted in 2022-23, after a program year a season ago, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort by the junior who wears No. 4 on her back, but finished No. 1 in Middlesex County in scoring, with 603 points, an average of 21.5 per game. She blew past the 1,000-point mark this year, and should pass graduating dynamic duo teammate Matti Chiera’s all-time school mark of 1,514 next year. She’s just 179 points behind, and 665 away from 2,000. After scoring 603 this year, that could be within reach.
Casey Miller, Bound Brook: Miller capped a great career with the Crusaders with a 520-point season, to put here in the 1,000-point club, finishing her four-year varsity career with 1,126 points. Even as the Crusaders slumped to an 11-14 campaign, she was out there night after night putting up big numbers, trying to will her team to a win. She averaged 20.8 points a game – second only to Prep’s Blakes – scoring in double figures in all but two games, but topping 30 four times, scoring a career-high 34 in a late January road win against a ranked North Plainfield club.