The Warriors are back.

After a long 10 months, the Franklin High School boys basketball team is preparing for an abbreviated 2021 season that tips-off at the end of the month.

Coach Tony Mento is back for his third season and so are a number of players including four of the starting five. Franklin went 14-14 last season making the second round of the Somerset County Tournament and the quarterfinals of the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournament. Neither will take place this year due to keeping competition even more local due to COVID-19.

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There are many new protocols and rules to keep everybody safe such as wearing a mask on the bench and social distancing, and everybody understands them.

"It was a bit of an adjustment in the beginning. We've had to maneuver a bit, but the practices have improved as we all have gotten more comfortable,” Mento said

“We try not to talk about it too much. Initially, everybody was understandably a bit anxious, but the Franklin administration has been all about prioritizing safety and giving the players, coaches, and families the confidence needed to get to work. I think just getting back in the gym, exercising, and communicating, all those things are so important for the physical and mental health of these kids. We appreciate every day the opportunity to compete and play the game we all love.”

Seniors Joshua Kuroda-Grauer, Anthony Milligan, Krish Mistry, Ikenna Eluwa, Bryson Henry, Quincy Nelson all return for Franklin. Kuroda-Grauer, who is going to be playing baseball at nearby Rutgers, is a two-time First Team All-Skyland Conference pick. Kuroda-Grauer and Milligan, a Second Team All-Skyland Conference pick and TCNJ commit, are expected to be the leaders of the team. Milligan is a co-captain alongside Mistry. Junior Isaiah Cotten and sophomore Cam Snowden are two other returning starters.

Junior Josh Mingledoph, who saw brief action last season, also returns.

Newcomers include senior Mark Jackson, junior Mike Williams, sophomore Jahlil Williams, and freshman Cam Brown.

“As you know, this is an unprecedented season, and we have to maneuver and be flexible. We did have a few kids opt out due to the pandemic. We expected to return even more kids than we're returning,” Mento said. “The good news is, we do have a lot of experience returning. The kids have worked their rear ends off. It's next man up just like most teams, but we do return most of our starting five. Four of them are back including two all-conference players in Anthony and Josh.”

Cotten scored 162 points a year ago with 81 rebounds, 27 assists, 38 steals, and 17 blocks in all 28 games. Kuroda-Grauer had 183 points, 180 boards, 117 assists, 54 steals, and five blocks for an all-around presence. Milligan was a scoring machine as he tallied 313 points. He also recorded 149 rebounds, 29 steals, 20 assists, and 20 blocks, the most among returners.

Franklin will play 12 games during the regular season. The Skyland Conference hopes to hold three separate tournaments with groupings of eight, eight, and seven based on size of school and competitiveness. The committee will meet on Feb. 21 and the games are scheduled for March 2, 4, and 6 to reach the max number of contests set by the NJSIAA of 15.

“This year, we have a very tough division,” Mento said. “Obviously Gill St. Bernard's is in our division. So is Watchung Hills, Hunterdon Central, Hillsborough, and Bridgewater-Raritan. It's like that every year. Great division. We're all playing each other. It'll be a lot of fun to coach and play against those guys again. Then we'll see in the Skyland Conference Tournament who is playing the best and even who is playing.”

With many players back, Mento feels his team has a chance to win a lot of games. Safety is the top priority however. The Warriors’ first game is on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at Hillsborough at 7:00 p.m.

For the full schedule, click here.

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Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.