Boys Basketball Preview – Class B North
Of the six Shore Conference divisions, the most wide-open field heading into the 2013-14 season is the one in Class B North. All seven teams in the division have a realistic chance to be better than they were last season, which also saw a competitive division race between five teams. With five clear front-runners in the other five divisions, it appears one race that will definitely go well into February will be in B North.
Head Coach: Don Covin, third season
Record Last Year: 15-10 (8-4)
Returning Players: Terrel Cox (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Hassan Foster (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Myson Pennington (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Raphael Williams (Sr., 6-0, Forward), Izayah Irizarry (Sr., 5-8, Guard), Jamar Foster (So., 5-9, Guard)
Key Losses: Dwight Clark (Guard), D’Andre Wilford (Forward)
Newcomers: Edward Jones (Sr., 5-9, Guard), David Colbert (Jr., 5-7, Guard), Cassius Briggs (Fr., 5-9, Guard), Raheem Carter (Fr., 6-1, Guard), Lamar Bennet (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Deshawn Boyton (So., 6-2, Forward)
Last season was the “season of almost” for Long Branch, which almost won the Class B North title and almost beat Manasquan on the road in two different postseason games. Any of those feats could have changed the feel of the entire season, but instead, the Green Wave players handed in their jerseys wondering what might have been. Fortunately for many of those players, they get to come back to try and finish the job this season in a Class B North division that returns a lot of talent.
Senior guard Terrel Cox was the coaches’ choice as the Class B North Player of the Year last season and enters this season as a player who could lead the Shore in scoring thanks to a smooth shooting stroke. Senior Hassan Foster will look to take the next step and help fill the shoes of graduated D’Andre Wilford. Point guard is a bit of a question mark with the loss of Dwight Clark, but if the Green Wave can replace their two losses with some depth, it will have enough to hold off the field and start finishing the job.
Head Coach: Tom Stead, 18th season
Record Last Year: 13-13 (6-6)
Returning Players: Jason Dunne (Jr., 6-3, Guard), Joe Piscopo (Jr., 5-9, Guard), Chris Tawiah (Sr., 6-2, Guard), Nick Tomkins (Sr., 6-4, Forward), Dritin Gyjrigi (Sr., 6-5, Forward/Center)
Key Losses: Ian Phillip (Forward), Shawn Johnson (Guard)
Newcomers: DeJohn Rogers (So., 5-10, Guard), Matt Esposito (Jr., 6-4, Forward), Austen Planes (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Mike Vella (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Nick Smith (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Samson Ore-Onitolo (Jr., Center), Mergim Gyjrigi (So., 6-2, Forward)
Sometimes it takes an entire season and offseason for a team to mature, but in this case, the Huskies appeared to have grown up as the Shore Conference Tournament got under way. Matawan rallied its way into the SCT and then, as the No. 24 seed, knocked off ninth-seeded Red Bank Catholic and eighth-seeded CBA. The trip to Brookdale for the SCT quarterfinals was a big step for a team that has most of its roster back this season and if the learning curve continues, Matawan should probably be the favorite.
Juniors Jason Dunne and Joe Piscopo enter their third season playing together at the varsity level. Chris Tawiah stretches the floor as a shooter and senior Nick Tomkins is a big body down low on both ends. The depth is somewhat of a question mark, but few teams have the returning offensive talent on the perimeter that Matawan has.
Head Coach: Ken O’Donnell, 23rd season
Record Last Year: 11-13 (9-3)
Returning Players: Shakeem Richardson (Sr., Guard), Tyrell Montgomery (Sr., Forward), Cameron Calderon (Jr., Guard), Myles Mooney (Sr., Guard), Micah Carr (Jr., Forward), Marcque Ellington (So., Forward), Kerry Kirkwood (Jr., Guard), Lamar Ford (Sr., Guard, Forward), Drew Johnson (Sr., Forward)
Key Losses: Keith Kirkwood (Forward), Spencer Hubbard (Forward), Keishawn Rice (Guard), William Gay (Forward), Kyle Lewis (Guard), Cory Thomas (Guard)
Newcomers: Keishawn Kirkwood (Jr., Guard), Diondre Dunn (Jr., Forward), Shawn McMillan (Jr., Guard), Shane Nolan (So., Guard/Forward), Alex Ennis (Sr., Center), Anthony Mallory (Sr., Guard)
Despite winning the Class B North championship last season, 2012-13 was a major disappointment for Neptune after entering the season with designs of winning the Shore Conference and contending for the overall Group III title. The silver lining to the season was that many of the younger players were forced into action and in many cases, those players delivered.
Any way you slice it, this Neptune team has as much to prove as any in recent years and it should have a good deal of talent to go with that motivation. Shakeem Richardson has been through the battles in his previous three varsity years and Tyrell Montgomery was a big addition last year after returning from an injury to his hand. Senior Myles Mooney also came on strong late in the season and should be a solid second scorer on the perimeter alongside Richardson. This is a conservative ranking for Neptune and if things click for the Fliers, they should be right back near the top of Class B North.
Head Coach: Michael Puorro, sixth season
Record Last Year: 17-11 (8-4)
Returning Players: Trent Mitchell (Jr., 6-2, Guard), Brendan Barcas (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Ryan Janeczek (Jr., 5-11, Guard)
Key Losses: Kevin Waters (Forward), Richie Tyas (Forward/Center)
Newcomers: Joe Tashjy (Jr., 6-2, Forward) – Transfer from CBA, Naiquan Smith-Gilliam (Sr., 6-2, Forward) – Transfer from W.V., Shaun Scott (So., 6-6, Forward)
In many ways, Wall has a very similar roster to that of Matawan: Three very good perimeter players, a team built around juniors and one that made a big leap forward last season. The difference between the two is that Wall’s big wins came during the regular season, which allowed the Crimson Knights to push Neptune for the division title before ultimately finishing tied for second place with Long Branch.
Juniors Trent Mitchell, Brendan Barcas and Ryan Janeczek return as the trio that will look to lead Wall on its quest to turn last year’s overall success into postseason glory. The three guards are the lone returnees from last year, but the additions of two transfers – junior Joe Tashjy from CBA and senior Naiquan Smith-Gilliam from a high school in West Virginia – should help to complement the returnees. Another offseason together and some lessons learned last year could make Wall a sleeper to win the division after coming close last year.
Head Coach: John Terlecsky, fifth season
Record Last Year: 17-10 (6-6)
Returning Players: Royal Moore (Jr., 6-1, Guard), Chris Seager (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Taj Shomo (Jr., 5-10, Guard), Lucas Snow (Sr., 6-0, Guard),
Key Losses: Alex Cirlincione (Guard), Eric Musto (Center), Mark Diedrichsen (Forward), Harry Matarazzo (Forward)
Newcomers: George Kavarakas (Sr., 5-10, Guard), Zaire Henderson (Sr., 6-3, Center), Pat Cushing (Sr., Forward), Jon Zimmerman (Jr., 6-3, Center), William Nicholson (Jr., 6-0, Forward), RuQuan Dean (So., 5-9, Guard), Manny Padron (So., 5-11, Guard), Scott Bradley (So., 6-4, Center), Jake Talarico (So., 5-10, Guard)
Ocean’s 2012 portion of last season hinted at a big year ahead for the Spartans, but the team hit a wall in the early part of 2013. Ocean still managed to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament and win a game on the road, but it still missed an opportunity to hang around the division race because of its midseason lull. The Spartans must replace four key members of the rotation and will look to junior Royal Moore and senior Chris Seager – a Monmouth University recruit as a goalkeeper in soccer – to lead the way. Taj Shomo also came on strong as a scorer off the bench and will team up with Moore to form a potent back-court duo. If the Spartans will try to get off to another good start and try to stay in another crowded Class B North race.
Head Coach: Scott Martin, 13th season
Record Last Year: 4-22 (2-10)
Returning Players: Sadiq Palmer (So., 6-2, Forward), Johnny Dengler (Sr., 6-1, Guard), Corey Martin (Sr., 5-11, Guard), Justin Gilson (Jr., 6-1, Guard), Jimmy Ferrogine (Jr., Guard), Moses Birch (Jr., 6-9, Center), Jack Navitsky (So., 5-9, Guard)
Newcomers: Tyler Christie (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Jesse Mack (Sr., 5-11, Forward), Eddie Hendrex (Jr., 6-3, Forward) – Transfer from Monmouth, Connor Kelly (Jr., 5-10, Guard), Jake Marcin (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Anthony Mitchell (Jr., 5-10, Guard)
Last season would have been a rebuilding year for the Bucs regardless of outside circumstances, but the season took on an entirely different tone after the shocking death of senior captain Albert Martin during a preseason scrimmage. After a season of mourning, the Bucs have made a promise to dedicate this season to Martin, according to coach Scott Martin, and that motivation combined with some legitimate young talent make the Bucs a wild card in Class B North.
Sophomore Sadiq Palmer averaged nearly 12 points to go with seven rebounds per game as a freshman and he will lead a junior-heavy group that should improve by leaps and bounds this year. Junior guard Justin Gilson is coming off an All-Shore first-team season in soccer and averaged eight points per game as a sophomore last season. Seniors Johnny Dengler and Corey Martin (no relation to Albert) will provide leadership while contributing on the floor to a team that will look to open some eyes with an otherwise young roster and make good on its promise.
Head Coach: Jesse Ryan, first season
Record Last Year: 4-16 (3-9)
Returning Players: Glenn Bates (Sr., 6-1, Forward), Dan Parr (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Donald Allen (Sr., 5-11, Guard), Matt McCarty (Sr., 6-6, Forward)
Key Losses: Mike Bolton (Guard), Dan Martucci (Forward), Bryan Pfeffer (Forward), Tyree Wilson (Jr., Guard) – Transferred to Freehold Township
Newcomers: Daniel Gewirtz (Jr., 6-3, Guard), Ky Watts (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Chris Hannigan (So., 6-3, Forward), Jake Curry (So., 6-0, Guard), Elijah Barnes (Fr., 6-6, Forward)
Freehold started the 2012-13 season well, then suffered through a prolonged losing streak before a late-season win over Long Branch somewhat salvaged an otherwise forgettable season. The Colonials return four seniors to this year’s team, but new coach Jesse Ryan will have an otherwise young and inexperienced group to work into the fold. Glenn Bates and Dan Parr were the team’s top scorers last year while Donald Allen and 6-foot-6 Matt McCarty have some experience to boot. The Colonials will be going through some change, but by no means will they be a pushover in B North.
Players to Watch
Terrel Cox, Long Branch – A sharp-shooter over his first three varsity seasons, Cox will take on a more all-around role as a senior leader.
Jason Dunne, Matawan – Part of one of the Shore’s best backcourt duos, Dunne is a skilled shooter whose ability is enhanced by his savvy off the ball.
Joe Piscopo, Matawan – Best remembered for his wild shot to beat CBA, Piscopo could end up as one of the Shore’s top point guards.
Royal Moore, Ocean – Coming off an All-Shore second-team selection by Shore Sports Network, Moore takes to the court, where he will be one of Monmouth County’s top point guards.
Shakeem Richardson, Neptune – After breaking into a talented rotation as a freshman, Richardson is moving into a leadership role as a four-year varsity player.
Breakout Players to Watch
Tyrell Montgomery, Neptune – After an injury-plagued junior season, Montgomery returns hoping to put together a full season for a Neptune team looking to rebound from a disappointing 2012-13 campaign.
Taj Shomo, Ocean – Earned some minutes toward the end of last season and showed an ability to shoot and handle the ball.
Sadiq Palmer, Red Bank – The promising sophomore flew under the radar as a freshman and this year, Palmer should further establish himself within the 2016 class and certainly within Class B North.
Is Neptune a sleeper?
No team is ever going to overlook Neptune on the schedule, but the buzz around the conference is that Class B North is there for the taking, particularly for a Long Branch team that came on strong at the end of last year and returns its leading scorer (Terrel Cox). The expectations were high for the Scarlet Fliers heading into last year and that made their season all the more head-scratching. Without those expectations and a clear favorite in the division, maybe this is a good time for Neptune to get back to work and regain control of the division that it has traditionally owned.
Can Matawan build on its late-season surge from 2013?
The Huskies scored one of the biggest wins in program history by winning at CBA at the buzzer in the Shore Conference Tournament round-of-16 and then proceeded to fall to eventual tournament champion Lakewood. Matawan loses only one starter (Ian Phillip) from that team while returning its top three perimeter scorers, so the pieces are in place to avoid a slow start to the season that tripped up the Huskies last year. Along with Wall, Matawan returns the highest percentage of its talent from a year ago, so considering their finish to the season, the Huskies have a shot to do real damage in B North and beyond.
Will Long Branch reinvent itself after losing its two best pure athletes?
With apologies to Neptune, Lakewood, Toms River North, Ocean and Point Beach, the Green Wave had the most athletic roster in the Shore Conference last year and it was spearheaded by point guard Dwight Clark and power forward D’Andre Wilford. While a talented and athletic roster remains, those two seniors were the players whose athleticism gave opposing teams the most trouble and this year’s team will be hard-pressed to replace that dynamic. With that said, there is a good deal of skill and size returning and for a number of Long Branch’s seniors, athleticism can come with a year of physical maturity. No matter how you slice it, Long Branch is the division favorite, but how they get the job done will be a trend worth following.