Boys Basketball Preview – Class B South
Transfers are a fact of life in high school basketball today and no division has as many stories surrounding transfers than Class B South. There are a number of teams in the division that will look much different this season, either because players showed up, left or in some cases, both. With that comes some adjustment period, so coaching and continuity could be a major advantage this year.
Talent also helps, and Lakewood again looks like the most talented team in the division, which has become commonplace in recent years. The Piners are looking for an encore for their best season in the last 20-plus years, but should meet some resistance from a field that has a chance to be deeper than it has been in awhile.
Head Coach: Randy Holmes, eighth season
Record Last Year: 26-3 (13-1)
Returning Players: Maurice Diawara (Sr., 6-4, Forward), Ben Watson (Sr., 6-8, Center), Haseem McGrady (Sr., 5-11, Guard), Quez Joshua (Jr., 6-0, Guard), Amir Tyler (So., 5-11, Guard), Hassan Diawara (So., 6-1, Guard), Sean Barksdale (So., 6-4, Guard/Forward)
Key Losses: Tyrice Beverette (Guard), Jared Craddox (Forward), Erick Davis (Forward), Malik Mendez (Guard), Marquise Oliver (Guard)
Newcomers: Dan Niblack (Sr., Forward) – Transfer from Jackson Liberty, Datrell Reed (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Ryan Lawrence (Jr., 6-3, Guard), Ryzon Barnes (So., 6-5, Forward), Fejon Sutton (Sr., 6-2, Forward)
Fresh off a Shore Conference championship and Central Jersey Group II championship, Lakewood will try to reload without its two All-Shore players from a year ago – Player of the Year Tyrice Beverette and forward Jared Craddox. Seniors Maurice Diawara and Ben Watson return after playing major roles on last year’s championship team, with Diawara being a top defender in the conference and Watson leading the Shore in rebounds. Senior Haseem McGrady and sophomore Amir Tyler also saw time by the end of the season and will get more time this year.
Lakewood makes up the most ground in replacing its key losses via the transfer. Senior forward Dan Niblack comes in after two years with Jackson Liberty in which he showed flashes of being a top player in the conference. Well-travelled junior Ryan Lawrence will play for his hometown team after playing at St. Benedict’s Prep as a freshman, Bishop Loughlin of Brooklyn as a sophomore and also after enrolling at the Patrick School in Elizabeth this school year before transferring to Lakewood in October. Lastly, sophomore Ryzon Barnes joins the Piners after coming off the bench as a freshman at Central last season. There are some new pieces to work into the fold, but Lakewood again has the talent to advance deep into both postseason tournaments.
Head Coach: Kevin Hynes, 19th season
Record Last Year: 15-9 (11-3)
Returning Players: Will Boccanfuso (Sr., Guard/Forward), Brian Byington (Sr., Center), Jack Fitzsimmons (Jr., Guard), Peyton Wejnert (So., Forward)
Key Losses: Kyle McGarry (Forward), Andre Taylor (Guard), Brian Cuthbert (Center), Kurt VanBenschoten (Guard), Ryan Thrunk (Guard), Aden Tempsick (Forward), Colin Costigan (Guard), Billy Kavanagh (Guard)
Newcomers: Kyle Ryan (Jr., Center/Forward), Liam Collins (Sr., Forward), Mike Larson (Jr., Forward), Mike Canning (Jr., Guard), Sam Monaco (So., Guard/Forward), Devin Connelly (So., Guard), Bryan Peters (So., Guard), Austin Drucquer (So., Guard/Forward), Anthony Trainor (So., Guard/Forward), John Venturi (Fr., Guard), Brendan Brczycki (Jr., Guard)
Even though last year’s Lakewood team seems like a runaway winner in Class B South in hindsight, Point Boro actually had a chance to clinch a share of the division title in the last divisional game of the season against Lakewood. Senior forward Kyle McGarry, however, sprained his ankle and the Panthers could not overcome the loss. This year, senior guard Will Boccanfuso leads a younger group of Panthers into the season. Senior center Brian Byington will look to fill some of the void left behind by McGarry, while sophomore Peyton Wejnert looks to build on a solid freshman season. There is no clear No. 2 in Class B South this year and teams like Monsignor Donovan, Manchester and Jackson Liberty are all close, but Point Boro has a track record of finding a way.
Head Coach: Mike Kearney, 15th season
Record Last Year: 10-14 (8-6)
Returning Players: Tom Cerami (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Eamonn Kearney (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Sean Suskevich (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Alex Morte (Jr., 5-9, Guard), Matt Migdon (Sr., 5-10, Guard), James Fata (Jr., 5-11, Guard)
Key Losses: Zack Wimmer (Sr., 6-2, Forward), Chris Scerbo (Sr., 6-2, Forward), Dan McGeehan (Sr., 5-11, Guard), Jon O’Connor (Sr., 6-1, Forward), Rich Power (Sr., 6-0, Guard/Forward), Jesse Hill (Jr., Forward) –Transferred to Jackson Memorial
Newcomers: Kyle Carrington (Sr., Guard) – Transfer from Toms River North, Jimmy Cleveland (Sr., 6-2, Forward) – Transfer from Toms River North, Joe Law (Jr., 5-10, Guard), Zack Skesavage (Sr., 6-4, Guard), Dean Wilk (Sr., 6-1, Forward), Mike Boice (So., 6-1, Guard), David Calderon (So., 5-7, Guard), Adam Sadowski (So., 6-0, Guard), Vinny Della Folla (So., 6-1, Guard), Kyle Schremmer (So., 6-1, Forward), Erik Braaten (So., 6-6, Forward)
The Griffins take on a new look this season with a couple players transferring out of the program and two more transferring in to complement a guard-heavy group of returnees. Senior Tom Cerami brings an inside presence to help anchor the team on both ends, but the rest of the group is very perimeter-oriented. Senior transfer Kyle Carrington immediately becomes the No. 1 scoring option after playing a key role on Toms River North’s 25-4 team from a year ago. Senior forward Jimmy Cleveland was also a reserve on that team and figures to slide into a frontcourt spot on the Griffins.
Monsignor Donovan loses 6-foot-7 junior and last year’s leading scorer Jesse Hill along with junior C.J. Blue, who was a reserve last season, to Jackson Memorial. The Griffins will look to make up for Hill’s lost production with their host of guards, which include senior Eamonn Kearney and Sean Suskevich to go with Carrington. It may take some sorting out, but Monsignor Donovan should find a way to compete for a top-three finish against some solid competition.
Head Coach: Mark Lax, sixth season
Record Last Year: 13-11 (9-5)
Returning Players: James Sofield (Sr., 6-4, Forward), Mike Healy (Sr., 6-3, Guard), J’Son Clark (Jr., 5-9, Guard), Howard Taylor (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Hassan Ranouf (Jr., 5-7, Guard)
Key Losses: Ryan Deboer (Forward), Roberto Delvalle (Guard), Dan Niblack (Sr., Forward) – Transferred to Lakewood
Newcomers: Matt Castronuova (Jr., 5-8, Guard), Mac Purry (So., 6-4, Forward)
The Lions have established themselves as a competitive team in Class B South and have had some high points over these last two seasons. Unfortunately, they have caught some bad breaks as well with regard to individual players. Former standout Ahmed Foster was not allowed to play a year ago for reasons undisclosed by the team and Dan Niblack was dismissed from the team last year before transferring to Lakewood.
Now for the good news: Jackson Liberty has a chance to have its best season with a strong group of players that have developed chemistry over the last three years. Senior James Sofield returns as one of the top scorers in the conference and juniors J’Son Clark, Howard Taylor and Hassan Ranouf will take on bigger roles this year after having some success in 2012-13. Point Boro, Monsignor Donovan and Lakewood have plenty of new talent to acclimate, so Jackson Liberty could be a team that storms out of the gate and surprises in B South.
Head Coach: Ryan Ramsay, ninth season
Record Last Year: 13-11 (8-6)
Returning Players: Darius Barlow (Sr., 5-11, Guard), Israel Almestica (So., 6-5, Forward), Jordan Torney (So., 6-3, Guard), Devin Tomei (Sr., 6-4, Forward)
Key Losses: Mason Jones (Guard), Damiun Moore (Guard), Antoine Brown (Sr., Guard)
Newcomers: KaShaun Barnes (Sr., 6-2, Guard) – Transfer from Matawan, Malcolm Allen (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Robert Planter (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Shavar Reynolds (So., 5-11, Guard), L.J. Robinson (Fr., 6-2, Guard)
By the end of last season, Manchester finally put it all together, but by then, it was too little, too late. The Hawks have had some noteworthy late-season runs under coach Ryan Ramsay, but their slow start last season prevented them from even qualifying for the Shore Conference Tournament and stuck them with eventual Group II finalist Medford Tech in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II playoffs.
Replacing the scoring of Mason Jones and Damiun Moore is a tall order, one that will fall mostly on returnees Darius Barlow, Jordan Torney and Israel Almestica, as well as senior transfer KaShaun Barnes. After two full seasons at Matawan, Barnes brings scoring on the perimeter that should help Manchester replace Jones and could make them a wild card in the Shore Conference this season.
Head Coach: Steve Zengel, first season
Record Last Year: 8-15 (4-10)
Returning Players: Evan Lang (Jr., Guard), Marquis Drumright (Sr., Forward), Stefano Minale (Sr., Guard), Anthony Arneth (Jr., Forward), John Forrester (Jr., 6-4, Forward/Center), Riley Collins (So., Guard), Eric Bescript (Jr., 6-1, Guard), Schuyler Smith (Jr., 6-6, Center)
Key Losses: Austin DeRose (Guard), Joe Reavis (Forward), Sonny Washington (Forward), Javon Hardy (Guard), Ryzon Barnes (So., Center) – Transferred to Lakewood
Newcomers: Zach Sheeter (Jr., 5-6, Guard), Jaden Rhoden (Fr., 6-0, Guard), Sean Yager (Fr., 5-8, Guard)
The Golden Eagles will play for a third coach in the last three years, with Steve Zengel taking over the program this season. Central looked like a team ready to take off early in the season after reaching the semifinals of the WOBM Christmas Classic and beating Lakewood just after the holiday break, but the Golden Eagles hit a funk and finished well under .500. Junior Evan Lang enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore last year while leading the team in scoring, but he is one of the few heavy scoring contributors back in the fold. Junior John Forrester returns with plenty of frontcourt experience, too, so Central will try to build around that inside-outside combination in order to get back into contention.
Head Coach: John Tierney, eighth season
Record Last Year: 5-19 (2-12)
Returning Players: Matt MacPhee (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Luke Stambaugh (So., 5-10, Guard), Zach Wiatrowski (Jr., 5-10, Guard)
Key Losses: Zac Schnepp (Center), Dom Hernandez (Forward), Jimmy Truitt (Forward)
Newcomers: D.J. Kidd (Sr., 6-3, Forward), Milanj Coursey (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Dan McPhee (Sr., 6-1, Guard/Forward), Will Jenkins (So., 5-11, Guard), Paul Suarez (Sr., 5-11, Guard)
The Wildcats return two quality guards in senior Matt MacPhee and Luke Stambaugh as they try to rebuild the frontcourt and take advantage of a talented group of shooters and scorers. Stambaugh showed as much scoring ability as any freshman in the conference (10.7 points per game), but he will have to carry more of the load this year with the loss of center Zac Schnepp. The Wildcats will be looking to senior D.J. Kidd and junior Milanj Coursey for some athleticism in the frontcourt, and if the pieces fit right away, Pinelands could push for a top-four spot in the division.
Head Coach: Erik Mazur, eighth season
Record Last Year: 5-20 (1-13)
Returning Players: Bennie Bivins (Sr., 6-0, Guard), Kyle Morris (Jr., 6-4, Forward), Xavier Young (Jr., 6-3, Forward), Ryan Ulrich (Sr., 5-9, Guard), Nick Camarato (So., 5-10, Guard), Ricky Gerena (Sr., 6-1, Guard)
Key Losses: Pat Zanzalari (Forward), Pat Moran (Guard), Adam Tynan (Guard)
Newcomers: Gabe Christensen (Jr., 6-2, Forward), Jared Kacso (So., 6-2, Guard), Jason Groome (So., 6-4, Forward), DaShawn Anderson (So., 6-5, Forward), Isaiah Gilson (Fr., 6-4, Guard), Zach Fox (Jr., 5-10, Guard), Dan Dugan (So., 6-3, Forward)
The Bengals dealt with a lot of losses to graduation last season and the result was a 1-13 finish in the division. The rebuild gave players like junior Kyle Morris, junior Xavier Young and sophomore Nick Camarato a chance to play and all three showed promise. Morris and senior Bennie Bivins return as the team’s two leading scorers from a year ago, so scoring should not be an issue for the Bengals. There is still probably some building to be done, especially in a division with no obvious weak team, but the opportunity is there for Barnegat to improve on last year’s division record and make a leap up the standings.
Players to Watch
Maurice Diawara, Lakewood – A jack-of-all-trades kind of player and athlete, Diawara will be a leader on and off the court for the Piners, who will try to overcome the loss of Tyrice Beverette.
Ben Watson, Lakewood – The Shore’s top rebounder a year ago, Watson became a defensive presence in the paint for Lakewood. Throw in the 12-14 points he can score on put-backs and put-ins alone, and that’s a lot of production.
Will Boccanfuso, Point Boro – A breakout player in 2013, Boccanfuso emerged as a productive combo-guard who also fits the blue-collar, dirt-dog mold of player with which Point Boro has become associated.
James Sofield, Jackson Liberty – The Lions are hoping for their best season in the young history of the program and Sofield is the top shooter and scorer for a Jackson Liberty team primed for a solid year.
Kyle Carrington, Monsignor Donovan – An underrated player on last year’s 25-win Toms River North team, Carrington moves over the Monsignor Donovan, where he should slide right in as one of the top scoring options.
Breakout Players to Watch
Peyton Wejnert, Point Boro – Wejnert worked his way into a key role last year as a freshman and has the frame to suggest he will mature into a good athlete with the ability to play a number of positions.
Amir Tyler, Lakewood – Only a sophomore, Tyler saw some minutes last season and is coming off a second-team All-Shore football season for the Piners. He has a chance to be the next standout athlete at Lakewood, a la Beverette.
Israel Almestica, Manchester – The Hawks have a good sophomore duo in Almestica and Jordan Torney and Almestica will be the front court portion of the duo with a chance to push double-figure averages in points and rebounds.
Can Lakewood thrive without Tyrice Beverette?
The Piners appeared to be on their way to winning an NJSIAA Group II championship to go with a Shore Conference Tournament championship, but Beverette broke his ankle late in a sectional final win Manasquan. Lakewood battled Medford Tech in the Group semifinal without its senior leader, but came up short in a heartbreaking loss. The game prepared Lakewood for life after Beverette, but the Piners will also have to replace another senior leader and All-Shore player in forward Jared Craddox. Bringing in transfers Dan Niblack (Jackson Liberty), Ryan Lawrence (Bishop Loughlin, N.Y.), and Ryzon Barnes (Central) to go with returnees Mo Diawara, Ben Watson, Haseem McGrady and Amir Tyler gives Lakewood a good foundation that could again contend for an SCT and Group II title.
Which transfer will have the biggest impact?
As previously mentioned, Lakewood has three of the division’s notable transfers, all of whom should see some time. Niblack has been a productive player over the past two years with Jackson Liberty and Lawrence continues his tour of the tri-state area after having played at St. Benedict’s as a freshman and Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn last year. Meanwhile, Monsignor Donovan and Manchester each welcome impact guards as well. Kyle Carrington moves from Toms River North to Monsignor Donovan after a strong season with the Mariners last year, while former Matawan guard and football standout KaShaun Barnes suits up for Manchester this season. Barnes was the best of the bunch as a freshman, Carrington had the biggest impact last year, and Niblack has put up the best all-around numbers over the last two years. If everyone’s healthy, Niblack should have the biggest impact as a replacement for Craddox.
Which team will emerge as Lakewood’s toughest competition?
Had Niblack stayed at Jackson Liberty, the Lions would be the easiest answer to this question, and even without the senior forward, Jackson Liberty looks like a team that could make a run at Lakewood. Of course, Monsignor Donovan and Point Boro are almost always competitive in the division and each bring back – or in Monsignor Donovan’s case, bring in – top guards from last year in Boccanfuso and Carrington. Monsignor Donovan is particularly interesting with a new-look roster, with Carrington and Jimmy Cleveland transferring in from Toms River North and Jesse Hill transferring out to Jackson Memorial. Any of the Griffins, Panthers, Lions or Manchester look capable of getting into that No. 2 slot, but it remains to be seem which team will match-up best with Lakewood.