Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Howell
It is fair to classify Howell’s 2019-20 season as a rebuilding year given how many unproven varsity players were in the lineup and after taking a step bank for a panoramic view, it was a success. Playing in a Class A North division that featured five teams that were ranked in the SSN Top 10 at one point during the season, Howell picked up five divisional wins and locked down 10 for the season with a roster that had some good senior leadership, but also a lot of underclass production.
There won’t be as much senior presence on this year’s Howell team as there was last year, but the Rebels have a collection of juniors that made a significant impact as sophomores. Joe Dupuis and Abdull Al-Shrouf were two of the team’s most reliable scorers on what was a balanced offensive squad and the two guards will team up with classmate and point guard Dylan McVeigh to form a capable, well-rounded backcourt trio. Junior guard Nick Gallo joins that group as well, making Howell a guard-heavy attack again this season.
Center Jake George is another returning starter and one of two seniors in the rotation, along with guard and baseball standout Chris Ellison. Sophomore Damien Padilla – a transfer from Georgia – played varsity basketball as a freshman and will inject some length and athleticism into the rotation, while also adding to the upside of the Rebels over the next two years. With a move into a pod the is home to five programs from Ocean County, Howell could claw its way to the a first-place finish and favorable postseason draw.
Head Coach: Patrick Ramsay, eighth season
2019-20 Record: 10-15 (5-9, sixth in Class A North)
2020 Postseason Performance: Did not qualify for Shore Conference Tournament; lost in NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV first round (Middletown South)
Disclaimer: Projected lineups listed in the 2021 Shore Sports Network Preview are not necessarily directly from coaches. Some are, while others are projections from Shore Sports Network staff. In either case, the projected lineup is fluid and could change leading up to the start of the season and beyond. Check back for periodic updates to every team's projected starting lineup on shoresportsnetwork.com.
Dylan McVeigh, Jr., 5-7, Guard (RS)
Joe Dupuis, Jr., 6-3, Guard (RS)
Abdull Al-Shrouf, Jr., 6-0, Guard (RS)
Nick Gallo, Jr., 6-0, Guard (R)
Jake George, Sr., 6-3, Center (R)
Cooper Vogel, 6-2, Forward
Matt Sgroi, 5-9, Guard
Chris Acampora, 6-0, Guard
Tommy Talbot, 5-10, Guard
Off the Bench
Chris Ellison, Sr., 6-0, Guard/Forward (R)
Zach Emery, Jr., 6-0, Guard
Marc Tango, Jr., 6-0, Guard
Chris Jannarone, Jr., 6-1, Guard/Forward
Damien Padilla, So., 6-4, Forward (Transfer from Kempsville, Va.)
Connor Carr, Sr., 6-2, Forward (R)
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: Abdull Al-Shrouf
Shrouf was a reliable supporting scorer at just over seven points per game and he also contributed in a number of other areas. He grabbed four rebounds per game, led the team with three assists per game and is also the best returning foul shooter at 76 percent on the 2019-20 campaign. A successful season at Howell would likely mean a number of players averaging around 10 points and nobody more than 12 or 13, but Al-Shrouf is a candidate to fill up the stat sheet and impact the game in a lot of ways.
Big Shoes to Fill: Jake George and Nick Gallo
George and Gallo jump into starting spots this season in place of Cooper Vogel and Matt Sgroi – the top two scorers by total points on last year’s Rebels team. Howell won’t need George and Gallo to pick up the lost scoring production – Al-Shrouf, Dupuis and McVeigh will likely lead that effort – but each can find a role within the lineup, particularly with George giving Howell some needed size and strength on the interior.
Impact Newcomer: Damien Padilla
Padilla got some varsity experience in Georgia before coming north to play for the Rebels as a promising 6-4 forward. With Howell deep at guard and heavy on juniors, Padilla is a good fit for the roster – he adds size and scoring on the inside and he can grow with the junior nucleus as they steamroll toward a promising next couple of seasons.
X-Factor: The new schedule
Howell moves from a Class A North division in 2019-20 that had three teams finish in the SSN Top 10 and two in the top five to a pod with a group of teams that are, like Howell, looking to transition from rebuilding to contending. Plenty of teams in traditionally tough divisions like Class A North have wondered how much damage they could do in more forgiving ones and Howell will get its chance to find out this year.
Jan. 26 vs. Lakewood, 3:45 p.m.
Jan. 28 at Lakewood, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Brick, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 vs. Brick, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 6 vs. Marlboro, 10 a.m.
Feb. 9 at Brick Memorial, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 11 vs. Brick Memorial, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 13 at Freehold Twp., 11:30 a.m.
Feb. 15 at Central, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 17 vs. Central, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 23 vs. Jackson Memorial, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 25 at Jackson Memorial, 5:30 p.m.