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With three starters and five rotation regulars back from a team that lost the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship game at the buzzer, Marlboro will be as motivated as any team from the Shore Conference to make the most of the 2021 season. Graduating leading scorer and SSN First Team All-Shore selection Alex Ratner will be a hurdle to clear, but the supporting cast around Ratner last year rose to the occasion a year ago and even had a number of players take on the lead role from time to time.

The starting lineup will be packed with experience and ninth-year coach Mike Nausedas entered the start of practice already with a pretty good idea about his starting lineup. There will also be some depth on hand for the Mustangs coach, who has regularly dealt with short benches and injuries in recent years – even as Marlboro has risen toward the top tier of Shore Conference public school programs.

With Ratner gone, versatile junior wing Jack Seidler jumps into the go-to role, with classmate Jon Spatola returning to the starting backcourt. Junior Jay Ratner came on strong at the end of 2020 and Zack Molod and Nick Malucelli both played key roles off the bench for most of their seasons. Aleksy Friedman would have been another returning starter after starting all year for Marlboro last year, but Nausedas said the senior has opted not to play for personal reasons.

Nausedas also expects the lower levels to provide some players he can trust with important minutes, which would be a big boost to a team that loves to speed up the pace of the game with its full-court pressure. With more depth this season to go with an accomplished starting five, the Mustangs will be a favorite in their pod (CBA, Freehold Township, Freehold Boro, Middletown South and Manalapan) and can make a case as a legitimate candidate for the top spot in the conference.

Marlboro junior Jon Spatola. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Head Coach: Mike Nausedas, ninth season
2019-20 Record: 23-7 (11-3, second in Class A North)
2020 Postseason Performance: Reached Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals (lost to Toms River North); reached Central Jersey Group IV final (lost to South Brunswick)

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.

Projected Lineup

Jon Spatola, Jr., 5-8, Guard (RS)

Zack Molod, Jr., 5-11, Guard (R)

Nick Malucelli, Sr., 6-4, Forward/Center (R)

Jack Seidler, Jr., 6-5, Forward (RS)

Jay Ratner, Jr., 6-3, Forward (RS)

Key Losses

Alex Ratner, 6-0, Guard

Aleksy Friedman, Sr., 6-2, Guard (opted out)

Off the Bench

Joey Paladino, Sr., 5-8, Guard (R)

Vincent Spatola, Jr., 5-11, Guard (R)

Cole Evans, Jr., 5-8, Guard (transfer from St. John Vianney)

Sohan Eleti, So., 5-11, Guard

Jack Levine, So., 6-4, Forward

Luke Peterson, Jr., 6-5, Forward

Ryan Mendes, So., 6-0, Guard/Forward

Alexander Schwartz, So., 5-9, Guard

RS – Returning Starter

R – Returning Varsity Player

Marlboro junior Jack Seidler. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Player to Watch: Jack Seidler

After a breakout sophomore season that saw him nab a spot on the SSN All-Shore Third Team and a strong showing in the fall, Seidler picked up his first Division I offer – from Drake University. The 6-foot-5 Seidler posted big numbers as a sophomore on the Mustangs, scoring 18.7 points to go with 8.4 rebounds to go with an all-around skillset on both ends of the floor. Seidler’s size makes him more of an inside force in the high school game, but he has three-point range and the ball-handling ability to make him a perimeter force as well.

Big Shoes to Fill: Jon Spatola

Spatola took a big step forward as a sophomore last season and the Mustangs will ask him to take another one this year. With Ratner and Friedman gone, Spatola is likely to have the ball in his hands far more often and while he doesn’t necessarily have to become a shoot-first player with all the talent around him, more possessions are likely to end with the relentless guard letting it fly from multiple spots on the floor.

Impact Newcomer: Vincent Spatola

While Marlboro doesn’t necessarily need a whole lot of production beyond the returning regulars to the rotation, it would be a welcome contribution – especially with the news Friedman won’t be with them this year. The other Spatola from the Class of 2022 brings some more speed and toughness to the backcourt and his emergence will help spell the starting backcourt duo while also giving Marlboro the option of going small with three or four guards.

X-Factor: Nick Malucelli

Malucelli was a unique weapon for Marlboro last season, showing off shot-blocking and rebounding ability that was a perfect complement to Marlboro’s up-tempo, guard-heavy look for most of the game. Just when Malucelli was starting to settle into his role, an ankle injury knocked him out for stretch run of the season. The athletic 6-4 senior is back this year and should again provide some help on the interior, along with Jay Ratner and Seidler.

Marlboro senior Nick Malucelli. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Schedule

Feb. 2 vs. Manalapan, 4 p.m.

Feb. 4 at Manalapan, 3:45 p.m.

Feb. 6 at Howell, 10 a.m.

Feb. 8 vs. Freehold Twp., 4 p.m.

Feb. 10 at Freehold Twp., 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 12 at Neptune, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 13 vs. CBA, 11 a.m.

Feb. 16 at Freehold Boro, 5 p.m.

Feb. 18 vs. Freehold Boro, 4 p.m.

Feb. 20 at CBA, 1 p.m.

Feb. 22 at Middletown South, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 24 vs. Middletown South, 4 p.m.