Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Matawan
With its first-round loss to Burlington Township in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II Tournament last season, Matawan bid farewell to a talented senior class that had been through a lot together and hoped to finish its time in high school with a more decorated resume. The Huskies suffered a devastating loss in 2018 when promising 6-foot-3 point guard Darrell Rogers went into cardiac arrest and collapsed during an AAU practice – an ordeal that nearly ended his life and did end his high-school basketball career after a promising sophomore season. Matawan had some memorable moments in the ensuing two years, but could never quite recover from losing their point guard – even though Rogers provided plenty of moral support in his last two years.
Coincidentally, point guard is the only position at which Matawan is set now that the Class of 2020 has moved on. Andre Wells worked his way into the starting lineup as a junior and will be surrounded by a completely new cast as he tries to both evolve his game and bring along a slew of inexperienced players. Sophomore Colin Haluska and senior Ian Richardson return with the most experience, albeit not much of it for either player. Haluska got some run as a freshman and will be an off-ball scorer next to Wells, while Richardson was a depth player in the front court as a junior and will start this season.
Seniors Gio Gallo and 6-foot-3 Mike Siehienczuk move into this year’s starting lineup as well, giving Matawan four seniors with Haluska in the projected first five for opening night. Senior James McLaughlin will also be a key guard off the bench along with classmate Bobby Wietecha. The Matawan youth movement will consist of several bench options for coach John Giraldo, with Kyle Haliburton representing the junior class and Khalil Herbert, Aaron Kalish and Nik Winzer joining Haluska as varsity sophomores. It is going to take some time to make it all fit, but Wells running the point with some tough seniors and talented underclassmen all give Matawan some potential in 2021.
Head Coach: John Giraldo, sixth season
2019-20 Record: 14-13 (10-4, second in Class B North)
2020 Postseason Performance: Reached Shore Conference Tournament round of 16 (lost to Toms River North); lost in NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III first round (Burlington Twp.)
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.
Andre Wells, Sr., 6-0, Guard (RS)
Colin Haluska, So., 6-2, Guard (R)
Gio Gallo, Sr., 5-11, Guard (R)
Mike Siehienczuk, Sr., 6-3, Center
Ian Richardson, Sr., 6-2, Forward (R)
John Buekers, 6-6, Center
Ethan Okello, 6-2, Guard
Niles Haliburton, 6-4, Guard
Zaire Williams, 6-2, Forward
Elijah McKenzie, 6-5, Center
Carlos Zeno, 5-10, Guard
Off the Bench
James McLaughlin, Sr., 5-10, Guard
Khalil Herbert, So., 5-11, Guard
Aaron Kalish, So., 5-9, Guard
Nik Winzer, So., 6-4, Center
Kyle Haliburton, Jr., 6-0, Forward
Bobby Wietecha, Sr., 5-11, Forward
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: Andre Wells
Wells was part of Matawan’s balanced scoring attack last year and with just about every other regular contributor from 2019-20 gone, the six-foot guard will be the lead offensive player for the Huskies. At his best, Wells is an all-around point guard with the ability to get teammates involved so the best-case scenario might not involve Wells increasing his scoring average significantly, rather passing to open teammates who are knocking down shots.
Big Shoes to Fill: Ian Richardson
While Matawan has plenty to replace, the toughest role to replicate will be the one played by center John Beukers, who was a standout rebounder, defender and passer for his position, not to mention a finisher around the basket. Siehienczuk moves into that lineup spot, but Richardson will have to do some heavy lifting as the returning player in the front court in order to take the pressure off his less experienced classmate.
Impact Newcomer: Mike Siehienczuk
The center position has been an important one for Matawan in recent years and Siehienczuk is going to get his chance to keep that going as the projected starter at the position to open the season. The 6-3 senior will have a capable point guard to get him the ball, some shooters around the floor and a tough senior battling with him in the post, so the conditions are ripe for a good showing.
X-Factor: The sophomore class
Wells will be the team’s leader and standout but the key to Matawan’s season will likely by its sophomore group – specifically how quickly they develop during a short season. Haluska is going to be ready to make an impact from the jump, but Herbert and Kalish could also jump in for some minutes at guard as well. With Siehienczuk getting the starting nod, 6-4 center Nik Winzer will be the backup but will be pushing his senior teammate throughout the year as the likely starter-in-waiting.
Jan. 27 at Middletown North, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 vs. Middletown North, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 2 at Raritan, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 4 vs. Raritan, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 8 at Colts Neck, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 vs. Colts Neck, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 12 at Long Branch, 5:15 p.m.
Feb. 16 vs. Holmdel, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 18 at Holmdel, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 22 vs. St. John Vianney, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 24 at St. John Vianney, 7 p.m.
Feb. 26 vs. Manalapan, 6:45 p.m.