Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Mater Dei Prep
During its run as a Shore Conference powerhouse under Ben Gamble from 2015 to 2018, Mater Dei relied nearly exclusively on players who transferred into the program sometime between their sophomore and senior seasons. In the second season after Gamble left – and first under current coach Rich Buckheit – the Seraphs were led by a senior trio of guards who started in the lower levels of the program during Gamble’s second year, worked their way up, and starred for a team that reached the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals and finished No. 10 in the final 2019-20 Shore Sports Network Top 10.
With the graduation of those seniors – Pete Gorman, Tahaj Parland and Sean Turner – Mater Dei will be looking to show it can reload and unlike last year, the Seraphs will again be leaning on players who have transferred into the program over the past two years. It started last season with current 6-foot-7 senior Andreas Von Fricke, who will again team up with 6-6 junior center Anthony Tancredi in the Mater Dei front court.
As was the case with Von Fricke, Mater Dei will get its talent influx this season from Staten Island, where head coach and athletic director Rich Buckheit got his coaching start. Senior David Shkolniy is a proven scorer and shooter who will jump right into the starting lineup, while junior guards Derek Ragona and Gerard Novella also made the move to N.J. with New York high school sports currently dormant.
The Seraphs also have some returning talent in the back court, with junior Kyree Drake and seniors Daryen Cabrera and Lauwensky Astral all getting minutes off the bench a year ago. Drake will take over the starting point guard duties, while Cabrera and Astral will give the Seraphs two more options at guard. With a strong finish to last season still fresh in the minds of players like Von Fricke, Tancredi and Drake and impact transfers again in the fold, Mater Dei’s expectation is once again to compete with the Shore’s best by the end of the season.
Head Coach: Rich Buckheit, second season
2019-20 Record: 17-11 (10-2, second in Class B Central)
2020 Postseason Performance: Reached Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals (lost to Red Bank Catholic); reached NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B semifinals (lost to Wildwood Catholic)
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.
Kyree Drake, Jr., 5-7, Guard (R)
Derek Ragona, Jr., 6-2, Guard (Transfer from Moore Catholic, N.Y.)
David Shkolniy, Sr., 6-3, Guard/Forward (Transfer from New Dorp, N.Y.)
Anthony Tancredi, Jr., 6-6, Center (RS)
Andreas Von Fricke, Sr., 6-7, Forward (RS)
Pete Gorman, 6-0, Guard
Tahaj Parland, 5-9, Guard
Sean Turner, 6-1, Guard
Phil Urban, Sr., 6-6, Guard/Forward (transferred to Pennington School)
Off the Bench
Gerard Novello, Jr., 6-0, Guard (Transfer from Monsignor Farrell, N.Y.)
Lauwensky Astrel, Sr., 6-1, Guard (R)
Daryen Cabrera, Sr., 5-11, Guard (R)
Alex Brown, Jr., 6-3, Guard/Forward (R)
Rakim Cooper, Sr., 6-4, Forward
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: Andreas Von Fricke
It took Von Fricke a month to join the Seraphs on the court after transferring in as a junior and once part of the rotation, the 6-7 senior made an impact. On a team that featured a lot of perimeter scoring, Von Fricke played a key role in working the glass, defending the post and scoring in the paint. After putting up 6.6 points and 7.4 rebounds as a junior, he is ready for a bigger, more wide-ranging role in his second year at Mater Dei.
Big Shoes to Fill: Kyree Drake
Losing a diverse, productive back court on top of the transfer by Urban leaves Mater Dei without a lot of returning production on the perimeter. Drake – as well as Astrel and Cabrera – flashed plenty of ability in a bench role last year and will be ready to take an expanded role in 2021. For Mater Dei to remain a contender for one of the spots in the championship pod in March, the Seraphs’ guard play will have to get back somewhere close to the level it was last year and the returning backcourt players will have to play a part.
Impact Newcomer: David Shkolniy
Shkolniy arrives at Mater Dei already with 1,300-plus career points while playing on Staten Island and might have made a run at 2,000 given a normal schedule. Two thousand points or not, Shkolniy brings standout shooting ability to the lineup – which Mater Dei lost with the graduation of Gorman. If Shkolniy can acclimate himself quickly, he can be one of the Shore’s top scorers and also boost Mater Dei back into contention for a coveted spot in the Shore’s top eight.
X-Factor: Outside the pod
While most teams in the Shore Conference will stress the importance of performing against opponents from inside their own pod, Mater Dei will be the opposite. The Seraphs dominated every opponent in Class B Central divisional play other than Ranney last season and Ranney is the only B Central team not to be placed in Mater Dei’s pod. The Seraphs were able to switch out two games vs. Asbury Park to play Ranney twice, so those two games vs. the Panthers and two other non-conference games at Trenton Catholic and Don Bosco represent Mater Dei’s chance to make its case as one of the Shore’s eight best teams.
Jan. 26 at Henry Hudson - Canceled
Jan. 27 vs. Olympus Prep, 5 p.m.
Jan. 28 vs. Henry Hudson - Canceled
Jan. 30 vs. Patrick School, 1 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Keyport, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 vs. Keyport, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 9 vs. Keansburg, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 11 at Keansburg, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 13 at Don Bosco Prep, 4 p.m.
Feb. 15 vs. Point Beach, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 17 at Point Beach, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 21 at Trenton Catholic, 2 p.m.
Feb. 22 at Ranney, 5:45 p.m.
Feb. 24 vs. Ranney, 6 p.m.