Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Middletown South
Last year’s 26-win Middletown South team made a strong case as the program’s best unit since 1979, even if the season ended without the Eagles capturing a tournament championship of any kind. They still won the Class A North division title with a perfect divisional record – a major accomplishment in a field that included four other teams that spent time in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. The exits in the Shore Conference Tournament vs. Mater Dei Prep and the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV semifinals vs. South Brunswick were bitter pills to swallow for the senior-heavy team and a head coach in his final year, but when the only losses are those two plus a December loss to Manasquan, that’s a strong season.
Jimmy Cranwell takes over head coaching duties after assisting outgoing coach Jim Anderson and he has a good grasp of the talent on hand after coaching the junior varsity team. Point guard Luke Albrecht is the lone holdover from Middletown South’s dynamic six-man rotation from a year ago and he will be looking to pick up the slack while helping the rest of his new starting mates up to speed. Junior Tommy Schork picked up some minutes off the bench last year and could serve either a starting or bench role this season, while seniors Tom Brown, Joe Stanzione and Julius Forte angle for starting spots in the front court and on the wings.
The bitter end to an otherwise-dominant 2019-20 season should not linger given the number of new players in the lineup but that also means starting something new after setting the bar so high last year. Albrecht should help ease the transition, some more size and athleticism will be key against a tough schedule and a group of juniors is ready to make the jump up. Dealing with the likes of Christian Brothers Academy, Marlboro and Freehold Township will be much harder than it was last year but this Eagles group is not lowering its standards in 2021.
Head Coach: Jimmy Cranwell, first season
2019-20 Record: 26-3 (14-0, first in Class A North)
2020 Postseason Performance: Reached Shore Conference Tournament Round of 16 (lost to Mater Dei Prep); reached NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV semifinals (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.
Luke Albrecht, Sr., 6-1, Guard (RS)
James Mayerhofer, Jr., 6-2, Guard
Joe Stanzione, Sr., 6-2, Forward
Tom Brown, Sr., 6-4, Guard/Forward
Julius Forte, Sr., 6-3, Guard/Forward
James Anderson, 6-1, Guard
Jack Sheridan, 5-11, Guard
Mike Dabas, 6-1, Forward
Bobby Pirie, 6-4, Center
Richie Boyko, 6-1, Guard
Off the Bench
Tommy Schork, Jr., 6-3, Guard/Forward (R)
Rob Powell, Jr., 6-0, Guard
Tom Manning, Jr., 6-2, Forward
Dylan Csik, So., 5-10, Guard
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: Luke Albrecht
On any given night during the 2019-20 season, a different starter could be the star for Middletown South and there were even nights sixth man Richie Boyko was the standout. Albrecht certainly had his nights on the Middletown South marquee and wound up averaging 10.7 points and 5.3 assists – the No. 3 per-game assist total in the entire Shore Conference.
Without all the scorers around him this year, that assist number could drop a bit but he is also likely to have the ball in his hands more, which could mean bigger numbers. Ultimately, Albrecht and Cranwell would like to get to a point in which the other players are finishing and Albrecht can run the point like he did last year.
Big Shoes to Fill: The Senior Starters
As many as four seniors could be in this year’s Middletown South starting lineup, with Albrect a given and Stanzione, Brown and Forte entering camp as front-runners. With the exception of Albrecht, this group waited behind last year’s talented senior group while preparing for their chance in 2021 and as long as the season stays on track, they will have their chance. Against a loaded pod, those four seniors will definitely be tested.
Impact Newcomer: James Mayerhofer
This six-week season will be a big one for Middletown South’s juniors, who are likely to get a serious chance to make an impact given all the open starting spots. As opening night approaches, Mayerhofer is the most likely of the group of juniors to start on opening night. The 6-2 guard can play off of Albrecht and gives the Eagles an additional perimeter scorer to mix in with a group of long, physical seniors.
One element to keep an eye on is what kind of style the Eagles play this season. Last year’s team had six players who could all shoot, drive, rebound and guard multiple positions on defense, which made for an up-tempo style that was pretty to watch when it was clicking. They scored 90-plus points five times, including a 100-point game against Central Group IV finalist Marlboro.
This year’s team has some size, length and athleticism but the shooting is not likely to be what it was last year and it’s also not likely that Middletown South can put five guys on the floor who can all break down defenders off the dribble. The quicker the Eagles can discover their new image, the more dangerous they will be.
Jan. 27 vs. Freehold Boro, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 at Freehold Boro, 5 p.m.
Feb. 2 at Freehold Twp., 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 vs. Freehold Twp., 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 8 at CBA, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 10 vs. CBA, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 vs. Rumson-Fair Haven, 1 p.m.
Feb. 16 at Manalapan, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 18 vs. Manalapan, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 22 vs. Marlboro, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 at Marlboro, 4 p.m.
Feb. 27 at Middletown North, 1 p.m.