Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Monmouth Regional
Although Monmouth had a young roster in 2019-20 with virtually no major impact coming from its senior class, the Falcons did have some experience on board after several of its top players were productive as sophomores. That’s what made last year’s 4-18 finish somewhat disappointing and it might have been a more discouraging result if it weren’t for a strong finish to the season. Monmouth’s junior-heavy group started to find itself in the final weeks of the season, including in a big upset of Red Bank Catholic – the No. 6 team in the final SSN 2020 Top 10.
The Falcons hope for some carry-over from the end of 2020 to make up for the short time to prepare for what will be a much more abbreviated 2021 than coach Jeff Sfraga and Co. hoped for. The senior trio of A.J. Po, Kiran Desai and Brian Yadlon had the Falcons optimistic they could become a factor in the NJSIAA Tournament in March and without a state tournament to play in, they will try to do damage in a pod that includes Red Bank Catholic, Red Bank, Rumson-Fair Haven, Long Branch and Shore Regional. Desai and Po both averaged double-figures in scoring last season and Yadlon is a versatile player who can rebound and step out and shoot.
Junior Aidan Denton is also back in the starting lineup and gives the Falcons another shooter to space the floor on offense. Classmate and 6-foot-4 forward Kevin Telesford adds some size to the front court, with 6-3 Mater Dei transfer Nelson Harris-Thomas coming off the bench. Senior Jake Marcincak brings starting experience off the bench and classmate Miles Lida also has varsity seasoning. The three Wiggins brothers – Keontae, Tahj and Gerald – make almost half the bench, giving Monmouth lots of depth on top of an experienced starting lineup for 2021.
Head Coach: Jeff Sfraga, fourth season
2019-20 Record: 4-18 (2-12, seventh in Class A Central)
2020 Postseason Performance: Did not reach postseason
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.
Kiran Desai, Sr., 6-2, Guard (RS)
Aiden Denton, Jr., 6-2, Guard (RS)
Kevin Telesford, Jr., 6-4, Forward (R)
A.J. Po, Sr., 6-3, Forward (RS)
Brian Yadlon, Sr., 6-1, Forward (RS)
Off the Bench
Nelson Harris-Thomas, Jr., 6-3, Forward (transfer from Mater Dei Prep)
Jake Marcincak, Sr., 5-10, Guard (RS)
Myles Lida, Sr., 5-8, Guard (R)
Keontae Wiggins, Sr., 6-2, Forward
Tahj Wiggins, So., 6-3, Forward
Gerald Wiggins Jr., Guard
Danny Waddleton, Sr., 5-10, Guard
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: A.J. Po
Po has averaged double-figure scoring in each of the past two seasons, including 13 points a year ago to go with five rebounds per game. Po has a solid all-around game that allows him to score on the inside, as well as take defenders out to the perimeter – a combination that makes him a candidate to finish among the Shore’s scoring leaders in 2021.
Big Shoes to Fill: Kevin Telesford
After coming off the bench for his sophomore season, Telesford is ready for a shot to start – or at least to play something resembling starter minutes over the course of the year. Monmouth did not graduate any major production from last year, but Telesford has made his case to slot into the starting lineup, with senior Jake Marcincak playing off the bench to lengthen the rotation and provide a jolt on both sides.
Impact Newcomer: Nelson Harris-Thomas
Harris-Thomas headed over to Monmouth from Mater Dei Prep and will immediately factor into Sfraga’s plans for the rotation. Even if he doesn’t start – which is still a possibility – Harris-Thomas is an ideal complement off the bench to give Monmouth a little more size in the frontcourt or to spell Telesford.
X-Factor: Senior Leadership
Cultivating a senior core like the one Monmouth has is huge for a program that is not a perennial winner but takes its shot every so often. Sfraga and this senior group have put the work in to bring the Falcons back to respectability after some very lean years prior to their arrival and now Monmouth has the talent and the experience to make some noise. The thrill of beating Red Bank Catholic last year paid off a lot of the hard lessons learned in those 18 losses and with that extra boost of confidence, the core of Po, Desai and Yadlon are fired up to put Monmouth back on the winning side of the standings.
Jan. 27 vs. Shore, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 at Shore, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 2 vs. Red Bank, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 at Red Bank, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 at Ocean, 11:30 a.m.
Feb. 8 at Red Bank Catholic, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 10 vs. Red Bank Catholic, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 16 at Rumson-Fair Haven, 7 p.m.
Feb. 18 vs. Rumson-Fair Haven, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 22 vs. Long Branch, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 at Long Branch, 5:15 p.m.
Feb. 26 at Henry Hudson, 5:30 p.m.