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Championships are always the standard for Neptune basketball and for the first time since 2012, the Scarlet Fliers boys played for a postseason championship by making it to a title game. After heartbreaks in each of the prior two NJSIAA Tournaments, Neptune broke through by reaching the Central Jersey Group III Tournament and pushed top-seeded Wall to overtime before falling to the rival Crimson Knights. After getting back to the brink of winning a title, Neptune returns with big aspirations while preparing to play in a loaded Shore Conference pod that includes Manasquan, Ranney, Wall, St. Rose and Ocean.

For the fourth straight season, Sam Fagan opens the year as Neptune’s starting point guard and as long as Neptune can get on the court, Fagan is poised for his best season yet after spending the last two years trying to fully heal from a gruesome leg injury. Fellow senior Andre Harris came on strong at the end of last year and will provide some shooting and scoring prowess in the back court. Both 6-foot-4 junior Oneil Campbell and sophomore Daniel Charles jumped into the starting lineup late in the season after spending most of the year on the jayvee level and will play major roles on both ends of the floor. Michael Daniels will be another young wing option for coach Joe Fagan, who is not afraid to test his depth during a season.

Other than at point guard, Neptune’s most battle-tested position is in the post, where junior Malik Fields and senior Everett Cheavers are back. Cheavers is the more defensively-inclined of the one-two frontcourt punch, while Fields has flashed double-double potential in his first two high school seasons. Neptune has a lot of athleticism and shooting to replace, but with Fagan healthy, some experience in the front court and potential on the wings, the Scarlet Fliers still have a high ceiling – even against a grueling schedule.

Neptune senior Sam Fagan. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Head Coach: Joe Fagan, seventh season
2019-20 Record: 16-14 (8-6, tied third in Class B North)
2020 Postseason Performance: Lost in Shore Conference Tournament first round (St. John Vianney); reached NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III final (lost to Wall)

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

Sam Fagan, Sr., 6-0, Guard (RS)

Andre Harris, Sr., 6-0, Guard (R)

Daniel Charles, So., 6-1, Guard (RS)

Everett Cheavers, Sr., 6-3, Center (RS)

Oneil Campbell, Jr., 6-4, Forward (RS)

Key Losses

Sadiq Armstead, 6-1, Guard

Makai Suit, 6-1, Guard

Sean Young, 5-11, Guard

Sahmad Armstead, 6-1, Guard

Jett Tinik, 6-0, Forward

Azmere Wilson, 5-8, Guard

Off the Bench

Malik Fields, Jr., 6-5, Forward (RS)

Michael Daniels, So., 6-3, Guard/Forward

Mateo Andrews, So., 6-1, Guard

Bryson Bird, Sr., 5-5, Guard

Nasir Collins, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Jahmil Miranda, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Daniel Moran, Jr., 6-0, Guard

RS – Returning Starter

R – Returning Varsity Player

 

Player to Watch: Sam Fagan

The last two years have been a mental and physical challenge for Fagan, but he was much happier dealing with those challenges while on the court last season. The Monmouth University commit missed nearly all of his sophomore year because of a compound leg fracture and made it back for his junior season. Fagan was still working through his recovery while leading the Scarlet Fliers to a 16-win season and an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship game appearance. The four-year starting point guard averaged 11.6 points and 3.8 assists for the year and went off for a 40-point performance in a road playoff win over Somerville.

Big Shoes to Fill: Andre Harris

Neptune lost a lot guards with athleticism and shooting ability and what do you know? Those are two attributes Harris possesses. The junior shot his way into a bigger role at the varsity level by the end of the season and came up with Neptune’s biggest play of its playoff run when his putback in the final seconds beat Burlington Township in sectional semifinal round. If Harris brings it every night on defense and keeps finding ways to score inside the three-point arc, Neptune will have a hard backcourt duo to stop.

Impact Newcomer: Michael Daniels

Daniels was in line to play as a freshman at the varsity level but a leg injury derailed those plans. Instead, he is back at 100 percent for his sophomore season, when he will start the year as one of Neptune’s first players off the bench. Daniels is part of a sophomore trio that also includes Daniel Charles and Mateo Andrews, all of whom are poised to be difference-makers on a Neptune team with lofty expectations amid a grueling schedule.

X-Factor: The big guys

Cheavers and Fields are experienced varsity players and will try to raise their level as the Scarlet Fliers look to replace six key contributors from a year ago. There is little question both will help Neptune this season, but can they and their team thrive when they are playing together? There is no reason that can’t work and if it does, Neptune will have a big, physical front court to complement Fagan, Harris and the young, athletic wings on the perimeter.

Schedule

Jan. 27 at Ranney, 5:45 p.m.

Jan. 29 vs. Ranney, 5 p.m.

Feb. 2 at Wall, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 4 vs. Wall, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 5 vs. Manalapan, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 8 vs. St. Rose, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 10 at St. Rose, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 12 vs. Marlboro, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 16 vs. Ocean, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 18 at Ocean, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 22 vs. Manasquan, 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 24 at Manasquan, 6:30 p.m.