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With most of its 2019 Tournament-of-Champions-winning team graduating the prior spring, Ranney was a young team that used a lot of players in 2019-20. That made last year challenging for the young Panthers, but it also means they will be older and even deeper this season – both because of the players they brought back and because of the ones they will be adding to the mix. Even with so much returning experience, with just one senior in the starting lineup and three in the returning rotation, Ranney will still be a young team in 2021.

The question for the Panthers is how much of a jump forward will they take after a season in which they showed flashes of being a force but also showed their youth at times? They looked at least a year away from being a Shore Conference favorite again when Manasquan handled them in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals and will again have to go through the Warriors now that the two teams are in the same pod and will face off twice in early February.

With that being said, Ranney will have more one-through-12 talent than any team in the conference this season and a 12-game schedule that will give the Panthers a chance to showcase it. Now away from the Class B Central division that the Panthers have dominated for the last three years, they will play big-name Shore teams like Wall, Neptune, Christian Brothers Academy, Mater Dei Prep and Red Bank Catholic, in addition to two games vs. Manasquan.

Junior guard Elijah Perkins leads the returning roster, with multi-talented 6-foot-10 senior Kyle Rhoden providing some major upside after missing most of last year due to both the transfer rule and a foot injury. Juniors Ryan Zan and Charles Anyichie are both back to provide size and athleticism, while Brandon Klatsky, Nick Troccoli and Brian Day all started at times last year. Zack Davis and T.J. Braswell each played important minutes off the bench and will reprise those roles, while impact sophomore transfer Isaac Hester and freshman Drew Buck round out a 12-man roster that coach Tahj Holden expects to use. With a returning roster like that plus the addition of Hester, Ranney is built to handle a lot of obstacles, of which there could be many in this particular season.

Ranney junior Elijah Perkins. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Head Coach: Tahj Holden, sixth season
2019-20 Record: 17-10 (12-0, first in Class B Central)
2020 Postseason Performance: Reached Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals (lost to Manasquan); lost in South Jersey Non-Public B first round (St. Joseph Hammonton)

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

Isaac Hester, So., 6-0, Guard (Transfer from Gill St. Bernard)

Elijah Perkins, Jr., 6-3, Guard (RS)

Brandon Klatsky, Jr., 6-2, Guard (RS)

Kyle Rhoden, Sr., 6-10, Forward (RS)

Ryan Zan, Jr., 6-7, Forward (RS)

Key Losses

None

Off the Bench

Charles Anyichie, Jr., 6-8, Center (RS)

Nick Troccoli, Sr., 5-11, Guard (RS)

Brian Day, Sr., 5-11, Guard (RS)

Zack Davis, So., 6-7, Forward (R)

T.J. Brasswell, Jr., 6-3, Forward (R)

Drew Buck, Fr., 6-2, Guard

Sahil Patel, Jr., 6-0, Guard

RS – Returning Starter

R – Returning Varsity Player

 

Player to Watch: Elijah Perkins

After playing some huge minutes off the bench as a freshman on a Tournament of Champions title-winning team, Perkins stepped into a leading role as a sophomore last season. He averaged 15.2 points, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals while earning Second-Team All-Shore honors from Shore Sports Network and leading Ranney to a third straight outright division title in Class B Central. At 6-3 and one of the best athletes in the state, Perkins has drawn plenty of college interest, with Georgetown and Nebraska among the seven programs to have offered him a scholarship to date.

Ranney senior Kyle Rhoden. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Big Shoes to Fill: Kyle Rhoden

With no players graduating from last year’s team, there are no imaginary shoes to fill for Ranney this season. Instead, Rhoden stands out as a player who has spent three years trying to find himself at three different schools: Rutgers Prep as a freshman, Central Regional as a sophomore and Ranney last year. Rhoden has already brought a lot to the table as a high-school player (10.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks in 10 games last year), but has the tools to do even more in his final year and with a chance to do it over a full season, albeit a condensed full season.

Impact Newcomer: Isaac Hester

High-profile transfers have become the norm at Ranney since Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis showed up as freshmen in the fall of 2015. Five years ago, it was Amadu Sarnor. Four years ago Savior Akuwovo. Phillip Wheeler joined the team for the Tournament of Champions run of 2019. Last year, Kyle Rhoden jumped on board.

This year, Hester is the headliner from outside the program after impressing as a freshman at Gill St. Bernard a year ago. After averaging nine points and 3.4 assists for the Somerset County power, the speedy 6-0 guard will complement Perkins in the starting backcourt. Hester will take some pressure off of Perkins as a ball-handler while also offering Ranney ability as a spot-up shooter. Hester picked up his first Division I offer back in November, which came from Stony Brook.

X-Factor: Shooting/Depth

With so many experienced players with varying skillsets, Ranney will have plenty of options for a starting lineup. The one listed above prioritizes getting the team’s top athletes on the floor, but it might need an extra shooter. Klatsky, Troccoli and Braswell all showed they could knock down the three-ball last season, with Klatsky, in particular, featuring one of the Shore’s best long-range strokes (44 threes as a sophomore). With all that versatility and depth, coach Tahj Holden has the enviable task of making his team’s talented pieces fit over the course of 32 minutes per night.

Ranney junior Ryan Zan shoots against Mater Dei junior Anthony Tancredi. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Schedule

Jan. 27 vs. Neptune, 5:45 p.m.

Jan. 29 at Neptune, 5 p.m.

Feb. 2 at Manasquan, 5:15 p.m.

Feb. 4 vs. Manasquan, 5:45 p.m.

Feb. 6 vs. CBA, 1 p.m.

Feb. 8 at Wall, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 10 vs. Wall, 5:45 p.m.

Feb. 16 at St. Rose, 5:15 p.m.

Feb. 18 vs. St. Rose, 5:45 p.m.

Feb. 22 vs. Mater Dei Prep, 5:45 p.m.

Feb. 24 at Mater Dei Prep, 6 p.m.

Feb. 26 at Red Bank Catholic, 5:30 p.m.