Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Raritan
Despite returning only two starters from last season, Raritan will have a good deal of game experience, albeit in the form of a lot of underclassmen. Last year’s mix of seniors, sophomores and freshmen got to .500 for the season, held their own in a deep Class A Central division and went up against Ranney in the Shore Conference Tournament. That kind of varsity initiation should have Raritan prepared to forge ahead in this shortened 2021 season.
Guard Justin Rivera and 6-foot-5 center Jason Trotta are the returning junior starters after productive sophomore seasons. Rivera will run the point and Trotta will man the paint while coach Denis Caruano mixes and matches to find the right combinations around the two returnees. Most of the options around Rivera and Trotta will be sophomores, with six-foot senior John Bachmann and 6-3 junior Tyzaya Smith the lone non-sophomores in the projected rotation along with the two returning junior starters.
Raritan’s sophomore class has the Rockets primed to make some significant gains over the next two-to-three seasons and they are hoping to start this winter. Lucas LaVilla came on strong over the course of his freshman season and sophomore Billy Tigar is quickly establishing himself as a multi-sport standout at Raritan. Jack Coleman brings some size and length to the equation after getting some important minutes as a freshman and Matt Agar battled while playing both on the perimeter and the inside last year. Add in Jack O’Leary and Michael Dillard and the 2023 class will have a major say in Raritan’s upcoming season and seasons to come.
Head Coach: Denis Caruano, 16th season
2019-20 Record: 12-12 (5-9, sixth in Class A Central)
2020 Postseason Performance: Reached Shore Conference Tournament round of 16 (lost to Ranney); lost in NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II first round (Roselle)
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.
Justin Rivera, Jr., 5-11, Guard (RS)
Lucas LaVilla, So., 6-0, Guard (R)
John Bachmann, Sr., 6-0, Guard (R)
Jason Trotta, Jr., 6-5, Center (RS)
Matt Agar, So., 6-1, Forward (R)
Jaylen Smith, 6-2, Forward
Luke Davies, 5-10, Guard
Liam Callahan, 6-2, Forward
Connor Smith, 5-8, Guard
Off the Bench
Tyzaya Smith, Jr., 6-3, Forward (R)
Jack Coleman, So., 6-3, Forward (R)
Billy Tigar, So., 6-0, Guard (R)
Jack O’Leary, So., 6-1, Guard (R)
Michael Diller, So., 5-10, Guard
Player to Watch: Justin Rivera
Rivera was second on Raritan’s balanced scoring attack with 10 points per game as a sophomore in 2019-20 and will be the primary offensive weapon for the Rockets this season – even if the offense remains balanced. Rivera will be asked to get the Rockets into their offense as a point guard but his proven shooting and scoring ability is likely to lead to him being a point guard who also looks to score, especially on a young team.
Big Shoes to Fill: Jack Coleman
Jaylen Smith was one of the Shore’s top athletes a year ago and paced the Rockets with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game. Raritan won’t have a quick fix to replace that kind of player but Coleman is a sophomore with good size, length, athletic ability and some good moments from his freshman year upon which to build. He will be one of the first players off the bench to open the season and with Raritan ready to use its depth, he will play important minutes.
Impact Newcomer: John Bachmann
Bachmann played sparingly as a junior and returns to what will be an expanded role on the court. Beyond what he can bring to the team as a guard with a chance to play important minutes, he will be the lone senior in the rotation and that senior leadership and urgency will be valuable to a team that boasts so many sophomores.
Over the next three years, Raritan is going to go as far as its Class of 2023 can carry the team. Rivera and Trotta will be key figures in each of the next two seasons but with so much of the roster made up of current sophomores, the Rockets are going to be leaning on their young core right from the start this season and all the way through the late winter of 2023.
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Jan. 26 at Ocean, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 vs. St. John Vianney – PPD, TBA
Jan. 29 at St. John Vianney – PPD, TBA
Feb. 2 vs. Matawan, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 4 at Matawan, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 8 vs. Middletown North, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Middletown North, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 16 at Colts Neck, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 18 vs. Colts Neck, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 22 vs. Holmdel, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 at Holmdel, 3:45 p.m.
Feb. 26 at Pinelands, 6:30 p.m.