Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Red Bank Catholic
As every team in N.J. prepares for a shortened season, Red Bank Catholic is coming off a 2019-20 that was like playing two seasons in one. The Caseys started the year built around football standouts Charlie Gordinier and Kevin Bauman, lost Bauman when he left the team for several games, lost Gordinier to a season-ending hand injury, got Bauman back and rode the current Notre Dame freshman and an upstart sophomore class to memorable finish. RBC bottomed out with a loss to four-win Monmouth Regional but responded by beating Christian Brothers and reaching the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals for the first time in 26 years.
The turmoil in the middle of last year hardened the current group of juniors to the rigors of leading a team, which they helped do as sophomores during RBC’s SCT run. Alex Bauman, Cyril Arvanitis and C.J. Ruoff all played big roles in RBC’s finish to the season and senior Max Croke stepped into Gordinier’s starting spot and made a name for himself as a defensive stopper. Those three juniors and Croke are back as starters this season and will set the tone for the rest of the squad, which features a mix of two-sport athletes and promising freshmen.
Zach Meeks is a 6-foot-5 freshman poised to start from day one at RBC and 6-4 classmate Gio Panzini – whose older brother, Shane, is a senior at RBC, a Virginia baseball commit and a potential high MLB Draft pick – will also make a major impact in his first season with the Caseys. Seniors Sebastian Arrango and Zack Linkletter join Croke as the elder statesmen of the team, while junior Connor Wanagiel and sophomores Rob Stolfa and Nick Cosimano add some depth and athleticism.
Despite some shifting of opponents in the Shore Conference pod realignment, Red Bank Catholic will maintain rivalries with Rumson-Fair Haven, Red Bank and Holmdel, with one out-of-pod game against Holmdel and two apiece against Rumson and Red Bank. Throw in a showdown with Ranney on the last Friday of the regular season and this year’s schedule will give RBC a chance to show what it can do – a high-level lineup of tests for a program loaded with junior and freshman talent.
Head Coach: Tyler Schmelz, fifth season
2019-20 Record: 17-10 (7-7, fourth in Class A Central)
2020 Postseason Performance: Reached Shore Conference Tournament semifinals (lost to Toms River North); lost in South Jersey Non-Public A first round (Notre Dame)
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.
Alex Bauman, Jr., 6-4, Guard (RS)
Cyril Arvanitis, Jr., 6-2, Guard (RS)
C.J. Ruoff, Jr., 6-3, Guard/Forward (RS)
Max Croke, Sr., 6-3, Guard/Forward (RS)
Zach Meeks, Fr., 6-5, Forward
Charlie Gordinier, 6-5, Guard/Forward
Kevin Bauman, 6-6, Forward/Center
Kevin Degnan, 6-0, Guard
Off the Bench
Sebastian Arrango, Sr., 5-9, Guard (R)
Rob Stolfa, So., 5-9, Guard (R)
Gioanacchio Panzini, Fr., 6-4, Guard/Forward
Zach Linkletter, Sr., 6-3, Forward (R)
Connor Wanagiel, Jr., 6-1, Guard (R)
Nick Cosimano, So., 6-3, Forward (R)
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: Alex Bauman
Like his brother Kevin was over the past several seasons, Alex Bauman is one of the Shore’s best all-around athletes thanks to his combination of strength and agility. Unlike Kevin, Alex is more of a perimeter player on the basketball court and will find himself playing some point forward this season for a team that doesn’t have an obvious point guard. Bauman averaged 8.7 points, five rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a sophomore while establishing himself as a lockdown defender.
Big Shoes to Fill: Cyril Arvanitis and C.J. Ruoff
In reality, Arvanitis and Ruoff were already put to the test last season when the Caseys were missing Bauman and Gordinier at different points, with both then-sophomores stepping up in a big way. Now, they enter the season as established scorers and all-around contributors who will draw more attention from opponents from the outset. With the heightened expectations for them and for the team, Arvanitis and Ruoff will try to show they have another gear.
Impact Newcomer: Zach Meeks
This year’s freshman class at RBC is a promising one and not only will two of the rookies make an impact from the outset, but one of them will likely even start on opening night at Long Branch. Meeks is 6-5 with enough polish to play in the post or on the perimeter. As with most freshman, how Meeks handles the physical and mental adjustment to regularly playing against players three years his senior – especially on the inside – will determine just how good he is in year one.
RBC has a mix of size, athleticism and shooting with its team of shooting guards, wings and power forwards. One early question for the roster could be whether or not the Caseys have a true point guard and how they might function without one. Bauman has a lot of attributes befitting of a high-school three or four, but on offense, his passing ability could put the ball in his hands as a creator – either at the top of the key or in the high post. Arvanitis and Ruoff are also capable at putting the ball on the floor and could enhance their abilities as distributors.
Jan. 27 at Long Branch, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 vs. Long Branch, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 2 vs. Shore, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 4 at Shore, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 8 vs. Monmouth, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Monmouth, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 12 at Holmdel, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 16 at Red Bank, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 18 vs. Red Bank, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 22 at Rumson-Fair Haven, 7 p.m.
Feb. 24 vs. Rumson-Fair Haven, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 26 vs. Ranney, 5:30 p.m.