Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Shore Regional
A rough-and-rugged Class A Central schedule overwhelmed a young Shore squad last season, but the Blue Devils cleaned up their overall record with a solid 8-3 mark outside the division. This year, the Blue Devils shake free of Manasquan and Holmdel – the two best A Central teams – and will play a schedule that will give them a better chance to win some games inside the pod. It also helps that Shore should be a better, more experienced team that its was a year ago.
The Blue Devils return three perimeter scorers as seniors: Chris Kessler, Tyler Tilton and John Smith. Kessler and Tilton were the top two scorers from a year ago and both offer a good deal of size at their positions at 6-foot-4 and 6-3, respectively. Smith, meanwhile, is a three-point marksman who, like Tilton, can also distribute the ball. The other returning player in the mix for a starting spot is sophomore Liam Gajewski, who got some minutes off the bench as a freshman.
Freshman Alex George and sophomore Brett Sweeney are also vying for a spot in the starting five, with George impressing coach Erik Mazur and his staff early as a rookie who can instantly make an impact on a senior-led team that hopes to be markedly improved. Sweeney is making his varsity debut as well, with four other varsity newcomers rounding out the projected rotation – including 6-4 junior Aidan O’Brien and senior Brendan Bauer. The Blue Devils still have some considerable catching up to do to teams like Rumson-Fair Haven and Red Bank Catholic but with a proven senior core leading them and some promising youth, they could close that gap considerably.
Head Coach: Erik Mazur, fourth season
2019-20 Record: 9-16 (1-13, eighth 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.
Tyler Tilton, Sr., 6-3, Guard (RS)
John Smith, Sr., 6-1, Guard (RS)
Liam Gajewski, So., 6-1, Guard (R)
Alex George, Fr., 6-2, Guard
Chris Kessler, Sr., 6-4, Guard/Forward (RS)
Ryan Paglia, 6-4, Center
Sam Martucci, 6-2, Forward
Off the Bench
Brett Sweeney, So., 6-2, Guard
Aidan O’Brien, Jr., 6-4, Forward
Brendan Bauer, Sr., 6-1, Forward
Donovan Hughes, So., 5-10, Guard
Ben Levy, So., 5-8, Guard
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: Chris Kessler
At 6-4, Kessler has the ability to score at multiple levels of the offense and move around on defense, all of which will be important for a Blue Devils team without a lot of conventional frontcourt play but some decent size among its guards.
Big Shoes to Fill: Liam Gajewski
The senior trio of Kessler, Tilton and Smith will be the engine that drives the Blue Devils, but the up-and-coming group of sophomores will be integral as well. Gajewski is the sophomore with the most experience, getting some minutes at the varsity level as a freshman and returning this year ready to take on a starting role. Shore’s losses in the starting lineup are two forwards and without a whole lot of size to replace them, the Blue Devils will just need more guards to pick up the slack.
Impact Newcomer: Alex George
Mazur has not been hesitant to start freshmen when they are ready and George has made a strong case during the preseason. George has the skill to operate at guard and enough size to go inside and get some hard-earned points for a team that would like to see some of its guys steal some points in the paint where possible.
X-Factor: The Paint
Speaking of points in the paint, a concern for Shore when going up against physical teams like Rumson-Fair Haven, Red Bank Catholic and Red Bank will be keeping opponents off the offensive glass and defending the post. Shore has enough length to bother perimeter players and if defending the paint proves difficult, they will have to pick up the pressure with Tilton and Kessler.
Jan. 27 at Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Red Bank Catholic, 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 4 vs. Red Bank Catholic, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 at Brick Memorial, 1 p.m.
Feb. 8 vs. Rumson-Fair Haven, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Rumson-Fair Haven, 7 p.m.
Feb. 13 vs. Ocean, 1 p.m.
Feb. 16 vs. Long Branch, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 18 at Long Branch, 5:15 p.m.
Feb. 22 vs. Red Bank, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 at Red Bank, 6:30 p.m.