Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Toms River East
Within the pod that contains Toms River East, the most glaring drop-off in talent is at Toms River North – which lost its top five scorers from a year ago. In some ways, though, Toms River East faces an even tougher challenge in keeping up Donovan Catholic, Southern, Lacey, Toms River North and Toms River South. The Raiders leaned heavily on Mike and Ryan Goodall to carry the offense over the past three seasons and on top of graduating the two cousins, they also lost an underrated, multi-talented center in Riley Engelhard.
Without that trio, Toms River East faces a major identity shift, going from a high-paced team with an offense that runs through two guards to a defensive-minded team that will rely on sharing the ball on offense. With senior Mark Roma injuring his ankle and ultimately opting not to play this year, senior Charlie Monica is only returning regular from the 2020 rotation and the sharpshooter will look to show off some additional layers to his game.
The rest of the starting lineup shapes up to be mostly seniors, with Mike Anselmo, Xavier Kless and 6-for-4 center Dylan Hall the frontrunners to get a starting nod on opening night. Niko Swenson is another senior projected for meaningful minutes, while starter Dylan Russell leads a sophomore quartet that also includes Manny Vargas, Jacob Mathus and Soren Wilson. All three, plus freshman Jason McKelvey, will angle for significant time in the rotation as the program’s future nucleus. Logic might dictate that a team replacing three players the caliber of Engelhard and the two Goodalls would move toward that young core immediately, but with some hard-working seniors on hand, the four-year program players will get a chance to usher in the new era.
Head Coach: Tom DeRiggi, second season
2019-20 Record: 15-12 (10-4, third in Class A South)
2020 Postseason Performance: Lost in Shore Conference Tournament first round (Manalapan); reached South Jersey Group III quarterfinals (lost to Timber Creek)
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.
Mike Anselmo, Sr., 5-10, Guard (R)
Xavier Kless, Sr., 5-11, Guard
Dylan Hall, Sr., 6-4, Center (R)
Charlie Monica, Sr., 6-0, Forward (R)
Dylan Russell, So., 6-1, Forward
Mike Goodall, 6-1, Guard
Ryan Goodall, 6-0, Guard
Riley Engelhard, 6-4, Forward/Center
Reece Miller, 6-0, Guard
Mark Roma, Sr., 6-0, Guard/Forward (opted out)
Nasceem Davis, 6-0, Guard
Off the Bench
Niko Swenson, Sr., 5-9, Guard
Soren Wilson, So., 6-2, Center
Manny Vargas, So., 5-10, Guard
Jacob Mathus, So., 5-10, Guard
Jason McKelvey, Fr., 6-1, Guard
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: Charlie Monica
Most of Monica’s production last season (4.3 points per game) came from his three-point shooting, but he also mixed it up with some rebounding. With more of a need for scoring and a team identity that will be less about two lead guards and more about defense and sharing the ball, Monica will look to step up and contribute in a lot of different ways. That should lead to some more scoring overall.
Big Shoes to Fill: Xavier Kless
Every member of the Toms River East varsity boys basketball team will have to raise their level for the Raiders to remain competitive this season after losing so much production from last year. Kless is especially important for the Raiders as a potential scoring option on the perimeter along with Monica and Anselmo. With Roma deciding to opt out of this season during the first week of practice, the hole in the starting lineup grows even deeper and a breakout year from the Kless-Anselmo back court would be a big lift.
Impact Newcomer: Dylan Russell
DeRiggi’s initial plan was to bring his sophomores off the bench, but Roma’s departure pushed Russell into the projected opening-night lineup. Russell and his three classmates should start to make their presence felt at some point during the course of the season, with Russell jumping into the first five with enough size to matchup relatively well against varsity players.
Even if Toms River East overhauls its style to accommodate a more defense-first roster, the Raiders are still going to need multiple players to step up and put the ball in the basket. Monica has shown he can knock down long-range shots, Hall should help on the boards and in the paint and the sophomores have some potential. Still, there are a lot of offensive questions that will be unanswered until the Raiders take the floor on opening night at Lacey.
Jan. 28 vs. Lacey, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 30 at Lacey, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 vs. Donovan Catholic, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 at Donovan Catholic, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 9 vs. Toms River South, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 11 at Toms River South, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 vs. Jackson Liberty, 11:30 a.m.
Feb. 15 at Toms River North, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 17 vs. Toms River North, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 19 vs. Barnegat, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 23 at Southern, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 25 vs. Southern, 6:30 p.m.