Boys Basketball – 2021 Season Preview: Wall
Since Bob Klatt took over as head coach two seasons ago, Wall is 2-for-2 on Class B North division championships as well as in NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III titles – elevating the Crimson Knights toward the upper echelon of public basketball programs in the Shore Conference. There will be neither division champions nor a state tournament in 2021, so Wall can’t add to those totals this year and on top of that, it will have to navigate the most loaded pod in the Shore Conference for this season (Manasquan, Ranney, Neptune, St. Rose and Ocean).
Although the schedule is stacked, Wall has no reason to shy away from the challenge with what the Crimson Knights return. Four players from the team’s top six in the 2019-20 rotation are back, including three starters in Pat Lacey, Colin Ackerman and Logan Peters. In Lacey and Ackerman, Wall has one of the most skilled all-around backcourts in the conference – Lacey as a senior and Ackerman heading into his junior season. Lacey was the team’s second-leading scorer last year and was second in assists behind on Ackerman, who averaged 8.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, three assists and 1.6 steals as a sophomore.
Seniors Logan Peters and Tom Palluzzi are two tough returnees with starting experience who can play on the perimeter and down low. Peters put up 6.9 points per game with team-highs in rebounding (6.4) and steals (1.7) while serving as Wall’s top inside player. The question on this year’s team will be beyond those top four and junior Chris Mitchell hopes to be at least one answer for the Crimson Knights as the projected fifth starter.
Wall will get a late start to its season because of a COVID-related move to remote-only learning and corresponding school closure for two weeks, beginning on Jan. 13 and ending Jan. 27. Klatt confirmed that none of his players were part of the spread that closed the school, so once athletic activity can resume, Wall should be ready to pick back up. Still, it is an early challenge for a team that will have to now open up vs. Neptune on Feb. 2 with only a handful of practice days to get ready – a challenge that more than one team from the Shore is likely to face this season.
Head Coach: Bob Klatt, third season
2019-20 Record: 24-7 (14-0, first in Class B North)
2020 Postseason Performance: Reached Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals (lost to Holmdel); Won NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship (Lost to Timber Creek in Group II semifinal)
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.
Colin Ackerman, Jr., 6-0, Guard (RS)
Pat Lacey, Sr., 6-2, Guard (RS)
Chris Mitchell, Jr., 6-0, Guard
Tom Palluzzi, Sr., 6-2, Guard/Forward (R)
Logan Peters, Sr., 6-1, Forward (RS)
Quinn Calabrese, 6-3, Guard
Michael Caputo, 6-2, Forward
Nick De La Cruz, 6-0, Guard
Ian Ackerman, 6-1, Forward
Off the Bench
Ryan Molloy, Jr., 6-0, Guard
Trent Carr, Sr., 5-11, Guard
Dylan Jaspan, Sr., 5-10, Guard
Jake Walsh, Sr., 6-2, Forward
RS – Returning Starter
R – Returning Varsity Player
Player to Watch: Pat Lacey
Lacey entered his junior year as a second option to then-senior Quinn Calabrese and while Calabrese remained a focal point through the end of the 2019-20 season, Lacey was the Crimson Knights’ steadiest offensive player during their second straight run to the Group III semifinal round. He averaged 13.1 points and 2.1 assists for the duration of his SSN All-Shore Third Team season and during the state tournament, Lacey averaged an even 19 points in five games to lead Wall during that stretch.
Big Shoes to Fill: Tom Palluzzi
A significant contributor in each of the past two seasons, Palluzzi has some starting experience on his resume, so it won’t be a stretch to ask him to take on one of the two open spots in the first five. Where Wall might need the senior to step up is in a) filling in for Caputo as an all-around contributor on both ends while b) helping to pick up some of the scoring left behind by Calabrese. With a good shooting form and the ability to play bigger than his height, Palluzzi should be up for the challenge.
Impact Newcomer: Chris Mitchell
With two dynamic guards and two hard-nosed, versatile frontcourt players coming back to the lineup this year, Wall needs a fifth player to jump into the starting lineup and find a way to contribute. Mitchell brings a multitude of attributes to the table, with a good work-rate on defense and some scoring ability to add to the Ackerman-Lacey back court.
X-Factor: The Next Wave
Some teams have to rebuild all at once while others bring back a deep group of experienced players. The rest are somewhere in between and Wall is among that group, albeit with a very strong returning quartet that has accomplished more than most groups do over a two-year stretch. That means expectations that remain high for 2021 and for Wall to run with Manasquan and Ranney during the regular season and finish strong during the week of postseason play, the Crimson Knights will need their next wave of varsity players to jump in and complement the group that includes Lacey, Ackerman, Peters and Palluzzi.
Jan. 27 at Ocean – PPD, TBA
Jan. 29 vs. Ocean – PPD, TBA
Feb. 2 vs. Neptune, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 at Neptune, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 at Red Bank, 1 p.m.
Feb. 8 vs. Ranney, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Ranney, 5:45 p.m.
Feb. 13 vs. Point Boro, 1 p.m.
Feb. 16 at Manasquan, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 18 vs. Manasquan, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 22 at St. Rose, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 vs. St. Rose, 6:30 p.m.