The 2022-23 season began with Christian Brothers Academy as the favorite to win the Class A North division title and ended with the Colts adding another division championship to their résumé, but the road to that resolution was paved with some serious sweat courtesy of a competitive division from top to bottom. CBA swallowed an early home loss to Freehold Township and ran the table the rest of the way, with five of CBA’s seven division wins coming by a single-digit margin of victory.

The composition of the Class A North division should be similar in 2023-24. CBA remains the favorite to claim the top spot, but the four other teams in the division will not make it easy: Marlboro proved it could rebuild after losing a historic senior class in 2022; Freehold Township is ready to do the same after changing head coaches for the first time in nearly three decades; Manalapan has one of the Shore’s top returning players; and Howell has more returning production than any other team in the field.

Factor in crossover games against the likes of Red Bank Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven, Middletown South, Colts Neck, Red Bank and Middletown North from the Class B North division and the path to a Class A North title is as challenging as ever.

In predicted order of finish

1. Christian Brothers Academy

With four starters returning from the previous season, CBA hoped to get more out of its 2022-23 campaign than a 13-9 record, but the Colts still managed to capture an outright Class A North division title. They enter the new season as the team to beat in the division once again and while the team looks different than it was projected to look in March of 2023, CBA’s roster has a chance to build upon last year’s performance.

Third-year starter Peter Noble is the lone senior back in the starting lineup and has proven to be a dangerous shooter and capable ball-handler during his first two varsity seasons. Junior Justin Fuerbacher has been starting since his freshman season and he is coming off another solid showing as a junior despite playing through a nagging ankle injury for part of the season. Sophomore Connor Andree also started as a freshman and is primed for a big leap forward in his second year, as is classmate Charlie Marcoullier, who takes over the starting point guard duties after coming off the bench last year.

CBA lost 6-foot-11 center Will Higgs to St. Peter’s Prep, but brought in an impact transfer of its own. Junior Kevin Pikiell – son of Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell – transferred from Gill St. Bernard’s, where he averaged 4.3 points in 17 games as a sophomore. Pikiell will be a suitable replacement for the graduated Joe White as a long, versatile defender who can also shoot the ball with anyone in the Shore Conference. Shot-making was a shortcoming a season ago for CBA and Pikiell’s addition should complement the returning roster nicely as the Colts look to climb back into the upper echelon of the Shore.

CBA sophomore Justin Fuerbacher. (Photo: Tom Smith |
CBA junior Justin Fuerbacher. (Photo: Tom Smith |

CBA at a Glance

Head Coach: Geoff Billet, 17th season
2022-23 Record: 13-9 (7-1, first in Class A North)
Key Losses: Will Bradley (6-1, Guard), Joe White (6-3, Guard), Colin Torres (6-3, Center); Will Higgs (So., 6-11, Center) – transferred to St. Peter’s Prep

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Charlie Marcoullier, So., 6-0, Guard

Peter Noble, Sr., 6-2, Guard

Kevin Pikiell, Jr., 6-3, Guard (Transfer from Gill St. Bernard’s)

Connor Andree, So., 6-5, Forward

Justin Fuerbacher, Jr., 6-5, Forward


Off the Bench

Dylan Kielb, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Gavin Marlin, So., 6-2, Guard

Cam Reynolds, Jr., 6-3, Forward

Joey Mayrose, Jr., 6-5, Forward


2. Marlboro

In his first season as a head coach, James Reuter took over a Marlboro team with enough talent to win, but almost no varsity experience after the 2021-22 Mustangs rolled to the Shore Conference Tournament title and the Group IV final with an all-senior starting five. The Mustangs played like a team still learning the varsity game during the first month of the season and failed to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament. From there, however, Marlboro ripped off eight straight wins that included an upset of St. Rose and two NJSIAA Tournament wins – a hot stretch that propels the Mustangs into year two under Reuter.

While it won’t be like replacing the historic senior class of 2022, Marlboro will have some lost production to account for with the graduation of leading scorer Alex Frank and creative guards Sohan Eleti and A.J. Schwartz. Current seniors Steve Scimone and Dan Elmasri were key parts of Marlboro’s balanced attack out of the back court and will provide experience at the guard spots. Brave Haugh was a legitimate rim protector as a junior and will be one of the Shore’s better big men heading into his senior year.

The rest of the lineup will be relatively inexperienced at the varsity level, with senior Nick Epp and junior Dan Crasto both moving into the starting five while juniors Joey Crue and Kyle Eng each make a big for starter minutes. Marlboro will be deeper than it has been, with senior Matt Cassidy, junior Adam Goodman and freshman Nolan Gong rounding out a legitimate five-man bench to back up the starting five. Now that the labor of replacing the accomplished class of 2022 is over, the Mustangs are primed to keep churning out competitive teams in Class A North.

Marlboro at a Glance

Head Coach: James Reuter, second season
2022-23 Record: 15-10 (3-5, fourth in Class A North)
Key Losses: Alex Frank (6-2, Guard), Sohan Eleti (6-0, Guard), A.J. Schwartz (6-1, Guard), Ryan Mendes (6-2, Forward)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Steven Scimone, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Daniel Elmasri, Sr., 6-1, Guard

Brave Haugh, Sr., 6-7, Forward

Nick Epp, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Dan Crasto, Jr., 5-11, Guard


Off the Bench

Joey Crue, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Kyle Eng, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Nolan Gong, Fr., 5-11, Guard

Adam Goodman, Jr., 6-0, Guard

Matt Cassidy, Sr., 5-10, Guard

Brayden Klein, Sr., 6-1, Guard

Nick Raffone, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Cole Newman, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Jeevan Saini, Jr., 6-3, Forward


3. Manalapan

Last season was a scramble for Manalapan as Matt Conklin took the reins as head coach late in the calendar and the Braves had an unproven roster with some talented parts. The end result was a team that essentially played .500 against a challenging schedule and made it to both the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments – a solid showing under challenging circumstances for a Braves team that has posted a winning record once in the last eight seasons.

This year’s group has the pieces to crack .500, led by all-division performer Anthony Leger. As a junior in 2022-23, Leger showed a well-rounded game that helped make him one of five players in the Shore Conference to average at leas 14 points, five rebounds and three assists. Leger will be surrounded by three other seniors in the starting five, highlighted by returning forward Phil Pearlman. Fellow seniors Tristan Ulrich and Colin O’Brien will step into bigger roles this season and junior Aiden Sosinov will provide some additional size to pair with Pearlman.

The bench is a relative unknown for Manalapan heading into the season, but the Braves have a starting five that came compete every night against the deep, balanced schedule that Class A North and B North boast. With Leger leading the way and some size to match up against larger front lines, Manalapan is set up for a its first winning season in for years with a chance to compete for the Class A North public division title.

Manalapan at a Glance

Head Coach: Matt Conklin, second season
2022-23 Record: 12-13 (4-4, third in Class A North)
Key Losses: Jake Buchman (6-0, Guard), Jake Heitzner (6-4, Forward), Dylan Sullivan (6-0, Guard), Kassan Scott (6-0, Forward), Zach Mangini (5-11, Guard)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Anthony Leger, Sr., 6-3, Guard

Tristan Ulrich, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Colin O’Brien, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Phil Pearlman, Sr., 6-4, Forward

Aiden Sosinov, Jr., 6-5, Forward


Off the Bench

Matt Drucker, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Ryan Feldman, Sr., 5-11, Guard

Joe Farino, Fr., 6-0, Guard

Dean Aviles, So., 5-11, Guard

Richie Piccillo, Jr., 5-11, Guard

Jarrett Barber, Jr., 5-11, Guard


4. Freehold Township

A new era in Freehold Township boys basketball begins in 2023-24, which will be the first season in 29 years without Brian Golub as the Patriots head coach. With Golub’s longtime assistant Todd Smith assuming the head coach’s seat, it will not be completely different for the players in the program and the year-to-year expectations will not change much, if at all. Freehold Township has been one of the Shore’s steadiest public school programs over the last three decades and the Patriots figure to maintain that stature for the foreseeable future.

While the big picture goals are the same, this year’s team will have some retooling to do after graduating two All-Shore players in forward Jayden Holmes-Cotter and point guard Malachi Harris. Junior Nick Cardone emerged as Freehold Township’s third scoring option and secondary ball-handler during a stellar sophomore campaign and he will assume the reins as the Patriots’ top playmaker this season. Senior Andrew Silverman will help Cardone out as a returning starter who can knock down perimeter shots and handle the ball as well.

Senior Brandon Norero steps into the starting lineup after contributing last season, while juniors Sean Harris and Jordan Conover ascend into starting roles. Conover and Norero will have big shoes to fill in replacing the frontcourt production of Holmes-Cotter, but they will get some help from the bench and 6-7 senior Davon Stephenson. Freehold Township will lean on its depth in order to keep pace with the rest of Class A North and while this year comes with a significant amount of change, Freehold Township is still positioned to make a bid for a second straight public division title.

Freehold Township sophomore Nick Cardone. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Freehold Township junior Nick Cardone. (Photo: Tom Smith |

Freehold Township at a Glance

Head Coach: Todd Smith, first season
2022-23 Record: 20-5 (6-2, second in Class A North)
Key Losses: Jayden Holmes-Cotter (6-6, Forward), Malachi Harris (6-0, Guard), James McCarthy (6-4, Forward)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Andrew Silverman, Sr., 5-10, Guard

Nick Cardone, Jr., 5-10, Guard

Brandon Norero, Sr., 6-2, Forward

Sean Harris, Jr., 5-9, Guard

Jordan Conover, Jr., 6-1, Forward


Off the Bench

Davon Stephenson, Sr., 6-7, Center

Jordan Dulnuan, Jr., 5-10, Guard

J.C. Farley, So., 6-1, Forward

Carmen Nalasco, So., 6-1, Forward

John O’Neill, Fr., 6-2, Forward


5. Howell

With Pat Ramsay stepping down in early October after 10 seasons as Howell’s head coach, Shore Conference coaching veteran Dave Emery (St. John Vianney, Shore Regional) stepped in to coach a Rebels team that did not win a division game a season ago, but boasts enough talent to expect better returns in 2023-24. D.J. Orloff and Chris Meehan emerged as a breakout scoring duo last year and now that the two are seniors, Howell has the foundation of a team that can start to turn some of the close losses of a year ago into victories.

At 6-6, Orloff will carry the front court in a starting lineup that is likely to be comprised mostly of guards no taller than six-feet – a challenge for Orloff after last year’s lone senior, 6-5 forward Damien Padilla, gave Howell a strong inside presence. Junior Zach Padilla and senior Jalen Zamot return as guards after starting a season ago, while sophomores Cayden Parker and Mark Fagan also figure into the backcourt rotation. Junior Joe Vella gives Emery a 6-3 option if he wants to play a bigger lineup or spell Orloff.

Howell gave CBA two close games last year and was competitive in two losses to Manalapan and in one of two losses to Marlboro. With a year to experience the challenges of Class A North as a young, inexperienced lineup, the Rebels are poised to pick up some wins against their traditional rivals while also giving the teams of Class B North a challenge in crossover matchups as well.

Howell at a Glance

Head Coach: Dave Emery, first season
2022-23 Record: 9-16 (0-8, fifth in Class A North)
Key Losses: Damien Padilla (6-5, Forward)

Projected Lineup (Returning Starters in Bold)

Chris Meehan, Sr., 6-0, Guard

Zach Padilla, Jr., 5-10, Guard

Jalen Zamot, Sr., 5-9, Guard

Cayden Parker, So., 5-11, Guard

D.J. Orloff, Sr., 6-6, Forward


Off the Bench

Mark Fagan, So., 5-11, Guard

Joe Vella, Jr., 6-3, Forward

Chris Kahwaty, So., 6-0, Forward

Brent Caiazzo, Sr., 6-1, Forward

Jack Ra, Sr., 6-1, Guard

Charlie Marino, Sr., 6-1, Guard


Class A North Starting Five (With 2022-23 Stats)

Anthony Leger, Manalapan (14.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.5 steals)

Justin Fuerbacher, CBA (11.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks)

D.J. Orloff, Howell (16.6 points, 7.2 rebounds)

Peter Noble, CBA (11.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.5 steals)

Steve Scimone, Marlboro (10.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.96 steals)


Breakout Players to Watch

Kevin Pikiell, CBA

Brave Haugh, Marlboro

Connor Andree, CBA

Phil Pearlman, Manalapan

Brandon Norero, Freehold Twp.

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