Former Red Bank Regional and University of Maryland standout Tahj Holden has been hired as the new boys basketball coach at Ranney, which is welcoming a freshman class expected to transform a program that traditionally has been stuck near the bottom of the standings.

"For a school like Ranney to land a coach with that pedigree is unbelievable,'' Ranney athletic director Bobby Malone said. "What he brings is so far beyond basketball. He's just a man of high character, and that's what I'm most excited about.''

(Photo via LinkedIn)
(Photo via LinkedIn)

Holden was the JV coach at perennial power Christian Brothers Academy for the last two seasons. Prior to that, he was the director of basketball operations and an assistant at Monmouth University. Holden starred in the late 1990s as a 6-foot-10 forward for Red Bank and then was a starting forward on the Maryland team that won the national championship in 2002. He replaces Drew Eldridge, who led the Panthers to a 5-13 season in his only year as the head coach this past winter.

This is Holden's first head coaching job, and he inherits a team welcoming a loaded freshman class led by two of the top incoming freshmen in the country, 6-foot-3 Hazlet resident Scottie Lewis, and 6-foot-3 explosive athlete Bryan Antoine, who was a star at St. Mary's in Middletown. That's not all, as standout point guard Alex Klatsky and 6-foot-6 forward Chris Autino from Manalapan are also part of the group. All of them play together on the same Team Rio AAU squad, and Klatsky and Lewis both played for Ranney's eighth-grade team last season.

"There's a lot of excitement, especially in the basketball community,'' Malone said. "The one message that Tahj shares with me is that they are only freshmen. They're skilled, but they're still only 14. Everybody has to be mindful that we are going to hit bumps in the road, and we hired the coach we did to help us navigate those bumps. We're playing catch-up with the rest of the Shore. Now it's time to do the things that need to be done to be competitive in every sport."

The new-look Panthers will make their early-season debut in 2015-16 by participating in the Albert Martin Buc Classic holiday tournament at Holden's alma mater, Red Bank Regional, for the first time. The incoming class should make an intriguing Class B Central race even more interesting, as there are defending co-champions Point Beach and St. Rose plus a Mater Dei Prep team that has a new coach in Ben Gamble who is expected to bring in a host of players from a 21-win team at now-defunct Cardinal McCarrick.

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