TRT Boys Basketball Preview of 2017-2018 Season

December 15, 2017
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Rumson-Fair Haven’s Ian O’Connor, Teddy Sourlis and Jack Solano celebrate during the Bulldogs Central Jersey Group 2 championship.

By Rich Chrampanis and Jim Hintelmann

Christian Brothers Academy
Head Coach: Geoff Billet, 11th season
2016-2017 Record: 16-10
Division: “A” North

A 16-10 mark is usually cause for celebration for any normal varsity basketball program, but the high water mark set by one of New Jersey’s most prolific programs has the Colts looking for more. 6’9” junior Josh Cohen nearly averaged a double-double last year with 11.6 points and 9.3 rebounds a game and should be one of the best big men in the Shore thanks to a big growth spurt.

“I’m pretty hopeful,”  said CBA coach Geoff Billet. “Cohen grew two inches from last year and has looked good in the pre-season, but we’re still very young.”.

Once again, the Colts have a tremendous out of conference schedule to get them ready for not only “A” north play, but what they hope is a significant post-season run in March.  After their opener on Friday against Manalapan, the Colts will take on Blair Academy at Caldwell College.  CBA also has showcases on tap at Mater Dei Prep against Xaverian out of Brooklyn and a showdown with Rumson-Fair Haven at the Hoop Group Showcase at Brookdale Community College on January 6.

Colts Neck
Head Coach: Lou Piccola, 19th season
2016-2017 Record: 15-9
Division: “A” North

The Cougars lose Brendan Clarke who averaged 15 points per game in his senior season and will best be known for his buzzer beater in the state sectional finals during his junior season.  But coach Lou Piccola has a senior laden roster led by Danny Gaines who was the Cougars leading scorer last year who poured in over 16 points a night.  Ben Bosland did a little bit of everything as he was good for 8.5 points, 7 rebounds and 5 dimes a game.  If Bosland can match those numbers and Gaines continues his scoring touch, the Cougars will be a fun team to watch in 2017-18.  Colts Neck was a top 10 team in the Shore Conference last year and all arrows point towards the Cougars staying in that lofty company this year.

 

Holmdel
Head Coach: Sean Devaney, 12th Season
2016-2017 Record: 12-10
Division: “A” Central

Holmdel coach Sean Devaney looks for improvement over last year’s 12-10 record and has some experience in Timmy Zhou, Alex Rubano and Eric Celenti. Zhou averaged 12 points a game and closed out his junior season with a 26 point effort in a loss to AL Johnson in the state playoffs.  “We have a heavy sophomore and senior group of players,” said Devaney. “We would like to be competitive and should do okay.”

The Holmdel football team experienced a winning season and a trip to the playoffs and a pair of Hornets from the gridiron will be a significant part of the basketball rotation with Connor LaMountain looking to provide a mountain presence in the paint and Johnny Christian looking to make an impact in the backcourt.  Holmdel opens the season on Friday night with a trip to West Long Branch and a matchup with the Shore Regional Blue Devils.

 

Middletown North
Head Coach: Mike Iasparro, 11th Season
2016-2017 Record: 16-11
Division: “B” North

Middletown North lacks size, but the Lions should be a contender with high scoring Rob Higgins (23.4 ppg) leading an experienced team. Higgins has missed part of the pre-season with the flu, but should be ready for North’s opening game with RBC Friday.

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‘He’s hard to guard,” said North coach Mike Iasparro. “Everything we run offensively is off his penetration to the basket. We’ll shoot a lot of threes  but will have to block out and be fundamentally sound.”

Higgins has begun to garner Division I offers including American University and Saint Peter’s and more should be on the way if he continues to develop his game.  The junior had a high of 41 points against crosstown rival Middletown South last year and is a strong free throw shooter, consistently drawing contact in the lane and getting to the charity stripe.

Other returnees are Dave Campbell and Sky Cherry.

 

Middletown South
Head Coach: Jim Anderson, 1st Season
2016-2017 Record: 8-18
Division: “B” North

The Eagles have not had a winning season since 2010, and have turned to their past to try and return to winning ways on the hardwood. Jim Anderson, who coached Middletown South from 1994 to 2001 has returned behind the bench bringing back a couple of dynamic scorers in Dave Gervase (14.5 points per game) and Ryan Purcell (16.8 points per game). Nick Unrath is the other returning starter from last year’s team. While finishing 10 games under .500, Middletown South showed flashes of what could be this season after pulling stunning upsets against Long Branch and Manasquan. The Eagles are the #7 seed in the WOBM Christmas Classic in Toms River in late December and could see Manasquan in the second round if they can top Central Regional on December 23.

 

Red Bank Catholic
Head Coach: Tyler Schmelz, 2nd Season
2016-2017 Record: 17-10
Division: “B” North

Red Bank Catholic finished in a three-way tie for first place in the division last year and became one of the surprise teams not only in “B” North, but the entire Shore Conference. RBC was able to get post-season wins in the SCT and the state playoffs. Coach Tyler Schmelz is looking for another good season with three starters back.

“We have good size but must play good team basketball,” said Schmelz. “If we do, we’ll win a lot of basketball games.”

Coming back are Matt Ansell, Kevin Bauman and Charlie Gordinier, all of them played on RBC’s “B” North stellar football team. Look for another football standout, junior quarterback Steve Lubischer to play a key role in the backcourt. Also expected to see playing time are Matt Conley, John Duffy, John Kelly and Logan Whelan.

 

Red Bank Regional
Head Coach: Scott Martin, 17th Season
2016-2017 Record: 9-15
Division: “A” Central

 

With the loss of Devin Cooper (transfer to Rumson-Fair Haven), Red Bank Regional is rebuilding with just two seniors on the team. The only experienced players are Dean Hottmann who will fill the paint with his 6’6” frame, along with Liam Joyce and Ryan Forsman. The Bucs’ lone senior is Jasir Thomas.  Cooper would have been a player who would have been capable of being a 20 point per game scorer if he stayed at RBR, now coach Scott Martin will try and find the right mix to get a number of young players involved and build confidence in the rigors of a tough “A” Central schedule and their usual quality field in the Buc Classic coming up during the holiday season.  Red Bank Regional opens the eight team tournament with a matchup against Lakewood on December 27.

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Rumson-Fair Haven
Head Coach: Chris Champeau, 9th Season
2016-2017 Record: 24-3
Division: “A” Central

 Football hasn’t been the only successful boys athletic team at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional in recent years with the basketball team developing into one of the Shore’s top programs, and the current edition should continue the winning ways.

Rumson had one of its finest seasons a year ago rolling to a 24-3 record including winning its first ever NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 2 championship with a win over A.L. Johnson, and four returning starters will make the Bulldogs one of the Shore’s best once more.

“We’re very excited about the year,” said RFH coach Chris Champeau, beginning his ninth season as head coach at RFH. “We have the shooters, size  and a lot more depth this season.”

Setting the pace  for Rumson are senior guards Teddy Sourlis (6’0”) and Jack Solano (6’0”), two of the top three-point shooters in the area. Sourlis (14.7 ppg) made 126 field  goals last year, and 103 of them were three-pointers. (Solano 13.5 ppg) hit 69 from three-point range.

Providing the size are football standout Elijah McAllister (6’7”), Jackson McCarthy (6’7”) and Phil Wheeler (6’7”). McAllister missed part of last year with a torn ACL, but should be ready for the start of the season when his football recruiting concludes.

Rumson has also been strengthened by the addition of Devin Cooper, a transfer who averaged 11 points a game for Red Bank Regional last season. Also back from last year is Ian O’Connor (12.3 ppg).

“We play a strong schedule this year including St. Peter’s Prep and Bergen Catholic,” said Champeau, whose team opens its season Friday against Matawan.

 

Shore Regional
Head Coach: Erik Mazur, 1st Season
2016-2017 Record: 7-16
Division: “A” Central

Former Barnegat boys basketball coach Erik Mazur is back leading the varsity ranks as he takes over the Blue Devils boys squad.  Shore Regional looks to improve with three returning starters in Kevin Dubois, Kyle Koob and Chris Panduri. The duo of Koob and Panduri combined to average 25 points per game last year and have two full years of starting experience at the varsity level heading into their junior year. The other two starters will probably be Devin Chartier and Ryan Paglia.  Chartier is one of three seniors on the roster along with Kevin and Jack Dubois.

“I have a good outlook,” Mazur said,.“We have some good shooters and should compete in our division, but we must rebound to play well.”

 

St. John Vianney
Head Coach: Ryan Finch, 2nd Season
2016-2017 Record: 7-18
Division: “A” Central

St. John Vianney is rebuilding and looks for improvement behind seniors Zach Moran (6-3) and Chris Mikos (6’4”) along with junior AJ McGimpsey (6’5”). The trio will also get help from a trio of transfers (Eli Malara and James Rapley from Marlboro and Jahmal Garraway from Matawan).  The Lancers open the season at Raritan on Friday and will get a chance to face some quality competition at Neptune’s Holiday Jubilee during the final week of December.  While RFH and Matawan are the clear favorites in “A” Central, the Lancers will look to try and be one of the surprise teams in the division.


This article was first published in the Dec. 14-21, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

 

 

 

 

 

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