Back from Vacation/Thoughts on New Girls Hoops Coaches

July 29, 2009

I am back from vacation, and after taking some time doing some planning for the fall and meeting with my fellow directors at All Shore Media, I have to say that I miss vacation. Just kidding. Although a week with no cell phone, no TV, and no computer in a tiny island village felt really good. Miss All Shore Media and I also mixed in some swimming with whale sharks in the Caribbean in between cold beverages. I highly recommend taking a long boat ride into the middle of nowhere in the ocean and jumping in the water with the most gigantic, prehistoric fish you’ve ever seen, although I did almost get swiped right in the head by the enormous tail of one of them, which may have put a damper on things.

Anyway, there have been two girls basketball hirings during my absence, although one of them is technically taking place tonight when the Holmdel Board of Education is expected to approve Bob Ward. I had written about that earlier this summer, so it’s no real surprise, and that is a great choice by Holmdel. Ward is a Holmdel graduate who led St. John Vianney to a Tournament of Champions final during his tenure there before serving as an assistant for John Truhan at Colts Neck, which reached its first TOC final during the winter, before Truhan decided to resign and take the job at Central. Two out of the last three Holmdel coaches now have a St. John Vianney connection, as current Lancers coach Dawn Karpell was at Holmdel before taking the SJV job vacated by Ward. Ward replaces Kelly Burns, who resigned during the spring.

Ward has obviously been part of some highly successful teams so he knows what it takes to build a winner, plus he knows the landscape at Holmdel because he grew up there. The bad news is that the Hornets are in the division of death, Class A Central, which features Rumson, Red Bank Catholic and St. John Vianney as well as state playoff teams at Raritan and Shore plus a newly energized Manasquan program. The good news is that at least RBC goes down to Class B North in 2010-11 and Manasquan goes to the new Class C Central under the most recent Shore Conference realignment. If Ward can retain the talent coming up in the ranks and not lose players to RBC and SJV, this team is certainly one to watch.

A new coach who has already been approved is Manasquan’s Felix Romero, a first-time head coach who replaces Kelly Amato, who went 13-28 in two years while battling in the brutal Class A Central. The rumors all along were that the new coaching staff at Manasquan would have direct ties to the AAU teams that feature(d) star SJV transfer Michaela Mabrey and her younger sister. Romero is the coach of the U-13 New Jersey Jersey Demons AAU team, which Mabrey and her younger sister, talented seventh-grader Marina Mabrey, have both played for.

I am fascinated by this situation and am eager to see how it turns out. It’s almost like cutting out the middleman. A lot of girls play on AAU teams before high school and want to keep them intact when they get to high school, but they are always coached by someone else at the high school level. Theoretically, Romero could now be coaching many of his girls for years before they reach the varsity at Manasquan. Usually there’s some kind of sniping between the AAU coaches and the high school coaches, but now Romero is part of the AAU community crossing over to high school. That presents some interesting scenarios, such as if players don’t play for the New Jersey Demons, will they feel like they are getting a fair shake at Manasquan?

I know Shore Conference head coaches moan and groan about AAU coaches and the influence of AAU all the time, but Romero deserves a chance to prove himself before anyone starts throwing stones. The quality of coaching in AAU varies wildly, as some are solid teachers who know the game, and others are basically talent scouts who go out and round up the best players, and then roll the balls out when it’s game time.

I think the general fear is that girls will be recruited to play at Manasquan from the AAU ranks, but it’s not a parochial school. Families will have to move into the sending district if they really want their daughters to play there that badly. If people are willing to make that sacrifice and do it within the rules, you can’t begrudge that. If anyone is surprised any more by these ready-made AAU teams all going to the same high schools and forming all-star teams (i.e., the current SJV team, RBC’s ’08 team and the Marlboro teams of the early ‘oos), you’re living under a rock. Families want the most exposure for their kids, and they want to win. Plus, everyone is jockeying for the the credit when they win, which is why the egos make the coaches on these teams more like Phil Jackson managing Kobe and Co. than a normal high school coach trying to teach the game.

Another siren call has been when a team has a surefire Division I player on it because other parents know that college recruiters will be in the stands at games, so maybe their daughter will get noticed too. You think it will hurt Chyna Golden at Neptune when the stands are full of Division I coaches who are looking at Shakena Richardson and Syessence Davis? Me neither. Don’t think that Mabrey can’t play the pied piper to get schools to come to Manasquan and then maybe some of her Warriors teammates get noticed, too.

There also is the wild explanation that maybe Mabrey just didn’t like it at St. John Vianney, and Golden didn’t like it at Red Bank Catholic. I know, crazy theory, but teenagers have been known to change their minds.

I think Romero will quietly have something to prove, even though he would never say it publicly, that AAU coaches are “real” coaches, not just talent scouts. He was an assistant on the Perth Amboy Tech boys team, so he has some experience at the high school level. People forget that SJV’s Dawn Karpell was an AAU coach of a youth team for a few years, Joe Montano coaches an AAU boys team, Neptune’s John Brown is a former AAU coach, and new Red Bank Regional coach James Young also coached a youth girls AAU team a few years ago that featured Chyna Golden on it, but there is still that perception that AAU coaches are just the fathers of star players and guys who are connected enough to assemble talent, not X’s and O’s guys. We’ll see, but put me down as very intrigued.

There was still no action on the Colts Neck job, which is an interesting position because you have a team that is built to go back to the TOC again, but then will be in major rebuilding mode a year later when the entire roster graduates. The Marlboro boys vacancy also was not filled at Monday’s Freehold Regional District Board of Education meeting, so we’ll see what happens with that and if all the talk of Columbia assistant Andrew Theokas is true. The next Board meeting is Aug. 31.


Going on Vacation/Some Dates to Keep an Eye On

July 19, 2009

Well, after a packed week with the lead up to the US Army All Shore Gridiron Classic, it’s time for me to disappear for a few days with Miss All Shore Media. I hope everyone enjoyed Friday night’s game at Brick and thanks to everyone for coming out and supporting Shore Conference football. We are working on getting the game in its entirety posted on the site along with a few other things.

I will be back by Saturday of this week after heading off to a Caribbean destination. You know the guy in the Corona commercial who hears his cell phone buzzing and promptly skips it into the ocean? Yeah, that would be me.

On Sunday, I took a trip over to Waterfront Park in Trenton with some friends to check out former Red Bank Catholic star outfielder Ryan Kalish, who is in Double A with the Boston Red Sox organization and is one of their top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in a 2-1 loss to the Thunder. Kalish has really come on after a slow start, but you could tell he was a little tired before the game with all the obligations of seeing all his friends and family in the Portland Sea Dogs’ trip to New Jersey. Good luck to him as he continues his ascension in the system. Don’t be surprised to hear his name pop up around the July 31 MLB trade deadline because Boston’s system is chock full of talent and Kalish could be a piece in a deal to land a big-time player to put the Red Sox over the top.

A few dates to keep an eye on while I’m gone – Wednesday is the latest Board of Education meeting in Manasquan, so we’ll see if the Warriors will approve a new girls basketball coach to head up a team that will now include St. John Vianney star transfer Michaela Mabrey. Also, July 27 is the next Freehold Regional District Board of Ed meeting, where we may find out who is going to get the head job for the loaded Colts Neck girls basketball team as well as the Marlboro boys basketball job, where Columbia University assistant Andrew Theokas could be getting the position with the Mustangs. July 30th is the next meeting for the Shore Regional Board of Ed, so we’ll see if Doug Shaw’s replacement on the boys basketball team will be approved.

I hope everybody has a good week, and I’ll catch up on everything when I return.

US Army All Shore Gridiron Classic Extras/Broadcast Info…

July 13, 2009

Monmouth County got in an extra day of practice compared to Ocean County on Monday, as they were dodging the lightning bolts and torrential rain down in Toms River to cut practice way short. That’s a tough break when there’s only six days to prepare, but it sounds like Ocean County has been on the same page since Day One so it shouldn’t be the end of the world. I will be checking out the Ocean County squad for the next two days after seeing Monmouth County for a few days to start the practice week.

I was at Matawan on Monday night for the Monmouth County practice doing a story on the offensive linemen. I have a few more features coming as the day goes along on Tuesday before I head to Ocean County practice, so make sure to be on the lookout for those.

If you can’t make it to the game, just a reminder that it will be broadcasted live on the radio by Fox Sports 1310 am and 105.7 fm “The Hawk” as well as streamed live over the Internet.

As for the offensive linemen, it’s been no surprise that Rumson’s Taylor Brown and Red Bank Catholic’s Chris Spahr have stood out, as they are headed to UPenn and Bucknell, respectively. One surprise has been Shore Regional’s Jason Reid, a small-school player who has impressed with his strength. The Middletown North duo of Frank Constantini and Pat Donlin have also been solid and are used to paving the way for teammate Uly Gibson, who will be one of Monmouth’s running backs. Long Branch’s Sean Williams has made definite strides since the first practice and Nick Hungerford is the quintessential Raritan player – undersized, tough, and coachable with a high motor. RBC’s Shawn Smith was with the O-linemen for the first three days but was switched to the defensive line after Monday’s practice, which is where I think Smith wanted to be all along.

An intriguing player has become Monmouth Regional’s Anthony Fruncillo. He was the Falcons’ quarterback during the fall, was originally slated to be a tight end for Monmouth County but is now at receiver. He is a 6-4 target with a big frame who is an added weapon in the passing game and has the size to catch passes over the middle.

Freehold wideout Brandon Brown was showing off his throwing arm in the drills as he aired out a bomb to Monmouth’s Davaughn Norfleet that nearly went 50 yards in the air and was perfectly thrown. Brown most likely would have been Freehold’s quarterback this past fall had Nick Tyson not transferred from Marlboro, and he certainly has the athletic ability to do it. Tyson, meanwhile, has become a clear leader on the Monmouth County team, and he had a long run during the live period of the practice near the end. Manalapan’s Jim Gilburn also broke off a nice touchdown run.

Asbury Park wideout Derrell Bell will not be participating in the game for Monmouth County, while Wall offensive lineman Kevin Orender is also out with a back injury. Matawan receiver Kyle Hardy has not dressed since suffering a hip injury at the first practice. With the night practices, you also get more people coming to check out the teams, as Middletown North coach Joe Trezza, Holmdel coach Frank Papalia, former Colts Neck coach Mike McArthur, Red Bank assistant Joe Passo and others were all hanging out as well as a group of Freehold players who will be returning for the upcoming season.

Also, I caught up with Howell coach Cory Davies, who is the general manager for the Monmouth County team, and he mentioned that Howell’s 2009 season opener against Piscataway, which is currently scheduled for Friday, Sept. 11, could possibly be moved to Sunday, Sept. 13 at Rutgers Stadium as part of a double-header also featuring St. Peter’s Prep. That’s a nice way to ease into the season – playing Piscataway in a big stadium in their backyard. Piscataway also happens to be the defending North II, Group IV state champion and is geared up for another run.

As for Ocean County, Toms River North punter Jon Tynon and wide receiver Pat Szukics, Lacey wide receiver Andrew Burt, and Southern linebacker Mike Bonsky will not be participating after originally being on the roster. Also, the Lakewood tandem of Wilton Morgan and Wilson Figueroa have both opened some eyes on defense in the secondary and at linebacker in the first few days and are ones to keep an eye on.

Steve Talbott Commits to Purdue/Davis Offered by Rutgers/US Army All Shore Gridiron Classic Notes

July 11, 2009

It’s never over until it’s over, as Freehold Township outfielder Steve Talbott has committed to a scholarship at Purdue after a great performance for the Jersey Shore Carpenter Cup team earlier this summer. After his senior season this spring, Talbott, an All Shore Media first-team All-Conference selection, initially was headed to James Madison University and was going to try to walk on the team. However, with some Purdue coaches in attendance during the Carpenter Cup practices and games, he boosted his stock and will now play for the Boilermakers.

“The school, coaches, facilities, playing situation, and opportunity alone to play in the Big Ten just seemed like the perfect fit,” Talbott wrote in an e-mail.

Also, if you missed it from the live football chat the other night, Neptune junior Charles Davis, who transferred from St. John Vianney during the school year, has been verbally offered a scholarship by Rutgers, according to Neptune coach John Fiore. Rutgers can’t formally offer him the scholarship until Sept. 1, but Davis looks like one of the next in line when it comes to Division I-A players from the Shore Conference. Davis played quarterback and defensive back for St. John Vianney and looks to be a stalwart in the secondary for the Scarlet Fliers this year.

Now, on to some notes from the first day of practice for the upcoming US Army All Shore Gridiron Classic. For Ocean County, Point Boro defensive lineman Jeff Keffer is now playing, as he was not listed on the initial roster, which just added a major road block for the Monmouth County team to try and block at the point of attack. Keffer had a great performance at the North-South All-Star Game and is one of the strongest players in the Shore Conference. Also, Toms River North wideout Pat Szukics will not be participating. There were a few other roster moves as well that I will have for you after Sunday’s practice.

As for the Monmouth County practice, which I attended on Saturday, a few quick things. The no-shows were Asbury Park’s Derrell Bell, who was reportedly at Kean University for a prior commitment, Neptune running back Michael Peavy, who missed practice for family reasons, and Middletown North lineman Pat Donlin, who is expected to be at practice on Sunday. Raritan linebacker Jerome Dean will not be playing in the game after recovering from a recent surgery, according to Monmouth County general manager Cory Davies, and Holmdel defensive back Pat Clarke also will not be playing.

Matawan receivers Kyle Hardy and Kyle Robinson each were a little banged up on the first day as Robinson sprained his right ankle but is expected to return and Hardy suffered a minor hip injury.

As far as sleeper players and those who stood out, Manalapan running back Jim Gilburn is a horse who is tough to bring down and I think could have a big game. Teams ganged up on him on when they played the Braves, so he may benefit from Monmouth County having so many weapons. Middletown North running back Uly Gibson also looked explosive as well. Monmouth Regional wideout Davaughn Norfleet had some nice catches deep downfield, and defensively, just size-wise, Freehold Township linebacker Matt Faiella immediately drew some notice. Neptune defensive lineman Roderick Tillery also knifed into the backfield on a few occasions. Middletown South cornerback Chris Bunge did a nice job in pass coverage against some top receivers, and Eagles linebacker Matt Martino was also very solid. Red Bank Catholic’s Nolan Vill and David Reeves, who are also talented running backs, will be playing defense at linebacker and cornerback, respectively. Also, Colts Neck’s Sean Smith was at linebacker, as he is also a talented wide receiver and one of two Sean Smiths on the Monmouth County team (although the other one, RBC lineman Shawn Smith, is spelled differently).

Also, horror of horrors for RBC fans, the Caseys players were practicing in Rumson-Fair Haven’s purple helmets and practice jerseys. Rumson is RBC’s traditional Thanksgiving game opponent and a main rival of the Caseys, but Reeves said that they hope to have their own helmets and jerseys by Monday after to having to borrow gear from Rumson. “We’ve got to have something else, because this is the worst,” Reeves deadpanned.

Live Offseason Football Chat

July 9, 2009

Just click on the link below to read Thursday’s live chat.

Click Here For Live Football Chat Wrap-Up

Live Football Chat Tonight at 7 p.m.

July 9, 2009

There will be a live football chat tonight at 7 p.m., where we can talk about anything from the upcoming US Army All Shore Gridiron Classic to the coming season and any other offseason news, so be sure to come back tonight to talk some football. Depending on how many people participate, as I know it’s the offseason, that will depend on how long the chat will go.

US Army All Shore Gridiron Classic Practice Schedule

July 7, 2009

For anyone who might want to stop by and check out the practices for the upcoming US Army All Shore Gridiron Classic on July 17 at Brick, here is the schedule for the Monmouth and Ocean County teams. I will have more features coming this week leading up to the practices after taking a little breather over the holiday weekend, and I will try to get a live chat going, most likely Thursday night, about the game and any other offseason football stuff.

Here is the schedule for Ocean County, which will be coached by Southern’s Chuck Donohue Sr. On Saturday (July 11) and Sunday, the Ocean County team will be on the turf at Toms River East from 8-11 a.m. On Monday (July 13) through Thursday, practice will be at Toms River South from 7-9:30 p.m.

As for Monmouth County, which will be coached by Freehold’s Mark Ciccotelli, all the practices will be at Matawan. On Saturday and Sunday, practice is from 9-12 a.m., Monday’s practice will be 6-8:30 p.m. and Tuesday-Thursday will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Also, Freehold wide receiver Brandon Brown, who was an All Shore Media first team All-Conference selection in the fall, is headed to ASA Junior College in Brooklyn to continue his career, according to Ciccotelli.