Before I get to thoughts on the NJSIAA general and football realignment, make sure to check back on Thursday afternoon/early evening for some boys basketball notes from around the Shore as well as a baseball feature.
Also, talking to several knowledgeable people in the Shore basketball community and some people close to the Marlboro program on Wednesday, it looks like the new boys basketball coach at Marlboro could possibly be Columbia University assistant Andrew Theokas, which would be a great pick-up for a Mustangs team that returns high-scoring Andrew Goldstein as well as several other guards for next season. Theokas has ties to this area, as he is a former head coach at Ocean County College before he moved on to the Division I ranks as an assistant. However, nothing is official at Marlboro yet.
One other job that I believe has yet to be filled is at Shore Regional, where Doug Shaw has stepped down after leading the Blue Devils to the state playoffs this past season.
One other quick basketball thought, this one on the girls side – imagine if John Truhan had left Colts Neck and taken the job at Manasquan instead of at Central, while Michaela Mabrey transferred from St. John Vianney to Manasquan? Those two decisions were made completely independent of one another, but people would’ve went wild on the message boards and in every gossipy corner of the girls basketball world with that one, acting like Truhan and the Mabreys orchestrated the whole thing even though it would have been a complete coincidence. I’m almost happy it didn’t happen for the sake of Truhan and Mabrey, who would’ve been unfairly raked through the mud.
Now, on to some quick thoughts on the NJSIAA’s latest realignment. First off, that screeching sound you hear is Rumson’s streak of 10 straight sectional titles in girls basketball most likely coming to a halt, as state heavyweight Shabazz is now in the Bulldogs’ Central Jersey Group II section. You know, because Newark is Central Jersey now. (Sometimes I think these maps are drawn up by the same people who made the maps before Columbus set sail). Anyway, that will now be a tall order for a Bulldogs team that loses one of its best players in school history in Kate Miller, who will be a freshman at Princeton. Manasquan, which is still searching for a head coach, is also in CJ II in girls basketball and if Mabrey and some newcomers can make the Warriors into a power to add to Rumson’s always strong teams in the next few years, that section could be interesting if Shabazz stays in that bracket. Shabazz’s move also clears the way for a loaded Neptune squad to win a Group III title, as the Scarlet Fliers lost to Shabazz in the Group III championship game this past winter for their only loss of the season.
Baseball-wise, Toms River North moving to Central Jersey Group IV means it could butt heads even more with Class A South rival Jackson Memorial and others, although the good news is that Hunterdon Central, which has won two straight Group IV titles, is now in North II Group IV. Manalapan looks to have some good teams in the next two years and Colts Neck also returns a lot next year, so that could be a fun bracket next spring.
In football, Central Jersey Group II has become the royal rumble of brackets with Long Branch, New Brunswick, Manasquan, Raritan, Carteret, Rumson, Matawan and Rahway in the mix. Keyport, which has been Group I seemingly for about a million years, is also now thrown into the CJ II mix, and the Red Raiders should have one of their best teams since the Cattouse/Bedle era this fall. Holmdel also returns its entire team and could make a run at a spot. There are going to be some good teams on the outside looking in when only the top eight qualify.
You win that bracket, you earned it, although the bracket does lose a perennial winner in Point Boro, which is back in South Jersey Group II. These are not finesse teams, either – squads like Manasquan, Long Branch and Raritan are physical teams that win by punishing people at the line and on defense. That New Brunswick team that lost to Middletown South in the CJ III playoffs last year was a rugged team, and Carteret usually is as well. In a way, I think that helps the champion of this CJ II bracket because it may have to go through several state-ranked teams to win it, proving its worth when a lot of other Group II champions often struggle to get respect among the entire state. You have a much better argument for a higher ranking if you go undefeated or at least plow through several state-ranked teams to win a championship.