Today marks the official first day of high school practice. Last week was tryouts and now most rosters are set for the season. Coaches will now start the process of putting in there offensive and defensive philosophy.  They also will start the process of creating a rotation and more importantly a basketball identity… BUT THE REAL QUESTION IS WHAT DO WE KNOW RIGHT NOW?


What we know right now are two teams are the favorites to win not only the SCT but the TOC as well, St. Rose and Manasquan. There are two teams with a legit shot at taking out either of these Nationally Ranked Teams. SJV which is ranked #11 in the country has a chance, but do they have the experience? RBC has the talent and the experience now, the question is can they get over the hump?


What we know right now, is that Lisa Kukoda has the toughest coaching job in the Shore Conference. It’s not often when you play in the State Championship game and have everyone back that you expect changes. But this is exactly what Lisa Kukoda is facing. She will add two players who will need to play. Trying to figure out how to split up the minutes in REAL GAMES, will not be easy.  Kukoda has never had a deep roster, rotations have always been very easy. Now she will need to find a balance that will not disrupt her teams biggest strength in the past…CHEMISTRY!


What we know is that a freshman class we once thought was one of the weakest in recent years is anything but that.  We know that 2 of the best 3 freshman in all of New Jersey were out all fall. How will this affect the Freshman of the Year award? More importantly how will it affect there teams? Impact freshman are important to any program. But to Manchester and Colts Neck who rarely get prized freshman, it’s a major blow. But St. Rose has Molly Lynch a future star and Middletown South has Kayla Richardson both who are serious babies, that could give their teams a serious edge in THE BIG GAMES THAT MATTER MOST.


What we know is Dave Callahan is replacing a legend. What we don’t know is what’s next for RFH. They certainly won’t have the talent as in recent years. There is no Player of the Year candidates or 1st team All Shore locks of years gone by.  We do know they have two D1 players on their roster in Hannah Scanlon and Tori Hyduke. The word on the street is both have made improvements and are ready for monster seasons.  We know the JV and Freshman programs will need to be built form the bottom up.  If Sophia Sabino the talented 8th grader was convinced to attend  RFH that would help that process. We know that rotation problems of the past will be gone. Coach Callahan most likely they will play 6/7 players at most in real games. They have no impact freshman, but do have 2 freshman with size joining the program. The RFH program is at the crossroad in every way. But for this season, RFH will return to the role they have played in earlier  years …THE ULITMATE SPOILER and GIANT KILLER.


What we know is there where some important transfers this year. While most will focus on Lola Mullaney moving to Manasquan. Few are discussing the transfer of ALL FRESHMAN TEAM member Rahmena Henderson’s move to SJV. SJV gets another D1 player and more importantly Neptune loses it only point guard in the program. Henderson was most likely first in minutes played for Neptune last year and that includes Dezzy Allen. Annie Mako will give Manasquan another talented player coming off the bench. But maybe the biggest impact any transfer will have is Holmdel’s Christina Antonakakis. Antonakakis going back to Holmdel was a wise decision and makes Holmdel a very interesting team. Don’t be surprised if are calling her the best pure point guard in the shore at season’s end.  It’s nice to see this young lady back on track and with smiles again.


What we know is that injuries are playing a big role. Just look at the 2 freshman stars who have been out. But Southern had a real chance to jump into the Top 20 this year. Mckayla Nicolini and Collen Brady are two of the most underrated players in the Shore. Brady I believe has D1 possibilities. But all this talk about Top 20 goes on hold, because Gabby Davis the 6’0″ center with D1 ability, career has come to a end due to injuries. Replacing Davis is almost impossible to do at this point. Many believed that Tom River North would take another step towards a Top 20 ranking in the state. They had 2 of the 7 best freshman in the state last year. But both are out with injuries, Brielle Bisogno is out for the year with a torn ACL.  Jenna Paul has sat out all FALL and missed the first 3 days of tryouts. It a bitter pill for such talented and future D1 locks. Maureen Coakley has been out most of the fall for RBC, she is their only true post offensive player. Megan Hughes a D1 guard and All Shore type from Pt Boro has been out all fall. Faith Masonious of Manasquan has been in a boot all fall. Folks these are serious players out to start to the season.


What we know is Donavan Catholic has the best incoming freshman class. Paige Slaven is going to make a serious run at Freshman of the Year. Karolina will not only be one of the most recruited players in the shore one day; but will have a major impact on this year’s team. They have added size with a post transfer from Neptune. She will give them size and a hard nosed player. Molly Collins is back and so is Alyssa Hirschy two proven double figure and explosive scorers. Donavan Catholic could surprise some people and in the future be a Top 20 team. The only question is can they play for each other and not against each other.


What we do know, is that the  Shore will start off the year with 4 teams in the State Top 4 ranking. St. Rose, Manasquan, SJV and RBC will all start out the year in the Top 5 in the state. Now who else will make the cut? I believe RFH will be in the TOP 20 and the same for Middletown South. Now the question is, what about Neptune? It’s a big question without Rahmena Henderson, to start the year. But they have to be a Top 20 team on paper. Right now I don’t see any other team cracking the state Top 20.


What we do know, is that Kimi Evans is the best player in New Jersey. But  Faith Masonius, Dezzy Allen and Luci Thomas can no question put a team on their back and carry them to a SCT.  All three are also Player of the Year Candidates.


What we do know is that, Dara Mabrey, right now is the best closer in the Shore. Who are the other closers? Rose Caverly  is a serious closer and if RBC is ahead or needs a basket, this is who will have the ball late in games. Hayley Dalonzo is  a serious closer because she can beat you so many ways late in a game and make great decisions. Dezzy Allen has proven she can close with the best.


What we do know is that, last year Tina Lebron became a  All Shore player and nobody saw it coming. This year Tia Montange is going to be All Shore and is going to shock a lot of people. Right now she looks as good as any senior in the shore. She my friends is ready for serious battle. Do you know Ariana Dalia? No, well folks hold on to your seat beats, because you will this season. Joe Whalen has developed another talented player. Dalia is going to have a major impact on the St. Rose team this year….


Finally, WHAT I KNOW THAT YOU DON’T…. is the names of the players, who didn’t take short cuts? The players who committed to their development and didn’t worry about recruiting while skipping workouts or high school fall games. I know the players who used the fall to improve their weakness. Not those trying to convince us how hard they are working, by racking up stats in AAU and fall games…how silly to think we would fall for this!  More importantly I know the players WHO SHOWED UP EVERYDAY?  I know  the players that walked the walk and talked the talk? I also know the players that just talked? It’s like clock work every year. I make a mental list of kids, I know who will show up on the big stage and be GREAT TEAMMATES  and those who will be all hype. I know the real players, the ones who will show up because of  their unforgiving work ethic and competitive nature...THEY DON’T  DUCK COMPETITION OR TRY AND LIVE OFF THEIR REPUTATIONS… This list of  players I will keep in my pocket!









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