BRICK – The Brick Township High School boys basketball program’s star is on the rise.
The Green Dragons suffered losing seasons (2-23, 2-22, 3-21) in coach Mike Gawronski’s first three years.
However, Brick has rebounded with winning records of 13-12 and 15-11 under the direction of the former Green Dragons standout.
The veteran coach pointed out the improvement with a burst of Green Dragons Pride.
“We have improved our record every year since we began,” said Gawronski, assisted by F.J. Lucchetti, Joe Smyth, John McKeon, Chris Cordiano, Tyler Dvorak and Chris Golden. “We have made back-to-back appearances in the Shore Conference and state tournaments. Our goal is to get to those tournaments for the third year in a row. That has never been done in school history.
“Our goal now is to win games in those tournaments as well as compete with Toms River North for the Shore Conference Class A South title. North is the favorite to win it in my opinion.”
The Green Dragons will feature one of the best players in the Shore Conference in 6-4 junior guard-forward Shane Williams, whose name is on the lips of several colleges.
Williams last year averaged 14.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.4 steals per game. He paced the team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals, Gawronski noted.
Williams has drawn attention from New Hampshire, Loyola of Baltimore, Lafayette and New Jersey Athletic Conference schools.
“New Hampshire is real interested in Shane,” Gawronski said. “He’s being recruited as a shooting guard and as a small forward who can stretch the floor. Colleges are impressed with his maturity and how he plays the game. He has improved vastly since last season. One of his big improvements is in his leadership. He has become much more of a leader and is much better at going to the basket.”
Williams has improved his offensive game.
“His shooting touch is much better,” Gawronski said. “He has improved his all-around game. I expect him to have one of the biggest years I have seen from a Brick basketball player in a long time.
“His shooting range is maybe one step below the college three-point line. He has a very consistent mid-range game and is not afraid to knock down the big three-pointer. I hope he will become more consistent from three-point range.”
Williams also is valuable on defense.
“He gives us a different type of athleticism that people are not used to seeing around here,” Gawronski said. “He is long, athletic and fearless. He can guard the perimeter and he can guard every position.”
Two other players return from last season’s team. They are 6-foot junior guard Dan Venezia and 5-9 senior guard Mike Mellito. The coaching staff named Williams and Venezia the team’s captains.
Venezia averaged 5.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game.
“I expect Dan to be the leader he was last year,” Gawronski said, “but I expect him to be more vocal. He is one of those special one-of-a-kind people as he is ranked sixth in his class and is the president of our National Honor Society. He has made it a priority to shoot the ball more, which is what we have been begging him to do for the last three years. He is probably our hardest worker. He is our glue guy as he gets us together to play in practices and games.
“He has worked on his scoring ability and has added a pull up jumper to his game. He is a lot more aggressive at going to the basket as he can finish in the lane despite taking either a bump or a hit in a hand. He is probably one of our better off-the-ball defenders.”
Mellito saw limited action last season.
“He did not play much, but he probably had the best summer of all of our players,” Gawronski said. “He has controlled his game. He is a great ball handler and has phenomenal court vision. He is very unselfish. He attacks the gaps when they are open as he sees what the defense is trying to do.”
A transfer from the legendary St. Anthony program is 6-1 junior guard Jalen Jackson, who was the Friars’ sixth man at the junior varsity level. The Jersey City school closed earlier this year because of financial problems.
“He is a multi-dimensional guard who is something Brick has probably never seen before,” Gawronski said. “He is one of the quickest guards in the conference and has phenomenal court vision. He can shoot from the perimeter and take the ball strongly to the basket. Having he and Shane for the next two years is going to be very exciting. Jalen will start at guard.”
Also hoping to make contributions are 5-7 senior guard Sergio Deluca, 5-8 senior guard Kyle Sullivan, 6-5 senior forward Nick D’Eufmia, 6-3 senior guard Dan Meyers, 5-11 senior guard Zac Schiess, 6-2 junior forward Cole Groschel, 5-9 sophomore guard-forward Anthony Maniscalco, 6-1 sophomore forward Aziz Osman, 5-11 sophomore guard Damon Curro and 5-8 sophomore guard Val Grigorian.
“We will definitely go with an up tempo style of play,” Gawronski said. “We don’t hold the ball long. We get open shots due to our penetration. We will press teams a lot, using man-to-man and half court looks. We want our games to be in the 60s and 70s, not in the 30s and 40s.
“We are very athletic and have great guard play. Jalen and Cole will be a great duo with Shane for the next two years. Cole is one of the best athletes in the conference. He will add the toughness and the rebounding we have lacked in the past.
“We need to rebound well to win games. Our depth will be a question mark as we need three or four players to step up and fill roles. We feel we have a very competitive team that can compete every night to win.”
Gawronski is third on the Green Dragons’ career scoring list with 1,315 points. His jersey has been retired. He led Brick to its lone Class A South title in school history and a 20-9 record-best in the Green Dragons’ history. Gawronski, 28, teaches Introduction to Business, Entrepreneurship and Sports and Entertainment Marketing at Brick.
He attends Georgian Court University where he hopes to earn a Master’s Degree in Administration.