Life can change a lot for young players as they progress from eighth to ninth grade. Kids will face a time when they will have to take on a lot more responsibilities. Academically, students will take on new challenges. They will need to learn how to balance their time more effectively. Athletics will also become much more difficult. Players will learn that the competition level will increase once they get to high school. At the same time, many high level prospects will be identified at a young age. This can happen through AAU and different Summer programs.
Whether a kid lives up to the potential can be determined by several factors. Some of these factors include work ethic, parent and teacher support, and also having a positive attitude. Kids should always go into the season knowing that they always have room for improvement. Players need to understand that they can always grow as a person and a leader. Today, we will look at five freshman players who not only have a positive attitude, but all the support in place to have very successful high school careers.
FAITH MASONIUS – MANASQUAN FORWARD
Many people will ask specific question when they think about Manasquan High School in 2016. “How can it be fair for Manasquan to gain one of the best incoming freshman in the country? After all, they just graduated one of the greatest players and prospects in NJ history who is going off to Notre Dame”. There is certainly no replacing Marina Mabrey as a player, person, and teammate, but believe me when I tell you that Faith Masonius is going to be something special!
Faith Masonius is a 6’0″ Super Freshman who can do anything on the court. Faith has the size and strength of a forward and center, but can also handle the ball like a guard. She has plenty of moves and a rare ability to go to her left or right side offensively. She can also hit the three pointer from any spot behind the line. We are also not even talking about how intimidating she can be for opposing players within the paint. Faith knows how to put herself in position to grab multiple rebounds, block shots, and just wear other players down with her power. Coach Lisa Kukoda has to be excited about such a tremendous prospect coming into her program.
Faith has spent years playing for the Exodus Wildcats AAU team that is coached by her mother, Ellen Clark Masonius. She has gained lots of experience playing against some of the best teams in the country. She has defended several of the best prospects around. Playing for this Wildcats team has also helped her develop great chemistry with her sister Addie, and cousin Stella Clark. I expect these three players to be huge for Manasquan this year. The sky is the limit when it comes to Faith’s potential, and she has every bit of upside that is needed to succeed at the Varsity level.
If you didn’t get a chance to listen last week, Sean Martin and Jim Rosa had a chance to sit down with Faith Masonius to talk about the upcoming season.
ISLA BRENNAN – MIDDLETOWN SOUTH GUARD
After struggling offensively in 2014-15, Middletown South may have just found the leader they need to run this offense. That person is none other than the daughter of their head coach, Isla Brennan. People around the Shore knew exactly what Isla was going to bring to the table. After all, she has developed quite the basketball IQ from working with a father like Tom Brennan. Tom Brennan has earned the nickname “The Professor” because of his ability to teach the fundamentals of basketball on the offensive and defensive end. This has led Isla to have a Basketball IQ that is well beyond her years. Trust me when I tell you that this is not your typical freshman who is moving up to the Varsity level.
Isla has a rare ability to see plays on the floor before they actually happen. I cannot tell you how many times I observed this when I was at the Maroon and White Camp. Isla will bring the ball up, and anticipate exactly where another player is going to be. I can remember a beautiful play when Isla set up the offense, and found superstar Stephanie Karcz right in the lane for a quick two. The timing on the pass was as perfect as it could have possibly been. There was also another play where Isla drove to the basket and kicked the ball behind to fellow freshman Samantha Keenan. Keenan executed the play brilliantly by hitting a great shot from the outside. It is this floor vision that is going to help the Eagles this season. This will take a lot of the pressure off of Stephanie Karcz and Haley Dalonzo. Expect Isla to make a lot of noise this year.
EVE PIRI – MIDDLETOWN SOUTH CENTER
Middletown South may have one of the best incoming freshman classes in many years. Center Eve Piri is another young player that is going to get a lot of attention. Piri is a rare talent with a 6’2″ frame. Piri knows how to position herself underneath the basket to be in the right place at the right time. She is not afraid to fight for rebounds and battle against older players. Piri made this very clear at the Maroon and White Camp. Piri was right around the ball when she was playing against the best competition. Tom Brennan has a real weapon that will make a huge difference for this team in 2016.
Piri is another player that will take a lot of pressure off Stephanie Karcz and Haley Dalonzo. Many times last season, Karcz and Dalonzo had to do the majority of the rebounding. Middletown South spent 2014-15 without a true center on the floor. The best athletes had to take on a lot of the opposing post players to get rebounds. With the presence of Eve Piri, this will allow Karcz and Dalonzo to focus more on scoring. They can position themselves on the floor where they will be to contribute in a major way offensively. Expect Piri to make things very difficult for opposing teams. This will really help Middletown South as they look to repeat as Group III State Champions.
LOLA MULLANEY – COLTS NECK GUARD
The Toms River Starz have been one of the biggest AAU stories of 2015. This a group that is done a tremendous job over the Summer and has really caught the attention of fans across the Shore. The Starz have been strong at every position and have competed against some of the best competition around. One of the leaders of this AAU team has been guard Lola Mullaney. Lola will attend Colts Neck High School in 2015-16.
Lola brings a unique skill set to the table. She is a freshman guard who is well beyond her years when it comes to maturity. She was a 2 time Shore Conference All Star on the Middle School level. She was also a member of the 2015 Run for The Roses All Tournament Team. What separates Lola from many other players is her leadership ability. Lola already has the floor vision of an upperclassmen. She can make plays by finding her teammates in the right position. Mullaney also knows how to demonstrate her great shooting range. She can create her own shots, and hit the three pointer with ease. Driving in the lane comes very easy for her. If she gets stopped, she knows exactly how to fake out her opponents by using her instincts. Colts Neck is really getting a winner here. It’s hard to find an incoming guard who is such a strong all around player. We look forward to seeing Lola excel throughout her high school career.
You can check out Lola’s highlight video below
BRIELLE BISOGNO – TOMS RIVER NORTH GUARD
Brielle Bisogno is another guard who is all set to take the Shore Conference by storm. Bisogno led the Toms River Intermediate North Middle School team to a 19-0 record. Brielle was also the all time leading scorer in school history. Bisogno will join a Toms River North High School team that went 17-8 last year. The Mariners were the runner up to the Class A South Championship and will look to build on that success. The entire Toms River community has been very excited about this incoming freshman class. Everyone keeps asking when Ocean County will get another team that can contend for the SCT. This Mariners class may be the group to build that program.
Bisogno is a very quick and athletic guard. She may only be 5’5″, but believe me when I tell you that catching her will be the biggest problem. This is a guard who is extremely quick off the dribble and can make you miss in a flash. Not only can Brielle use her speed, but she knows how to run an offense very efficiently. Brielle has very good passing ability, and can score when needed. Defensively she can keep up with anyone, and is fearless even when it comes to taking on bigger players.
Bisgono will have a big role for the Mariners right away. This will be a big opportunity to really make her mark on the Shore. She is a great leader on the floor. She can rally her team in any situation. It really means a lot for a team to have a player who can put others in a position to be successful. Make sure you come out to the Pine Belt arena to see Bisogno in 2016!
You can watch Brielle’s highlight video right here.
The 2015-16 class is clearly one with a lot of potential. It will be great to see how much these players can develop over the next four years. Coaches I would definitely keep your eye on all five of these players as the regular season begins. All five will get plenty of work in the Hoop Group Fall League. Once the regular season begins, they will all be ready to contribute in a huge way. I believe all five of them are going to be household names throughout the Shore.