By Jimmy Allinder
Jeff Warner has observed a lot of basketball in seven years as an assistant coach for the Monroe Township High School boys’ team.
Now that he has been named head coach, Warner plans to put a renewed emphasis on defense in his effort to rebuild a program that has languished in recent seasons.
“We’re going to work on getting defensive stops,” the former Jackson Memorial High School and The College of New Jersey graduate said. “There are going to be nights we sit in a half-court zone and others when we man-press. It’s not going to be the same recipe every game, but that and strong rebounding will be what determines our success.”
There’s no question what Warner thinks about individual vs. team goals.
“I look for guys who put the team before their own accomplishments,” he said. “I firmly believe everything will take care of itself if we succeed together on the court.”
Warner, who resides in Belmar, will test that philosophy in the winter when Monroe attempts to rebound from consecutive losing seasons and uneven results since 2009-10, when the Falcons won a school-record 22 games and finished 22-4 with a program-first appearance in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament championship game.
Monroe’s two seasons with winning records since then were in 2011-12 (15-12) and 2014-15 (14-10).
Warner admitted last season’s 5-19 team underachieved and after being approved for the head job in May, he has begun implementing his strategy.
“We’ve been working hard this spring, and we’ll continue with the same effort in the summer and fall,” he said. “That’s the only way to prepare for what will be a challenging season.”
Last year was the Falcons’ first as members of the GMC Red Division, which is top-heavy with formidable competition, after years playing in the White Division. Monroe finished 1-13 last season in the division.
“There are no nights off against the caliber of teams we’ll see — not only in our division, but in the entire conference,” he said. “Taking it one game at a time and remaining faithful to the team-first concept will set us up to play to our potential.”
Leading scorer Sashank Sindhia (12.3 points per game), Luke Patel (9.8 ppg), who are both seniors, and junior Michael Kides (8.2 ppg) will certainly be included in the rotation.
“Any one of those guys could lead us in scoring on a given night,” Warner said. “But again, success won’t be about individual achievement, but [instead] how everybody works together.”
As for the future of the program, Warner believes the township recreation program will be important to its success.
“It has always been a great asset to our high school program,” he said. “Most of our current and former players came up through the ranks playing rec ball and learned the game the right way. Without that, it would be difficult to have any success.”