Kukoda ready for the challenge as new Warriors boys basketball coach


 New Egypt New Egypt Matt Kukoda has a tall challenge as he succeeds Jay Corby as head boys basketball coach at New Egypt High School — a team that has had 20-win seasons and runs for the Burlington County Scholastic League division title.

Last year’s team got to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I semifinals before losing to Asbury Park High School, 63-47, to finish the season with a 16-12 record. The warriors lost to Asbury Park in the sectional finals two years ago when they finished 24-6.

Also facing a tall challenge as a new winter coach at New Egypt is Jason Frable, who moves up from being the assistant wrestling coach over the last five years to the team’s head coaching position, succeeding Kevin English.

Winter sports practices began on Nov. 26.

“There are mounting expectations because I’m succeeding Jay Corby, who had a lot of success in his 14 years of coaching, 12 on the varsity level here,” said Kukoda.

Kukoda has eight years of coaching experience, three as assistant coach at St. John Vianney High School and the first five at St. Rose High School as the head junior varsity coach.

Kukoda was a three-sport All-Shore athlete at St. John Vianney, scoring just under 1,000 points in basketball before embarking on a college career at Monmouth University. At Monmouth, he played on the 2004 Northeast Conference championship team that played in the NCAA Tournament, losing in the first round to Mississippi State University.

“I played under (Monmouth coach) Dave Calloway, who was instrumental in me learning the game and teaching it,” Kukoda said.

He takes over a program that does not have the marquee players of recent years, like big center Desmond Hubert, who went on to the University of North Carolina, point guard Ed Przybylkowski, who is starring at Castleton State College, and Tyler Barnes, who was a leader on last year’s New Egypt team.

“Our big focus is not to be one-dimensional,” Kukoda said. “This year, we’ll be a lot more balanced. I expect contributions from eight to 10 guys.”

With that, Kukoda said his emphasis is on a physical, man-to-man defensive style.

“We hope to have our offense feed off our defense,” Kukoda said. “We won’t back down to anybody there.” The new coach said he wants all five guys on the floor to be a threat at all times. “We’ll hold our players accountable on defense and grind it out on the offensive end in a half-court game,” Kukoda said.

He admits 6-foot-2-inch tall senior Bill Raab has ample experience that makes him “counted on for (doing) a lot.” Kukoda said Raab can play at any position. Six-footthree inch senior shooting guard Connor Lindsay also has a lot of experience.

“The big question mark from there is which guys will step up,” Kukoda said. “A lot of these guys were on good teams in the past but did not have to play a significant role.”

One of them could be senior Mike DeAnni, an athletic three-sport player who can play guard or forward.

Junior Travis Ward, who led the soccer team in scoring in its winningest season that ended in the school’s first trip to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I finals, and senior Kyle Gatyas are top candidates for the point guard spot when the season opens Dec. 17 at Holy

Cross High School. Senior Reid

Anderson, who is 6 feet 5 inches, and Hunter Lang, who is 6 feet 1 inch, are post players. Lang was an outside defender on the soccer team. Ryan Poch, a senior forward, plays beyond his 5-foot-10- inch height.

“We’ll be upperclassman dominated,” Kukoda said.

New Egypt also will host a Christmas Tournament on Dec. 27 and Dec. 29 that includes Point Pleasant Beach High School, Lindenwold High School and Solebury School from New Hope, Pa.

Kukoda has appointed former Monmouth teammate Brent Wilson as his varsity assistant and Tom Cassidy, who was an assistant for the past six years at South River High School, as junior varsity coach.

Along with Kukoda, Frable comes from an NCAA Division I background as a former wrestler at West Virginia University. He coached wrestling on the high school level previously at Eastern High School, Kingsway Regional High School and Southern Regional High School.

“Since starting at New Egypt five years ago, it has been an amazing process to watch certain individuals and this program flourish,” Frable said. “It’s an honor to have this opportunity.”

“Jason is a tireless worker who will ensure the success that this program has enjoyed in the past,” said athletic director Rich Carroll.