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2012-13 Manhattan Men's Basketball Season Preview

Courtesy: Manhattan Athletics Department
Release: 11/09/2012
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Expectations are high for the 2012-2013 Manhattan men's basketball team that is coming off one of the most memorable campaigns in its 106-year history.  Head coach Steve Masiello quickly restored the winning tradition to the storied program in Riverdale after just one season at the helm, while also laying the foundation for the Jaspers' return to prominence in years to come.

Manhattan enjoyed the biggest turnaround in the nation last season, posting 21 victories, a 15-win improvement from the previous year, and the Jaspers earned a berth to the postseason for the first time in six seasons. Manhattan advanced to the Second Round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT), but more importantly the Jaspers set a standard Masiello expects for his program on an annual basis, to still be playing late in March.

"Obviously, we made it through Phase 1 of rebuilding the program. We reestablished our name to a place where 'Manhattan Basketball' is relevant again, and people know things are going in the right direction," said Masiello. "Now we have to take the next step."

With  81.2% of the scoring offense back and a talented crop of newcomers, Manhattan is primed to achieve loftier goals, such as capturing the program's fourth Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) title and advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

"This team has destinations set forth that we aspire to reach this season. Our destinations begin with the MAAC Tournament and winning a title. Next is the NCAA Tournament," explained Masiello. "Our goals are very simple: get better every day and closer to our destinations each time we step on the basketball court."

Senior George Beamon will again be a cornerstone for the Jaspers' success as he looks to build on the career season he is coming off. The 6'4" guard from Roslyn, N.Y., garnered All-MAAC First Team honors after leading the conference in scoring. Beamon averaged 19.0 points per game and is considered one of the most prolific scorers in the country.

Juniors Michael Alvarado and Rhamel Brown are key returnees who complement Beamon as co-captains this season. Alvarado is regarded as one of the top point guards in the conference who has the potential for a breakout season. Brown, the reigning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, is one of the elite shot blockers in the country who polished his game in the offseason and can have a major impact on both ends of the floor.

"We could have named five or six guys captains this year, but I thought these three guys really separated themselves by working the hardest in the offseason and with their attitude," said Masiello. "They are good student-athletes who handle themselves very well on campus and in the community. They exemplify what a Manhattan Jasper is all about."

The trio will be asked to lead a Manhattan team that has more depth than the program has seen in recent years. The 16-player roster features five upperclassmen, all of whom have contributed significant minutes for the Jaspers over their careers in Riverdale. Manhattan returns its entire starting lineup, but also welcomes a plethora of talent in its seven newcomers who come to Riverdale from multiple states across the country.

"I think we have a lot of weapons this year. This is one of the deepest teams I have been around in all of my coaching and playing years," said Masiello. "All our new guys bring something different that the team needs, whether it is shooting, size, quickness or speed. Everyone brings something unique to the table.

"That being said, our guys also understand people are going to come out for us every night trying to knock us off. So we will be prepared for every situation, because we will not be able to sneak up on anyone this season."

The Backcourt

The Jaspers' experienced backcourt consists of Beamon, Alvarado and senior Mohamed Koita, who built chemistry last season starting together in more than two-thirds of Manhattan's contests. The trio accounted for approximately 40% of Manhattan's scoring and assists.

Beamon enters his final season in Riverdale as a preseason contender for the MAAC Player of the Year award. The two-time All-MAAC selection scored in double-figures in all 33 appearances last season and led Manhattan in scoring 26 times. A crafty wing with All-America potential, Beamon finished in the top-10 of the conference for six statistical categories, including three-point field goal percentage (.427), a skill he added to his repertoire in the offseason. In one year, Beamon went from knocking down six treys to 61. Beamon has scored 1,131 of his 1,211 career points over the last two years and is within striking distance to finish his career as one of the top-3 scorers in Manhattan history.

"George is not only a natural scorer, he is a great all-around player. He is a great play maker who rebounds the ball from the guard position very well. George is also becoming a terrific perimeter defender," said Masiello. "It wouldn't surprise me if you saw all his other numbers really go up this season aside from scoring, in the rebounding, assists and steals area."

Alvarado is an All-MAAC-caliber point guard who garnered Third Team honors last year after earning All-Rookie Team recognition as a freshman. He started 26 of 30 appearances for the Jaspers last season, finishing second on the team in scoring (8.5 ppg) and assists (95) despite missing the last three games of the regular-season and the MAAC Tournament due to injury. The 6'2" local product from the Bronx harbored the fourth best assist:turnover ratio (1.3 to 1) in the MAAC and his 3.2 assists per game average was the sixth-highest.

"I think Mike is the premier point guard in this conference, and he is capable of having a break out year and catching the country by storm. He has really matured and understands the position," explained Masiello.

Coming off an abbreviated sophomore campaign as he rehabilitated from a pair of injuries, Koita started 25 of 33 appearances in 2011-2012. He developed into a major factor for the Jaspers down the stretch. In the last eight games of the year, the native of Cergy, France averaged 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and shot .447 percent from the field.

Sophomores Donovan Kates and RaShawn Stores can also bolster the Jaspers backcourt. Kates is a hard-nosed player from Hopkinsville, Ky., whose shooting range is a major threat for Manhattan. He earned quality experience as a freshman, playing in all 34 games and making 11 starts. Kates knocked down 23 three-pointers, averaged 5.0 points and 1.8 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game last season. He put on display his ability to knock down the clutch shot in his first collegiate game burying two three pointers late in the second half to send Manhattan past NJIT. The performance earned him MAAC Rookie of the Week honors.

Stores will make his Jasper debut after sitting out the 2011-2012 campaign per NCAA eligibility requirements. The 5'11" guard from the Bronx is a slashing guard with good quickness who is a legitimate scoring and passing threat. Stores lettered four years earning All-Bronx and All-CHSAA recognition at All Hallows High School, where he was a teammate of Alvarado.

CJ Jones is a highly touted freshman from Chicago who is expected to have an immediate impact. The 6'0" guard is a tenacious on-the-ball defender who was ranked as the sixth best prospect in Illinois by ESPN.com. He is a pass-first point guard who excels scoring in mid-range and finishing at the rim. Jones played his first three years of high school ball at Orr in Chicago. He finished his scholastic career at national prep powerhouse St. Thomas More in Oakdale, Conn., where he helped lead the Chancellors to a 28-8 overall record and advance to the National Prep Tournament quarterfinals.

Freshman guard Paul Bayt is one of the purest shooters on the roster who has extensive range, adding an outside scoring threat. A product of Carmel, Ind., Bayt comes from a highly successfully basketball program at Park Tudor, where helped lead the team to back-to-back Indiana High School Athletic Association State Championships in his final two seasons.

Mark Jackson, Jr. and Sky Williams round out the Manhattan backcourt. Jackson, a transfer from Louisville and the son of former NBA guard and current Golden State Warriors head coach, is available for the 2012-13 season. Jackson played high school ball in California completing his career at Taft where he helped the Toreadors finish with a 26-6 overall record and perfect 10-0 mark in the West Valley League as a senior.

Williams enjoyed a decorated high school career locally at Tuckahoe where he graduated as the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,537 career points. He averaged 27.8 points as a senior and garnered New York State Class C Player of the Year honors as he guided Tuckahoe to a 25-0 record and the state championship.

The Frontcourt

Manhattan possesses some of the most size and athleticism up front in the MAAC. Upperclassmen Roberto Colonette and Brown bring significant experience to the lineup, while sophomores Emmy Andujar, an All-MAAC Rookie Team selection, and Ryan McCoy are also expected to power the Jaspers' front line.

"I am very excited about our front line. We can play with a lot of different looks with our versatility," said Masiello. "This core group has played at this level and experienced success, and then you add in a young guy like Adam Lacey and you have a solid rotation up front," Masiello said.

Colonette is a rugged player in the post with a 6'7", 210-pound frame that maneuvers well around the basket. A graduate student who was selected Manhattan's 2011-2012 Comeback Player of the Year after rebounding from a season-ending injury as a junior. Last season, Colonette played in all 34 games, starting 26 times. He was one of the Jaspers' most efficient players when he stepped on the hardwood averaging 6.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and nearly one block in 18.1 minutes per game.

Brown rapidly developed into one of the top big men in the conference. The 6'7", 230-pound junior from Brooklyn became the first player in Manhattan history to earn the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year award. Brown is considered one of the top shot blockers in the nation, a statistical category he led the MAAC in for the second straight season with 2.5 rejections per contest. He set the program's single season blocks record (84) last year and is on pace to shatter the program's career mark. In addition to his superb defensive ability, Brown was a pure stat machine in 2011-2012 as he averaged 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and ranked second in the MAAC with a .601 field goal percentage all over only 19.1 minutes per game.

Andujar played like a polished veteran during his first season in Riverdale. One of the Jaspers' most consistent players, he started 32 of 33 appearances in 2011-2012. The 6'6" Bronx native is a triple-double threat who finished second on the team with a 8.5 scoring average, and he led Manhattan with 105 assists and 185 rebounds. Andujar ranked in the top-10 of the league in three statistical categories, including assist:turnover ratio (1.3:1), assists (3.2 per game) and field goal percentage (.491). The two-time MAAC Rookie of the Week selection gives the Jaspers great flexibility in the lineup with his ability to play multiple positions.

"Emmy's work ethic is second to none, and he really developed his body and game in the offseason. He is more explosive now and will continue to grow as a complete player as he starts to be talked about as one of the premier players in the league," explained Masiello.

McCoy, a 6'9" forward from Skillman, N.J.,  improved his strength in the offseason to complement his excellent basketball fundamental skills. He appeared in all 34 games, averaging 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds in 18 MAAC contests.

Ashton Pankey is a transfer who returned to his hometown the Bronx after beginning his collegiate career in the ACC at Maryland. The 6'10", 225-pound forward started 17 of 32 appearances last season for the Terps, averaging 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game. He led the Terps in rebounding a team-high nine times. Pankey was a highly touted recruit out of St. Anthony's High School in Jersey City for Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley. He was rated the No. 36 power forward in the nation coming out of high school by Scout.com.

"Ashton adds great experience from his time playing at the highest level in the ACC," said Masiello.

Freshmen Adam Lacey, a 6'10" center, and Shane Richards, 6'5" forward, round out Manhattan's deep front court. Lacey was a First Team All Section honoree from Chula Vista, Calif., who lettered all four years at San Diego High School. As a senior, he averaged 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per contest. Richards is a hard-nosed player from New York City with excellent shooting range. He was ranked the 17th best prospect from New York State in the 2012 recruiting class by ESPN.com coming out of York Prep in Manhattan.

Schedule

Manhattan's 29-game schedule features eight teams that advanced to the 2012 postseason and won 20+ games. The Jaspers kick off the season on Nov. 11 against 2012 NCAA Final Four participant and preseason No. 2 Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center.

Manhattan travels to reigning Ivy League champion Harvard on Nov. 16 before returning to Riverdale for the home opener against Hofstra on Nov. 21. The Jaspers begin a three-game road series on Nov. 24 at Dayton, a 2012 National Invitation Tournament participant. The 105th "Battle of the Bronx" against archrival Fordham is set for Nov. 29 at Rose Hill Gym. Manhattan's next stop is Washington, D.C., on Dec. 2 for a meeting with George Washington at the 20,282-seat Verizon Center as part of the 17th Annual BB&T Classic.

MAAC competition begins on Dec. 7 with the Jaspers headed to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to square off with Marist. Manhattan hosts Siena on Dec. 9 before embarking on four straight non-conference games all to be played in New York City. The Jaspers play the first two games in Brooklyn beginning on Dec. 16 at two-time defending Northeast Conference champion Long Island. Manhattan's next contest is against Southeast Conference (SEC) member South Carolina on Dec. 22 at the Barclays Center, the new home of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets.

The Jaspers' next destination is only a few subway stops away when they head Columbia on Dec. 29, the second Ivy League opponent of the year. Stony Brook, the 2012 America East runner-up, comes to Draddy Gymnasium on New Year's Day for a return contest of the programs' 2011 ESPN BracketBuster meeting.

"We want to make sure we go into conference play having seen everything and prepared for everything," Masiello said on the aggressive non-league schedule. "I don't think there will be tougher places to play than Louisville, Dayton and Harvard, so we will know what it is like to play in hostile road environments. Then we experience neutral court games with South Carolina and George Washington that will prepare us for the MAAC Tournament. Finally, we have the local rivalries with Fordham, Hofstra, Long Island, Stony Brook and Columbia that gives us a taste of everything."

Manhattan is on the road for its first two contests of 2013. The Jaspers return to MAAC action at Saint Peter's (Jan. 4) and Iona (Jan. 6), completing Manhattan's extremely ambitious stretch of playing 11 of the first 14 regular-season games away from home.

Rider (Jan. 10) and Marist (Jan. 13) visit Riverdale before Manhattan makes the Western New York conference swing. The Jaspers are in Buffalo on Jan. 17 visiting Canisius, and then two days later Manhattan heads to Niagara (Jan. 19).

Manhattan hosts defending conference champion Loyola on Jan. 25 for one last contest at Draddy Gymnasium before the Greyhounds bolt for the Patriot League. Only three points, including a buzzer beater, were the difference in Manhattan's two meetings with Loyola last year.

The Jaspers return road games at Rider (Jan. 27) and Siena (Feb. 1) to complete those regular-season MAAC series. Manhattan then enjoys a 15-day stretch when it plays four of five games at home. Saint Peter's (Feb. 3) and Canisius (Feb. 7) make their stops in Riverdale before the Jaspers take the short trip to Fairfield (Feb. 9).

Local MAAC rival Iona visits Manhattan on Feb. 15, which is followed by the Jaspers' home meeting with Niagara on Feb. 17. The Jaspers will be on the road for the 2013 ESPN BracketBuster, an annual event that runs Feb. 22-24. It will be the 10th straight year Manhattan has participated in the event. The Jaspers will be assigned an opponent a few weeks prior to the contest.

Manhattan hosts Fairfield on March 1 for Senior Night. The Jaspers wrap up the regular-season on March 3 in Baltimore at Loyola.

The 2013 MAAC Basketball Championships will be held at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass., from March 8 - 11. For more information on the MAAC Tournament visit MAACachussetts.com.

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