Limited to four games last season due to sprained ankle, George Beamon is back at full strength to lead Steve Masiello's deepest and most talented roster since arriving at Manhattan. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)
What began as a promising season for Manhattan College ended up being one filled with adversity that was almost conquered. Following last year's 14-18 campaign that ended with a crushing three-point loss to bitter archrival Iona in the MAAC championship game, the Jaspers immediately set their sights on the upcoming season, one in which their senior leader seeks to rebound from a severely sprained ankle that derailed what was supposed to be his final run in Riverdale, limiting him to just four games.
"We're going to be something special this year," George Beamon; never one to lack in charisma or positive energy, proclaimed when asked about his outlook on his fifth season, which begins in Philadelphia this Saturday when the Jaspers invade Tom Gola Arena to face La Salle. "We've got a great group of guys, (but) we're missing some of the little things. If we get those to go, we're going to have a great year, I can feel it."
Manhattan is loaded with mounds of depth and talent behind their superstar from Roslyn, including his fellow seniors Michael Alvarado and Rhamel Brown, as well as former Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey, but of course, it all begins and ends with Beamon, a worthy first team all-MAAC preseason honoree whose quiet 27-point performance in the Jaspers' 87-61 exhibition victory against Nyack College last Friday suggests he is back to his familiar, dominant form.
"Me sitting out could have been a blessing in disguise," Beamon said, "because a lot of guys who weren't used to playing stepped up, (guys like) Shane Richards, Donovan Kates, RaShawn Stores, and that was big for our depth. When I go out, we can still have firepower coming off our bench, (and) I feel like that's going to be a big plus for us this year."
In a career filled with enough highs and lows to rival the Nitro roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure, it seems natural that Beamon wants to exit on a high after arriving four years ago as a prospect with sky-high potential, but an inconsistent shot.
"My freshman year, not playing, having to fight, not being able to shoot, us going 6-25, that was devastating for me and the team," he said. "So, when Coach (Steve Masiello) came in, I told him 'I'm here to work.' He put me in great situations, he helped me succeed, he got my jump shot right, he got the team right, he just made us something special, he made us a real team."
Nowhere is that more evident than in the bond Beamon and Masiello share on and off the court, two men united by their determination and unbridled competitive fire, sometimes more like brothers than coach and player despite their fourteen-year age difference.
"He was made for this team, I feel like," Beamon said of his third-year mentor. "They brought him in just in time to help us get a MAAC championship, and that's what we're here to do. MAAC championship, no more, no less."
Appropriately, the Jaspers' next fight to the top begins in the fighting city of Philadelphia, where Rocky Balboa's fictitious victory over Apollo Creed remains the stuff of legend some three-plus decades later, and the setting for the start of the final round in the underdog story of Manhattan College. The next four months will dictate the ending, hopefully one in which the Jaspers will be able to scream to their own Adrian, in this case Manhattan's rabid fan base, that they did indeed do it.