Maryland expatriate Ashton Pankey was one of many who turned heads at Manhattan's practice today, as Jaspers prepare to open season at La Salle this Saturday. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)
With the 2013-14 college basketball season officially getting underway this weekend, we had the opportunity to make the trip up to Draddy Gym earlier in the day to check in on Steve Masiello and MAAC favorite Manhattan before they travel to Philadelphia to open a season loaded with high hopes against a La Salle team that returns nearly everyone from a Sweet 16 run last season. Before we preview the Jaspers' opener in further detail later in the week, here are a few quick observations on the men of Riverdale:
- Manhattan's depth and talent is among the first things you will see when watching the Jaspers for the first time, a stark contrast to last year, when the Jaspers battled numerous injuries throughout a 14-18 season. Expect to see as many as eleven men in Steve Masiello's rotation at times in the nonconference season, perhaps during MAAC play as well.
- With Maryland castoff Ashton Pankey finally eligible, the Jaspers now have a monumental size advantage and mismatch in their favor inside the paint, forcing opponents to pick their poison, in essence, between Pankey and two-time reigning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year Rhamel Brown. In addition, the twin tower frontcourt will also free up Emmy Andujar on the wing to create an even more physical interior.
- The Jaspers have two potential Sixth Man of the Year contenders on their bench in guard Donovan Kates, who came within one point of a double-double in Manhattan's exhibition victory over Nyack College, and defending MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year Shane Richards, whose lethal outside shot has only improved as he enters his sophomore season. Said Steve Masiello of his second-year swingman: "He's going to be one of the best shooters in the country this year."
- Some people may not remember how dominant George Beamon was at 100 percent during the 2011-12 season after a severely sprained ankle limited him to just four games a year ago, but the Long Islander is quickly reminding everyone just how good he can be. After a quiet 27-point performance in the Jaspers' exhibition win Friday night, Beamon displayed his MAAC Player of the Year potential on every possible occasion today, and frequently intimated that this year's Manhattan team can truly be a special unit.
- During his team's trip to the Bahamas in August, Masiello installed a much faster offensive game plan, a goal that could not be attained last year amid the injuries to Beamon and point guard Michael Alvarado, and the increased pace was on full display today. While Alvarado will be the starter at the point as he enters his senior year, remember this name: Tyler Wilson. A freshman from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, the 17-year-old Wilson will earn his share of minutes in a backcourt that also includes C.J. Jones ahead of him on the depth chart. Already lauded by Alvarado and Rhamel Brown for his floor general abilities and court vision, his head coach's praise was even greater, as Masiello likened his young charge to Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton, both of whom won national championships at North Carolina before taking their talents to the NBA.
"We're a physically different team from last year. We've got A-10 level size, and we're more athletic. We've got some good pieces, good talent, great attitudes, terrific kids." - Steve Masiello