Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Salute To Manhattan's Three Kings

Steve Masiello's senior trio of George Beamon, Michael Alvarado and Rhamel Brown has restored program prestige, but Jasper troika is not content to ride off into sunset without MAAC championship. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College)

Immediately after Manhattan's 68-63 victory over Canisius, one that wrapped up the regular season and assured the Jaspers of the No. 2 seed in this weekend's MAAC tournament, which keeps the conference's preseason favorite away from reigning champion Iona until a potential championship game showdown on Monday, head coach Steve Masiello could not stop waxing poetic about the three leaders behind Manhattan's 22-7 record and return to the top half of the MAAC.

"You're not going to be able to replace these guys," Masiello said of Michael Alvarado, George Beamon and Rhamel Brown, whose contributions in this, the 36-year-old coach's third season at the helm in Riverdale, have gone above and beyond the value a simple price tag can provide. "Barry (Rohrssen, Masiello's predecessor) brought three great men in. I've just been fortunate to coach them."

The roads all three have taken to this moment, which features Manhattan opening the MAAC tournament against either Saint Peter's or Fairfield this Saturday, have each been long and winding, and individually wrapped. For Alvarado, a hard-nosed and fierce competitive spirit from the Bronx, his first year at Manhattan was marked by struggles on and off the court; and when athletic director Bob Byrnes dismissed and replaced Rohrssen in April 2011, many wondered how Alvarado would respond to the coaching change.

"Mike was a kid everyone told me to get rid of," Masiello stated. "He wasn't doing well in school." However, after his 33-point tour de force to lift the Jaspers past Marist in Manhattan's first game after Beamon suffered a sprained shoulder against Quinnipiac, the coach showed his true feelings toward his point guard.

"I love this kid," Masiello gushed after Alvarado's heroic outing in January, one that required overtime and a comeback from a 10-point Marist lead. "He's everything I want in a player. He means the world to me."

Brown is no different. Through the past two years, the Brooklyn native was praised by Masiello for his evolution from one of the quietest players in practice into a vocal team leader in the huddle, a transformation that complemented Brown's rise into the most dominant forward in the New York metropolitan area, with all due respect to Chris Obekpa of St. John's and Iona's David Laury. A triple-double threat every time he takes the court, Brown was likened to an insurance company by Masiello after Sunday's win over Canisius just for his reliability on the defensive end, not to mention his numerous press conferences in which the coach defended Brown against those who continuously overlooked his contributions, something that came to light again when the reigning two-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year was inexplicably left off the first team all-conference honors list for a second consecutive season.

Finally, there is Beamon, a model for persistence and consistency. After being limited to four games last season due to a severely sprained ankle from which he was admittedly brought back prematurely, the Long Islander bounced back in a big way this season, demonstrating his unique combination of efficient scoring and aggressive defense in such a way that he thrust himself into Player of the Year consideration during Manhattan's season opener against La Salle, never looking back in a campaign that he stated would be nothing without a league championship; in his own words, "no more, no less."

As a media member who has seen each of the aforementioned triumvirate evolve from reserves with raw, untapped potential into superstars with mounds of talent that would be effectively showcased on any level, an immediate reaction to the beginning of the end of their careers would not be enough to accurately capture the impact that each had on not just Manhattan College basketball, but the sport in general, over the last four; in Beamon's case, five, years. Just over 24 hours later, it is still not much easier to properly gauge.

"There will be no replacing the character of these three young men and what they stand for," Masiello said when concluding Manhattan's pregame Senior Day ceremonies on Sunday. "What we're looking at is three gems, and they have taught me more about life than I ever could have taught them."

Steve Masiello is not the only one. Very rare is it that a player has a similar impact on the media. Scott Machado did two years ago, and LIU Brooklyn point guard Jason Brickman had a similar reaction for friend of the site Nelson Castillo this past Saturday upon covering his final game for Blackbirds Hoops Journal.

Michael, George and Rhamel, the "Three Musketeers" of Manhattan College basketball, fit the bill as well. Not coincidentally, they share the similar "all for one, and one for all" mindset. One more thing that makes this group so special.

All the best, guys...not just this weekend in Springfield, but in life as well.

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