Now a team leader in absence of George Beamon, Rhamel Brown and Michael Alvarado, Emmy Andujar will lead Manhattan into Madison Square Garden for first time since 2009 when Jaspers compete in Holiday Festival. (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College)
Once upon a time, one of the biggest draws of the Holiday Festival was its prominent local flavor. Not only could you find St. John's in the Madison Square Garden classic every year, but it was also not hard to find schools like Fordham, Iona, Columbia and Hofstra in recent seasons, as well as Manhattan, who makes its return to the pre-Christmas event.
The Jaspers will be participating in the Holiday Festival this season, as the reigning MAAC champions will take on Rutgers inside the "World's Most Famous Arena" on December 14 as part of the one-day tournament format that will also feature St. John's and Fordham squaring off for the sixth year in a row, and fourth at the Garden. The game will mark Manhattan's first contest on the home court of the New York Knicks since January 24, 2009, when the Jaspers lost to conference rival Iona; and will be looking for their first win in the Garden since 2003, when Bobby Gonzalez guided the Riverdale school to a victory over Holy Cross before Penn's last-second heroics the following night denied the Jaspers a third consecutive Holiday Festival crown after winning the tournament in 2001 and 2002.
"We are extremely excited about playing in the 'World's Most Famous Arena,'" head coach Steve Masiello said in a release issued by the school Monday morning. "We have a very difficult opponent from the Big Ten in Rutgers, who we have a ton of respect for." Manhattan athletic director Noah LeFevre echoed Masiello's sentiment, declaring that the Jasper community was "thrilled to be back at the Mecca of college basketball."
The Holiday Festival is the latest in a litany of marquee games for the Jaspers, who also compete in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic at Mohegan Sun in addition to facing Atlantic Coast Conference members Florida State and Pittsburgh early in the season as Manhattan seeks to overcome the loss of seniors George Beamon, Rhamel Brown and Michael Alvarado on the way to defending their conference championship.
Added LeFevre: "It will be a great event to showcase college basketball in the New York metropolitan area."